Whether you’re hopping back on the career train after a long vacation, maternity leave, or formal study – settling back into the workforce can be an intimidating experience for many.
Are my skills still relevant? What if the hours are overwhelming? Am I up-to-speed with all the new industry trends?
These are only a few of the common worries most returning workers have. Fortunately, with enough in-house training and skills practice, your working gears should be oiled up and ready for duty in no time.
However, if there’s one aspect of a new job that offers a more personal challenge – it’s making new friends as the newbie.
The benefits of making ‘work friends’
While the common mindset
of decades past was to keep one’s personal and work life separate, today’s generation desires a more ‘holistic relationship’
with both their colleagues and managers.
In fact, a LinkedIn study revealed that 46%
of professionals believe ‘work friends’
contribute to their overall happiness as an employee. Workplace statistics have also shown how it can boost performance – a Gallup survey
reports that friends at work can lead to 36% fewer safety incidents, 7% more engaged customers, 12% higher profit, and employees being seven times more likely to be engaged in their job.
While it can be tricky as the new kid on the block, we’ve listed the five most effective, actionable tips to making new friends at work, even if it’s just your first week.
Don’t be afraid of small talk
Take the social initiative to simply greet those who bump into you at the water cooler, break room, or elevator. Look friendly, positive, and put on a smile – science has proven
that these seemingly small social cues help make others feel good around you.
If they haven’t met you yet, introduce yourself and your role in the company. They’re likely to do the same in return, and you may even learn a thing or two about the business, depending on how long they’ve worked there.
These simple starters can then pave the way for more interesting conversation; if you have the time, use this as an opportunity to get to know the other person. Ask them open-ended questions
and try to find common ground. Who knows, you might discover a potential ‘bestie’ by the end of your chit-chat.
Of course, above all else: don’t forget to remember names. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the new faces, but remembering one’s name is critical. Be sure to use it the next time you speak to them, and you’re guaranteed to leave a positive impression
Grab coffee, lunch, or drinks with others
Leaving your desk for lunch has not only proven to increase productivity levels
, but it grants you the perfect opportunity to bond with co-workers.
Cornell University professor Brian Wansink and other researchers found significantly positive correlations
between one’s work performance and eating with colleagues. This makes sense; after all, constantly hiding in the confines of your cubicle defies the whole concept of a sociable and collaborative office space.
Grabbing lunch with your peers is an easy way to establish friendly work relationships
and foster team camaraderie. The same goes for simply grabbing a coffee with someone: it shows that you’re open to interaction, making new friends, and gives you the brief opportunity to get to know someone better.
If you’re up for it, it may even help to go out for drinks at the end of the work day.
Alcohol can undoubtedly be an effective catalyst for open conversations and letting your true self shine, but know your limits. Letting too loose can lead to a world of embarrassing antics and oversharing personal information, which is one thing you don’t need on your first week.
Instead, use this as an opportunity
to bond over non-work discussions, and maybe even treat your co-workers to a round.
Ask for help, and offer yours when necessary
As the new person, you’re often left tackling a plethora of questions regarding certain tasks, procedures, and practices in your new workplace – but in a collaborative team environment, you don’t have to go at these alone!
Don’t ever feel too shy to ask for help; studies have shown how this can benefit the person helping as it does for you. In his blog
, psychologist Coert Visser describes how asking for someone’s help is implicitly ‘praising’ them in a way.
“By asking for help you imply that you trust the other person and view him or her as able to help you and therefore as a competent person,” Visser explains. Asking for others’ help not only encourages you to communicate with your new colleagues, but you’re also helping them feel valuable as a worker while learning a new thing or two.
Of course, it always helps to return the favour. Go ahead and offer a hand when others need it (when appropriate, of course). These supportive interactions establish yourself as a team player and helps you build a strong rapport with those around you.
Making new friends can be intimidating as a the ‘new person’, for sure. It’s easy to worry over making the wrong impression or having someone reject your efforts – but this shouldn’t keep you from reaching out anyway.
Not everyone in your new workplace will take a liking to you, but such is life. It’s better to put yourself out there, running the risk of not being liked
yet improving your chances of making a friend; than to not bother at all, and end up bored and lonely.
If the fear of rejection is an all-too-familiar social struggle for you, the Social Anxiety Shortcuts blog offers three actionable pieces of advice
: don’t be a ‘people-pleaser’, don’t view your interactions as ‘performances’, and realise that social rejection isn’t necessarily a bad thing – if a co-worker doesn’t reciprocate your friendly efforts, at least you now know they weren’t a good fit.
Acquiring a strong support system among colleagues is sure to ease the transition period into a new work environment. It’ll also make your long-term stay a much more memorable experience - not only will you have much to learn from potential experts in your field, but if you’re lucky enough, you may make a friend or two for life.
Ready to return to work?
Upskilled offers over 100 online qualifications that can help you build upon your skills for the workplace. Our Careers section
can help you make the right choice for that next career step. For more advice on returning to the workforce, be sure to check out the rest of our archive on SkillsTalk