Beginning a new job is nerve wracking at the best of times. But for many of us, especially the more introverted of us, learning the skills and responsibilities of a new job are not the main causes of stress, as much as the awkward struggle of fitting into a new workplace and gaining the acceptance of new colleagues.
The feeling of being an outsider can be particularly strong for working holiday makers. You may already be homesick and struggling with the loneliness that comes with being a foreigner in a new city and now on top of that, you’re learning a new job. Everyone there has their established groups and daily routines. You’d like to be sociable but you’ve barely been acknowledged, after all, you’re just the latest anonymous backpacker in a long line of anonymous backpackers who have come through the company doors.
Then it’s a vicious circle; you believe people see you as an ‘outsider’, which makes you self-conscious and more introverted, which makes people see you as an outsider.
How can you avoid this?
Beginning a job, it’s unlikely you’ll be feeling particularly positive or confident, but avoid coming across as moody or insular. You may have to force it, but try to smile, laugh (when appropriate) and at least give the impression of enthusiasm for the job.
Initiate social activity
This isn’t easy. But somewhere amongst the exhausting first week on a job, try to find enough energy to initiate some social contact with colleagues. Lunch is good for this – especially if people go out to local cafes. Ask someone if they’d mind you joining them. If that’s too forward, try a more subtle approach, like asking if they know of anywhere good to go for lunch.
But don’t be too sociable
Be careful you don’t establish yourself as the weird new over-friendly backpacker – there’s no coming back from there. It’s best to be quiet and humble in the early days of a job.
Get noticed and get in people’s good books: offer to do some of those smaller jobs that no one else can be bothered doing – the dishes, emptying bins, making or getting the tea and coffee.
You don’t want your clothes to give a bad first impression so dress conservatively. All you want to do is blend in. Before your first day, it may even help to call and ask what the dress code is.
You may not always feel like it, but try to say yes to extracurricular activities, whether it’s after work drinks or something smaller like buying a raffle ticket for a colleague’s child’s scout group.
Especially if you’re homesick, you don’t want to spend too much time alone with your thoughts – thoughts that will turn you into a sullen outsider in no time. If you’re working the sort of job that has quiet times, ask around to see if anyone has anything they’d like done or just make up something to do yourself.
If none of this is of any help, then you may want to embrace your outsider status. Check out our thoughts on life outside the comfort zone.