An introvert's guide to navigating the physical workplace
You’ve landed the job of your dreams at a great company with brilliant benefits and an equally brilliant team - go you! But then that sinking feeling comes, oh no, this means meeting new people and getting used to a whole new (or your very first) office environment.
For those of us on the more shy side, or at least at first, this can be extremely daunting. And with COVID throwing our social skills in a spin, will this be a recipe for disaster? Of course not! To get you through it, here's our guide to sussing out the workplace for the perpetually shy and those who can’t seem to shake their ‘new job nerves’.
1. Throw out the idea of ‘first impressions mean everything’
Now of course, continue to be the kind, smart, forward-thinking person you most definitely are - by forgetting the first impressions rule we mean don’t beat yourself up over your initial stumbles. Minced your words in that meeting? A little rusty in your small talk? Forgot to jot down that minor task for next week? Try not to sweat it. Everyone, including those senior figures in your workplace, has been the new kid on the block at some point. They will cut you some slack or *hardly remember your missteps past the end of day. So, it’s best to forgive your small ‘mistakes’ and not be too hard on yourself. No one will hold it against you and you’re still learning the ropes after all!
*Ever heard of The Spotlight Effect? This is where we tend to believe people pay more attention to us than they actually do (sounds harsh I know), as if there is a spotlight on us highlighting our mistakes for everyone to see. When starting out somewhere new this feeling can be intensified. You just need to have a gentle check-in with yourself and say that no one is really monitoring everything you do - only you are!
And if that isn’t enough, think back to a time your friend did something a little embarrassing like tripping in front of a crowd or thinking Cornwall was in the North. How long did you actually think about that? Really no time at all. The longer you work somewhere, the sooner you’ll realise people are too focused on their own tasks to be analysing what you’re up to, and that’s a good thing!
2. Allow yourself a quiet lunch
Coming into a new environment where you don’t know anyone can be daunting. Give yourself a quiet lunch by eating in a nearby green space, going for a walk, or just putting your headphones in to catch your breath and prepare yourself for the rest of the day.
Here are some nice spots in London I've found that can help you recharge during your lunch break:
Golden Square - Soho
St James' - Piccadilly (great secluded garden next to the church)
Culpeper Community Garden - Islington
Red Cross Garden - Southwark
St Dunstan-in-the-East - City of London
3. Make an effort with your core team
If you’re working in a slightly bigger company, trying to get to know everyone will seem like a huge task. Take baby steps in getting to know everyone by familiarising yourself with your core team, or 1 or 2 people in that team, first. Becoming friendly with a select few teammates will boost your confidence, make you feel more comfortable, and allow you to get tips and tricks about the office. From here, these co-workers can become great friends and allies who introduce you to a wider network of people.
4. Check in with your line manager and/or recruiter
Has some time passed and you're still feeling unsettled? The best thing you can do when feeling nervous is talking to someone about it. This in itself can feel a little scary but it will be beneficial in the long run. If the new job nerves don't seem to be going away, have a chat with your line manager about how you're feeling - they are there to support you and want you working at your best. Together you can find ways to make you feel more supported.
Alternatively, if you have gone through a recruitment agency (BrighterBox, I hope!), have a chat with your recruiter about how things are going. If there are any bumps in the road recruiters are a wonderful middle-man who can speak to the company on your behalf to see what solutions there are.
Two heads are better than one, so if you have the option to speak to someone please do! The more comfortable you feel in the workplace the better you'll work and enjoy your time there.
5. Join an online group in your field
If you’re feeling nervous about asking too many questions on the job, joining online groups dedicated to your line of work is just the fix. For example, if you work in Marketing there are so many pages and support groups out there, such as Girls in Marketing and Pretty Little Marketer, where you can ask questions and engage with other marketers virtually. This is a quick and easy way to get a second opinion without having to speak with a colleague and can provide you with just as much wisdom.
Hopefully now you're feeling a little more at ease. Putting yourself out there and getting used to a new environment is tricky, but know that support is available and you got the job for a reason! You've got this.