New Kid On The Block

Fitting into an already established team can be tough when you’re new. But you can make it work.

And you thought your first day at high school was tough? Starting a new job can be tougher, especially when you’re expected to effortlessly slot into a team who have been working together for a long time.

Before you start your job, says Lawrence Wordon, MD of Kelly Recruitment in Johannesburg, find out everything you can about your role in the company, and more specifically within the team you’ll be joining. ‘You will be better equipped to comment confidently on certain subjects and your thoroughness is likely to impress the right people.’

Fitting in takes time, so don’t fret if you’re not immediately bosom buddies with your new co-workers. ‘Concentrate on building solid relationships with your team,’ says Wordon. Little things like a firm handshake, remembering names and eye contact will help you build instant rapport with your new colleagues, he says.

Without going overboard, be eager to join the new team. ‘Everyone loves a new starter who is excited about being on board,’ says Anna Martyn, Executive Search Specialist and the founder of placement agency, Careers By Design. ‘Always be willing to listen, learn, offer help where it is needed and take a sincere interest in the work and projects you are given.’

Wordon agrees and believes conveying your eagerness to be a part of the team will help breakdown any barriers and lay foundations for deeper connections, something he says is not only necessary, but vital to your success in your new job.

‘Understanding everyone’s responsibilities will give you a grasp on how the team operates as well as direct you to the correct person to speak to when asking for help,’ says Wordon. Each member of the team will be different, so look out for the natural leader, the organiser, the helper, etc. and ensure you fit in where necessary,’ he says. ‘Take care, at least in the beginning, not to steal anyone else’s role – especially not the leader’s.’

Martyn says a common mistake is to immediately make suggestions as to how things can be improved – without fully understanding how the system works. Get to know these systems first, and then prove to your team that you’re an asset and not sanctimonious.

Also, don’t bring your past into your new position by comparing the new work environment to your previous one, Martyn continues. Don’t suck up or become overly friendly with management just yet, and never ever bad mouth your ex boss or colleagues – you need to show your new team your positive side.

When you’re the new kid on the block, make sure you don’t clock-watch, warns Wordon.

Martyn agrees: ‘Work ethic is huge when starting with a new team, so watch your time-keeping and maximise your performance levels.’ During your first month, she says, the most important thing is to be positive and enthusiastic about learning and developing within your new team and company. Even if that means a little overtime at first.

‘Volunteering for the tasks no one else wants to do will show that you are a willing and enthusiastic employee,’ says Wordon. With a can-do attitude, you will show both your colleagues and your employer that you mean business, and this is the best way to integrate yourself into any team.