Tips For Fitting Into Your First Workplace

After all the hard work you put into polishing your first resume and nailing your job interview, you finally got the job. You deserve to celebrate your first career “victory,” but you shouldn’t get too carried away – because your professional journey is just beginning.

But the first part of your journey, joining your first workplace, can be like walking into a jungle without a compass. It’s a new environment with a different set of rules and expectations that can be difficult to adjust to if you’re unprepared.

But you can make a smooth transition from student to working professional if you follow these workplace survival tips:


Be Humble

Being humble in the workplace isn’t a weakness – it’s actually a leadership trait that can make you a more likeable and trusted co-worker. There’s nothing wrong with being confident because you have skills that make you an asset to the company, but nothing will turn your co-workers against you faster than being cocky or arrogant.

Humility in the workplace means doing the following:

  • Sharing Your Victories: You deserve to take pride in workplace victories, whether it be closing a deal or completing a project. But you’ll earn the trust and appreciation of your co-workers faster if you acknowledge their contribution to your success – especially those who mentor or train you on the job.
  • Acknowledging Your Mistakes: Humility is not just about acknowledging those who helped you gain success. It’s also about accepting responsibility when you make workplace mistakes. Remember, hiding your mistakes will only lead to others accepting blame in your place once it becomes known – leading your co-workers to mistrust you.
  • Asking For Help: The ultimate way to gain success from humility is to ask for help whenever you need it. It’s very easy to let your ego get the better of you by trying to solve problems on your own. But making mistakes is part of career development, and so is learning to seek assistance.


Be Sociable

While your co-workers will probably give you a warm welcome on your first day, you shouldn’t expect them to go out of their way to break the ice with you. Being a friendly co-worker means taking the initiative to build social relationships with them.

But you’ve got to be careful about what you talk to your co-workers about and how much of your life you reveal to them. Remember, as friendly as you are with them, they are still acquaintances (for now) – so be cautious about what personal information you reveal to them.

Here are three topics you should never talk about in the workplace:

  • Politics: An increasingly volatile topic, talking about politics in the workplace (especially if your supervisor has a contrary political opinion) is one way to wear out your company’s “welcome.”
  • Religion: Religion is another hot-button topic that can alienate you from your co-workers, even if your comments are well-intentioned. The fact is that it only takes one misconstrued comment to either get reprimanded or fired.
  • Sex: With the exception of a few industries, men and women often share the same office space. So sex is the last thing you should be talking about in the workplace. Keep such talk out of the office – otherwise you’ll risk starting your career off with a reprimand or worse.

Talking about these topics at work is a good way to get in trouble with your co-workers, and can even get you fired. Instead, follow your co-worker’s lead in conversations and reveal as much about yourself as they do to you – but again, stay clear danger topics!

Be Organized

Organization isn’t something you’ll learn in school. But if you were lucky enough to pick it up, consider it one of the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn. That’s because being organized can make the difference between getting promoted faster and staying in the same role/job for years.

That’s because being organized can lead to the following benefits:

  • More Efficient Work: Workplace organization can be as simple as grouping emails and files by categories and by setting project deadlines to follow. These small steps can save hours of work a week, prevent you from taking work home/working late.
  • Higher Quality Work: Being better organized means you’ll have more time to check your work. This automatically increases the overall quality of your work because it will have fewer mistakes because you double-checked it.
  • Better Evaluations:  As a result of meeting deadlines and producing better quality work, you’ll definitely get noticed by your supervisors, co-workers, and clients (remember humility!). This can lead to even faster promotion.


Be Amenable

The company’s work atmosphere, also know as its “culture,” varies from company to company. Some companies might have a fun environment where you can listen to music and check Facebook (as long as you get your work done!) while others are run as tightly as a Soviet gulag.

No matter what type of culture the company has, if you want to fit in, you must adapt to it. By asking your co-workers about the do’s and don’ts of the workplace, you can speed up the acclimation to your new workplace.

Here are some company culture elements you’ll need to familiarize yourself with:

  • Employee Dress Code: It doesn’t matter whether your workplace expects you to dress in business casual or Bermuda shorts, you’ll fit in faster if you dress according to what’s “acceptable” in the office. Be aware that some companies have a dress code applies to certain positions within the office (ex. wearing business wear if meeting clients).
  • Work Hour Flexibility: Not every job has a 9am – 5pm daily schedule. Some workplaces operate on a more flexible schedule. No matter what daily work schedule you have, it’s important to note what time you’re “expected” to show up and leave. If everyone’s still in the office at 5pm while you leave on the dot, it might cause friction with your co-workers.
  • Mode of Communication: Understanding how your co-workers and supervisor(s) want to communicate is important to fitting in. You may be a face-to-face communicator, but if your co-workers/boss prefers to talk about work-related issues via Skype or email, do that. You’ll also need to when they expect you action messages/emails (end of day? Immediately?).
  • Management Style: Adapting to your supervisor’s management style is another company culture element you’ll need to be familiarized with. You’ll need to figure out how to be on the same page with your supervisor when it comes to communication and expectations. Make this task easier by simply asking him/her about their preferences, pet peeves, etc.