Whether you’re just entering the working world or making a career change, it’s challenging to be new to a professional environment.
What’s even more difficult is being new to a team that has spent years or decades creating a culture, developing common ways of doing things, and building a shared understanding. It can feel awkward, uncomfortable, and lonely.
It doesn’t have to be, though. There are several things you can try, whether you’re new to the field, to the world of work, or to a particular department or company.
1. Set realistic expectations. You cannot go into a new job and expect that everyone will automatically show you respect based on your qualifications. New leaders, particularly, make that mistake all too often.
2. Invest your time in building relationships. Internal networking is important for everyone, but it’s especially so for new professionals. Go beyond your team or department and make sure you are building relationships with other employees and departments, your customers, leaders in the organization, vendors, and all other stakeholders.
You never know when other opportunities in the organization will open up. If people know you, your skills/abilities, and personality, they’ll reach out to you when they have an opening that’s a good fit. Respect will develop only if people know enough about you.
3. Be brave, and share your ideas. Holding back for fear of rejection could prove counterproductive. Don’t shove your ideas down your co-workers’ throats, but do offer them for discussion.
Often, people are shy when they start a job, but if you don’t share your ideas, you might miss out on a great opportunity. Also, if your idea is the perfect solution and you don’t share it, you could be hurting your team.
4. Exemplify a “can-do” attitude. This can be a breath of fresh air for team members that have been stuck in a negative, non-collaborative, and disengaged culture for a long time. If there’s something they feel has been impossible, try to find a new approach. Be creative.
5. Avoid the drama. It’s stressful enough to be the new one and to have to learn the culture, processes, and assignments that exist at an organization. Don’t get involved in its baggage, too. Stay positive, and avoid anything that would bring you or others down.
6. If you’re going to kiss up, kiss up to everyone. You should treat everyone—not just your boss—kindly and with respect. If you do good things only when you’re boss is around, your co-workers will get annoyed quickly.
7. Be a helpful team member . When your team members are struggling, have a lot on their plate, or just need a hand, offer assistance. Show you’re a team player. Others will follow suit.
8. Solve problems. Find out what people dislike about a current process, technology, or idea, and think about how to make it better for them. You’re likely to think of things that they did not consider, and vice versa. If you can make someone’s workday easier, do it.
9. Recognize others. You don’t have to be a formal leader to do this. People appreciate recognition, no matter who offers it. If you notice a great skill in a co-worker, compliment him or her on it. If someone helps you, show your appreciation. If your co-workers have accomplished a great feat, celebrate them.
10. Know when it’s time to leave. A common mistake that many professionals make is sticking around in a job or at an organization that they know is not a good fit. Whether it’s because of a lack of ethics, a lack of support, or no opportunity for professional development, you should recognize when it’s time to leave-and do it.
Don’t get stuck in a job or company that you’ll hate for years to come. You don’t have to settle. I don’t mean you should leave after your first week of not “fitting in.” Use your best judgment, but don’t expect that time will cure everything. If it’s time to move on, then move on.
A version of this article first appeared on the Advancing You blog.
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