How to Thrive Being the "New Kid"
Aimee Iwamoto, Former Project Manager
Being the "new kid" at a company can be intimidating. Not for you, though – you're amazing.
We’ve all been there. It’s the morning of your first day of work and you’re about to head into the office. It’s an hour before your start time and you are out the door – rushing to the nearest Starbucks (because you deserve it). You finally walk through the office doors, greeted by a few coworkers (COVID era). It’s time to set-up your online accounts and get onboarded.
There is a balance between going above and beyond and only doing what you are asked to do; this line is especially difficult to juggle when you are brand new. I was the new kid at Viget seven months ago and was a nervous wreck (don’t tell my boss). Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Disclaimer: Like I mentioned, I am 7 months into this job. I am still learning everyday. Take this advice as you please.
(1) Conduct a vibe check
Companies are like the socks on my feet – no two are the same. Different people, policies, best-practices, processes, organization structures, and vibes. You may have gotten a good feel for the environment during the interview process (shoutout to Katie K.) or you may have no idea what you are walking into. Either way, spend time getting a feel of the culture. Learn about what people expect from you; more importantly, know what to expect from your teammates. Above all, be yourself. You were hired for a reason – slay the day!
(2) Stop talking about work
You can’t build relationships with your teammates by only talking about work related things. We do good work when we share common ground. So don’t be afraid to schedule coffee chats and 1-on-1s. Build rapport by learning about others’ interests, pet peeves, biggest fears, dreams for the future – things that your coworkers are willing to share with you (of course). Be the teammate that you want to have and put them ahead of their job title.
For me, building healthy relationships with my team came from asking about their boxing classes, the latest episode of Vanderpump Rules, or getting advice from their cross-country move. Don’t get me wrong, working through a challenging project can bring people together, but that only happens once in a blue moon … right?
(3) Learn by example
The best way that I learned about processes was by digging through Google Drive, browsing through Slack channels, observing other teammate’s Google Calendars, and reading as much as I could. I was surprised to find how much I could learn about project processes by reading through other project examples. No questions are dumb questions, but you also don’t want to be the new kid asking every possible question without doing some research yourself first. If something is taking you a while to figure out – ask a trusted coworker. Odds are, they had a tough time figuring it out, too.
Be observant. Take notes. If there is a step in the process that you have the flexibility to make your own, take bits and pieces from other examples that work for you.
(4) Know when to say no (respectfully)
A handful of coworkers ask you to work on a task and of course, you say yes to all of them. Oh, the rush of power it gives you, adrenaline running through your veins. Once that fizzles away, the stress sets in. Do I have time to complete all of these tasks? How do I even do these tasks? What did I set myself up to do?
I have no doubt that if you find yourself in this situation, you’ll figure it out (you’re a rockstar). But remember to take time to check in with yourself. You’re going through a lot of change, so take it easy. Know your limits and be intentional about setting boundaries. Ask for support before you get to your breaking point. Everyone around you has experienced similar feelings and they want to be there for you.
(5) Extend a hand
I learn best by doing. While I love myself a PowerPoint presentation and a Loom walk-through video, nothing compares to actually doing a task. Maybe on your first day of work you are thrown onto a project – amazing (and good luck). Maybe you aren't going to be working on any projects for a few weeks. If that’s the case, reach out to coworkers and offer a helping hand. Ask for the opportunity to dip your toes into the waters that may seem a bit murky to you at this point. Ask to shadow others and look over their shoulder for a couple of hours in the day. Who wouldn’t love that?
(6) Pay it forward
You won’t be the new employee for long. Soon there will be people with less tenure than you. Be the supportive coworker that you had or wanted to have when you were starting out. Take initiative and be the one to set up a coffee chat with the new kid. Share your expertise, give helpful (and warranted) advice. Offer up examples of things you did to learn your way around the company. Reach out to people and check-in on others. Life is challenging and we are all on this silly ride together.
You’re doing great, sweetie – keep up the great work.