You’re about to start a new role. It’s exciting because yay, fresh start, but it’s also incredibly intimidating.
You’re not anti-social or shy, but you are an introvert and it takes you a little bit longer to become friends with people. But you want friends at your new workplace! So, you’re probably feeling a little anxious about the fact you’re about to be surrounded by a whole lot of unfamiliar faces.
Well, you’re certainly not alone in this fear. In fact, we talked to five introverts on how they managed to build relationships with their co-workers when starting a new job.
Here’s what they suggest:
Take the First Few Days to Just Observe
A different environment with different people, responsibilities, and schedules is a lot for introverts to take in.
So, when it comes to making friends, don’t feel obligated to jump right in.
“Spend the first few days observing and listening to conversations in breakrooms and around the water cooler. Keep a low profile and just watch and listen, then decide who you would like to get to know more,” says Mychelle Fernandez, social influencer, blogger, and self-identified introvert.
Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, agrees: “I’m a travel social worker, so I have a new set of colleagues in a new office every few months. One thing I’ve found helpful is to observe the office dynamic.”
And, she says, “Observing people doesn’t have to be super creepy. It just means that you do what you need to do but you also pay attention to what is around you. You listen to conversations without feeling the need to interject your point. Learning through observation is a great idea if you’re shy and not sure where to start.”
Think of this timeframe like your planning period (and introverts love planning)—you’re getting a lay of the land, which will help you better understand who you’ll mesh well with and the best ways to approach certain people.
From there, you can begin to take baby steps. Powell and Fernandez suggest starting with small talk, then moving this to a one-on-one meal or coffee.
“By asking for recommendations on places to eat [for example], he or she may end up inviting you to join him or her,” says Fernandez.
“It’s not in an introvert’s nature to talk to a lot of people at once, so that’s why I suggest to talk to one person at a time. Make an effort to talk to one new person a day, even if it’s just introducing yourself,” adds Lauren Crain, Digital Marketer at Health Labs.
Seek Out Groups That Interest You
This is great advice for anyone in a new job, but especially for introverts who struggle to come up with ways to insert themselves into cliques.
“Many offices offer clubs or after-work activities. Choose ones that are interesting to you and dive in by asking about others’ days, jobs, and personal lives. At Fundera, I joined the running club—which is restricted to a Slack channel for the time-being—where runners share advice on products, races, and general tips. For me, it provided familiarity with new co-workers and a topic to bring up when I bumped into another runner,” says Nicolas Straut, Content Marketing Associate at Fundera.
Be Your Kind and Wonderful Self
Finally, remember that you’re a smart, nice, and awesome person that people will like because they have zero reason not to.
“Be yourself—unapologetically. Let your co-workers know what you like! I, for example, love contemporary art, so I took a fellow intern to a few galleries last summer; on another occasion, a co-worker (whom I'd never met) and I celebrated and critiqued our favorite writers and filmmakers for hours after she noticed one of my laptop stickers, a tribute to my favorite movie. We talked for so long that our dumplings had gone cold,” says Melissa Ho, a marketing team member at Fueled.
“Three months ago, I joined my current company and made it my mission to make new friends despite my introversion. My top tip for fellow introverts in this situation is to remember that your new co-workers want to meet someone who is cool and friendly. Once you start, make a good impression by smiling often and being warm when others engage you. My first week, I accidentally grabbed someone else’s coffee mug and when they asked where it was in a general Slack channel, I was quick to apologize and introduce myself in a friendly manner when I gave it back. The mug’s owner and I are now good friends despite my mistake,” adds Straut.
Did you try these and find that you’re still not having luck? One thing to remind yourself is that making friends in a new job is hard—for everyone. So cut yourself some slack if you’re not hitting it off with people right away. You’ll get there.