You got the job – now here’s how to nail the adjustment to a new workplace

Get ready for information overload, as you adjust to a new company, colleagues and work culture
Adjusting to a new work environment can be exhausting.

Adjusting to a new work environment can be exhausting. Photo: Getty

Starting a new job is exciting. But in those early days, it’s very common to feel more than a little nervy, and way out of your comfort zone.

“It’s definitely daunting, exciting, nerve-racking – there’s so many different things,” says Sally McKibbin, a career coach at job site Indeed.

“You go often from being the expert in your old job to not knowing where anything is or having to ask where to find the toilet.”

So, apart from organising your security pass and tracking down the tea room, how else can you make those first weeks run a little smoother?

Three experts share their tips below.

Try and be well rested

A new job can feel all-consuming, as you try to digest a deluge of information and get to know who’s who in the zoo.

“When you’re starting a new job, you need to make sure that you’re well rested, because the brain overload definitely can be overwhelming and exhausting,” McKibbin said.

She suggests getting a good night’s sleep, but also allowing yourself time to rest and recharge at the end of each work day.

Sally McKibbin, career coach at job site Indeed, has one big tip for battling new-job fatigue.

Take loads of notes

Bethan Winn, director of training company Human Skills Co, says managers often complain that the graduates they’re training don’t write down things, so wind up asking the same questions more than once.

“Don’t be afraid to take notes and probably I would recommend a pen and paper over a device because it’s so easy to look distracted on a device,” Winn said.

She says writing notes also helps you process and reinforce what you’re learning.

“But it also creates that impression of ‘yeah, I’m paying attention. And I’m keen to learn’.”

Dress to fit in

If you’re not sure of the dress code, it’s worth asking the recruiter or your manager ahead of time, says McKibbin.

Checking out the company’s social media or ‘about us’ profiles can also give some clues, McKibbin says.

As you go along, it’s also worth sussing out whether there might be different expectations for different scenarios – for example a casual day in the office, compared to a client meeting.

Listen and absorb what’s going on around you

Greg Madden, founder and executive director at [axr] Recruitment and Search, says many people feel like they have to make an impression straight out of the blocks.

But he believes that’s the wrong approach.

“I think you’re better to listen and be inquisitive. Ask questions, don’t feel like you’ve got to have answers or contribute at the beginning … you’re much better taking your time.”

Madden suggests being a “sponge”. Listen to how people interact with one another, and how the business operates.

Ease up on the commentary

Be measured and considered, and try to refrain from referencing your previous organisation when contributing to discussions, for example by saying, “at my previous role we did it this way”, Madden says.

“This can tend to put people offside very quickly.”

Shift the spotlight

It’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying what everyone’s thinking of you. 

Winn instead recommends shifting the spotlight on to the people you’re meeting.

“Stop worrying about you, focus on the other people. Focus on building those relationships, rather than trying to impress or trying to live up to some standard that is just in your head,” she said.

Start to get to know your colleagues

Getting on with your workmates, who may even turn into close friends, can be a huge part of enjoying your work.

Being an attentive listener, and starting with some fairly safe small talk – perhaps some chat about your colleagues’ pet or their favourite coffee shop is – is an easy way to start. 

McKibbin suggests focusing on your immediate team to begin with, and trying to understand everyone’s roles.

If you’re a little shy, think of a few questions in advance that you can ask your new workmates.

Don’t be afraid of instigating coffee catch-ups

Lucky enough to get a handover from the person who has performed in your role previously? Then offer to shout them a coffee, says McKibbin.

“Get to know their thoughts about the opportunities and challenges of the role and if there’s anything that they would recommend you do first.”

And if you wish someone would just pipe up and invite you for a coffee, Winn suggests being proactive. “They might be waiting on you.”

Give it time

All good things take time. So don’t pull the pin too early if you suspect you’ve taken the wrong role, or joined the wrong company for you, says Madden.

“Organisations always have change occurring – regularly you won’t be aware of maybe other things that are going on behind the scenes that relate to your role, and the team you’re a part of, so you definitely need to give it six months.” 

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