How to make friends at your first job

Creating meaningful bonds with coworkers requires proactivity.
Creating meaningful bonds with coworkers requires proactivity.
Image: REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
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The first day at a new job, particularly if it’s your first job, is kind of like starting college—but with a very different dynamic. While freshmen are surrounded with hundreds or even thousands of other students with first-year jitters, recent grads may be the only new employee or one of just a handful of new employees–which doesn’t leave much room for bonding over being all “in the same boat.”

Most new professionals are entering companies with pre-existing social structures, team cultures, and relationships. Creating meaningful bonds with coworkers requires proactivity.

It’s important to present the best version of yourself, by dressing appropriately, speaking with authority and confidence, and staying engaged in every conversation you have with your new coworkers. If acting confident seems impossible, remember that your company already views you favorably; you landed the job, so you clearly made a promising first impression. Instead of attempting to recreate yourself, stay true to who you are and focus on highlighting your best qualities, both professionally and personally.

Your employer understands there is a learning curve, and no one expects you to walk in with an in-depth understanding of company policy and procedure. However, you can and should make every effort to help out as much as possible. Read each email on which you’re CC’ed or BCC’ed to get a sense of the language that is used, take notes on the steps you’ll need to take to tackle reoccurring projects, and ask your coworkers questions about procedures, processes, and expectations. Offer to lend a helping hand in any way you can, whenever you can, instead of waiting for someone to reach out or loop you in. Getting involved will not only allow you to learn quickly through hands-on experience, it will also show your coworkers that you are supportive, engaged, and eager to help your team succeed. Demonstrating these qualities early on will make you likable. Employees want to work with coworkers who care and who are capable of supporting them, so strive to make your passion clear from the start.

Don’t let this sense of eagerness wane the moment you walk out of the office. Every company has their own corporate culture, but almost all jobs provide opportunities to socialize and bond with coworkers. In some circles, particularly in college, skipping out on community activities may seem cool. But leaving this notion behind will benefit recent grads, both socially and professionally.

Make every effort to attend as many team-building sessions as you can. Simply being there isn’t enough; in order to form genuine relationships with your coworkers, you need to disconnect from your phone, put yourself out there, and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to approach your coworkers and start the conversation; it’s the only way you will break the ice and start building relationships. If you demonstrate that you are eager to get to know your coworkers, they are likely to reciprocate.

As you begin to feel more comfortable, reach out to employees you may not have the chance to engage with during the workday so that you can broaden your circle.

And of course, when the next new hire walks through the door, welcome him or her. You’ll know first-hand how much this outreach is appreciated.

Kat Cohen is the founder and CEO of IvyWise.