I recently went from working in a 20-person office to interning in a 300-person one.
And when I arrived on my first day, I had a goal. When I left in mid-August, I wanted to have made a positive impression on my new co-workers. All 300 of them.
Did I make that goal? Well, I’d say I’m friendly with around half the faces I see—pretty good, considering that’s still 150 relationships in 10 weeks! So even though I technically came up short, I’m still counting this challenge a success.
Here are the habits that worked for me.
1. Smiling (For Real)
You know that close-lipped smile you give when you’re trying to be polite? In the past, I’d use that smile to acknowledge employees I didn’t know very well. However, this summer, I committed to giving everyone—stranger or no—a legitimate, teeth-and-all smile.
I found that almost everyone would grin back. In two seconds, we’d create a genuine, enjoyable connection, which would make talking to them in the kitchen or at happy hour that much easier and organic.
I know, this sounds pretty obvious—but how often do you talk to co-workers you don't already know? Basically, I’d chat with anyone who didn’t look like they were in a huge hurry. While I made tea, I’d ask the person getting coffee how his or her morning was going. When washing my hands at the sink, I’d say to the woman next to me, “I’ve never smelled hand soap so yummy!” In the elevator, I’d ask, “Do you know what’s on the 11th floor?”
Obviously, not everyone wants to have a conversation. But most people do, and this was hugely helpful in meeting people.
3. Holding Doors
Getting the door for other people has gone out of style, and I’m not sure why. It doesn’t matter what gender you are—I bet you’ll be surprised how appreciative others will be when you hold the door open for them. And, bonus: One time, holding the door open for the CEO turned into a mini-interview about my career plans.
4. Going to Office Events
I love being around others, but it takes a lot out of me—so it was a challenge to attend office get-togethers.
Nonetheless, I’m really glad I summoned up the energy. There was a ton of “accidental networking;” for example, I started chatting to a couple people by the food table only to learn they were high-level employees in a department I was interested in. After I told them that, they gave me their contact info and asked me to reach out for career advice and job referrals.
Plus, going to all these non-mandatory events raised my office visibility.
5. Asking, “Can I Help?”
Whenever I saw anyone doing anything physical (stocking the fridge with soda, unloading the dishwasher, delivering mail to people’s desks), I’d ask, “Can I help?
This habit gave me a huge reputation boost—and not just with the person I was asking, but everyone who heard me ask as well.
It shows you’re a team player and that you don’t have an ego, which I think is great for anyone, whether you’re entry-level or in the C-suite.
Of course, you’ll have days where this feels impossible—but whenever you have a few seconds, just ask.
6. Connecting on LinkedIn
Even if I just met someone for a second or two, after I went back to my desk, I’d immediately send a LinkedIn invite. Sarah from Advertising probably wouldn’t have remembered me from our short encounter alone, but the request reinforced my name, face, and title in her mind.
Also, it gave us something to discuss the next time we ran into each other. I could say something like, “Hey, I saw you worked at Ogilvy straight out of college—I’ve always been interested in that agency. What did you think of the culture?”
7. Asking People to Lunch or Coffee
Informational interviews aren’t just useful when you want to network or get insight into a job or company. They’re also a super sneaky way to make friends.
After I met someone who seemed interesting and connected with him or her on LinkedIn, I’d send a message along the lines of:
Thanks again for showing me where the Sweet’N Low was! If you’ve got any free time this week, I’d love to grab lunch somewhere near the office and hear more about what your work for the Product team.
More often than not, these interviews turned into fun conversations. And even if they stayed purely educational? Well, then I got to learn useful information about another role or company department.
Yesterday was actually my last day in the office. As I walked around, saying my final goodbyes, I was struck by how effective all of these small habits really were. I had the privilege of meeting some really cool, talented people—and I barely had to travel from my desk to do it! I hope these strategies help you do the same.