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How to fit in fast at new job

28 March, 2010

Find out everything about your work and company, writes Margaret Harris

Starting a new job can be daunting, and it takes time to adjust to different office cultures, but you want to feel part of the team rather than being viewed as the new kid on the block.

There are many ways to become a part of a new organisation.

Lawrence Wordon, managing director of Kelly, said integrating into your new workplace starts when you enter the office. Making the right impression is crucial, "showing your new employer that they have made the right choice employing you".

Just as you would do some research before a job interview, you need to take the time to find out everything about your job and new company.

"By researching your industry and learning more about your new employer, you will be better equipped to comment confidently on certain subjects, and your thoroughness is likely to impress the right people."

This research should include details about how to dress.

You don't want to walk into your new job wearing jeans when everyone is wearing a suit.

"A neat appearance will instil confidence in your employer and show them that you take care of yourself personally and professionally. As a rule, dress conservatively and business-like, rather than too casual," said Wordon.

The best way to become part of your new team is to be a team player.

"Concentrate on building solid relationships with your team. Greet new colleagues with a smile and a firm handshake, make eye contact and repeat their names as they are introduced to you - this will help you to remember names for the future. Little things like this will help you build instant rapport with your new work colleagues," added Wordon.

In the beginning, it can be very difficult to work out who does what, and this is when the office professional, also known as the girl Friday, secretary or receptionist, is invaluable.

"A good secretarial professional knows the ins and outs about how an organisation works. With a firm understanding of not only 'who does what', but also exactly what goes on behind the scenes of the workplace, the office professional has a world of very valuable information to make use of."

However, your team might not want to welcome you.

Management trainer Liza van Wyk, the chief executive of Astrotech, said: "Our training courses are full of young managers who are often battling to deal with older staff who resent them being appointed over them, and the problem deepens if they are of a different gender or race group."

Managers are getting younger. Whereas 20-odd years ago, achievement was considered possible only for those in their 40s and 50s. Today, technology and better education mean there are many young managers leading teams made up of people of various ages, which can make integration difficult.

Christ Loots, a management trainer, agreed that some older staff members might try to sabotage younger managers, but there are also many cases of "dynamic older people leading change and transformation, so there are two sides to this coin".

"I have found that often, if a new manager consults with older or more experienced staff first, and perhaps gives them new challenges while respecting their skills set or puts them in a coaching mode, you can move from resistance to team excellence."

There is no doubt that the personalities that make up the team will determine the ease or otherwise of integration. Wordon advised: "The personalities of your team-mates will also categorise them into natural roles that supersede job titles. Look out for the natural leader, the organiser, the helper and ensure that you fit in where necessary, taking care (at least in the beginning) not to steal anyone else's role - especially not the leader's."


Young managers battle with old saboteurs - The Skills Portal