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Soaking It In: The First Steps of Onboarding

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I recently transitioned jobs, but it felt more like moving from a pokey country cottage to the moon’s glossy surface—fabulous but beyond alien.

The change was long-awaited and hard won, so it should have felt great, completely natural, right?? But that’s not always the reality. Finding a new position often takes so much time and effort that you forget that the quest doesn’t end with the final offer, but with settling into your new environment.

Here are some tactics to make this final stretch easier:

Simulate a sponge. Absorb and process the way people interact—what is the hierarchy and office culture like? Pay attention to lunch-time conventions, how people communicate: Skype, email, calling across the room, even the preferred noise level. These may seem like minor details compared to learning your new duties, but they are key to winning your colleagues’ acceptance. Knowing how to relate will even improve your chances of getting help when you need it most.

Ask questions. Too much info? No such thing! Create opportunities to learn about what your colleagues do and how that connects with your role. Make a point of acknowledging their expertise and how much you value their time. Treating your workmates as well-versed will cause them to see themselves in the same light and net you appreciation.

Hold the bright ideas. Starting off energized is great. But let your ideas percolate until you better understand the context you’ve landed in.

Know what you don’t know.  If you are new to an industry, organizational model, region, or country, it’s entirely fine if its conventions are new to you too. Instead of trying to pretend to know something or hide your ignorance, address it. You need not apologize—but remind your colleagues that you hale from a different place or background, so may be unaware of certain things, and that patience and assistance from them will come much appreciated. Adjustment is a two-way street, and different energy is healthy and provides a breath of fresh air.

Proactively relax. Tense is no way to feel and no way to be. It wrecks your health and causes you to come off as unnatural. As much as absorbing office culture is crucial to success, relaxing and being yourself increases your effectiveness, not to mention comfortability.

Check in with you. After a day, a week, a month, is your new role a fit? If not, finding that out early is far preferable to you or your supervisor discovering it a year down the line. Know when to persevere—adjustment can be almost painful, and when to walk away—sometimes it’s not a match, but you don’t know until you try.

About the Author

Lilly-Marie Lamar is a career advisor for Ivy Exec. She provided career advice to college students and professionals in the U.S. and abroad, and was a Fulbright scholar. Lilly-Marie has a degree in education from Columbia University.