Start Right in Your Next Job—Introducing Yourself to Your New Co-workers
Is there anything more exciting—and awkward—than the first day on a new job? The exciting part is easy to understand, especially for residents and fellows moving into their first non-training position. Years of school and specialized education have paid off, and the new career is finally launching. This is not only exciting, it’s momentous.
But yes, also awkward, for all the obvious reasons. Who do you report to, and where? Is there a locker for your gear? How about the restrooms and the cafeteria? And…uh-oh…what was that colleague’s name? Can’t…quite…see the name badge…
With luck, and a good HR person, a lot of these questions will be handled in an onboarding process; if not, there’s likely to be a friendly co-worker to give you a tour and clue you in on the basics. So that covers the logistics of the new job, but what about the people? How will you introduce yourself and get to know the other professionals you’ll be working with?
If this worries you a little, you’re in good company. Pretty much everyone worries about making the right impression with new colleagues, even if this isn’t the first job post-training. For those who consider themselves to be introverts, the worries can intensify, leading to some sleepless nights while thinking about how to start on the right foot.
Introvert or extrovert, you’ll sleep better if you have a strategy for the first few weeks in your new position. The following tips will give you something to consider as you get ready.
A WEEK OR TWO IN ADVANCE
Talk with your physician recruiter. With so much focus on the hiring process, basic logistical information can get lost. Now’s a good time to email your questions or schedule a call with someone in the human resources department who can explain such things as where to park, who to check in with, what paperwork will still be needed, etc.
Ask for an organization chart. When you connect with your physician recruiter, ask for an org chart or a staff directory, or any other resource to help you get familiar with names and faces. If none exist, you might be able to find similar information on the web site, in the form of staff bios.
YOUR FIRST DAY ON THE JOB
Arrive a little early. Not only will you be more relaxed by not having to rush, but you’ll have more time for brief chats as you meet people.
Wear your name badge. Assuming you’re assigned a badge of some sort, try to wear it in plain sight, to help others see and learn your name.
Talk to the front desk staff. As much as the direct care providers, the people at the front desk are your new colleagues. They’re also the ones who make life easier for you as a new employee. Commit to learning their names and to greeting each person every day—you’ll be amazed at how much better your work life will be when others feel respected by you.
Don’t assume people know you’re new. With so many places using locums physicians and traveling nurses, there are a lot of new faces on the floor. Just because someone doesn’t recognize you doesn’t mean they’ll realize you’re new. Get in the habit of introducing yourself to avoid misunderstandings.
IN THE FIRST FEW WEEKS ON THE NEW JOB
Talk to everyone. In your first days on the job, you’ll be focused on meeting your team. But by the second or third week, it’s time to get curious about the other people making your workplace hum. That might mean other doctors, advanced practice professionals, back office staff, vendors, or anyone else you encounter in your day.
Make a chart. Remember the org chart from HR? If you didn’t receive one earlier, by now you can make one of your own. Just an informal sketch might be enough, but you’ll appreciate how this tool can help you keep straight on who’s who and what everyone does.
Don’t forget your virtual colleagues. If you have colleagues working from home, you’ll need to work harder to make your introductions—but it will be worth the effort. One way to do this is with a 15-minute conversation, perhaps over lunch, where you can learn more about each other.
Ask your boss how best to communicate. You won’t need a special process for introductions with your new boss, but you might benefit from a clarification: How does this person most prefer to be communicated with? For example, some people do best with email communications, while others prefer a phone-and-text process, or a standing weekly meeting. Getting this right from the beginning will help ensure you have the access you need in your new job.
Attend the optional meetings. As with any workplace, you’ll soon discover that some meetings are optional. If you want to cement your relationships, one way is by showing up to all the meetings, at least for the first few months of the position.
Join something. Speaking of showing up, who’s on the diversity committee, or the safety team? Even if you’re not a joiner by nature, you’ll find that working in a small group is a relationship accelerator. To reap these benefits, commit to at least one group in your first months on the job.
Reach out to the next new person. Now that you have your feet under you, you’re ready to be a guide to the next person who comes on board. Not only will you be helpful to that individual, but you’ll also be making a new friend at work, which is part of your own journey of fitting in.
ESPECIALLY FOR INTROVERTS
Don’t hide behind Zoom. If you’re an introvert, you may have a tendency to go remote more than is needed. For meetings in the building, at least, try to resist the efficiency of Zoom or telephone in favor of the relationship-building power of an in-person conversation.
Make more obvious eye contact. Wearing a mask throughout the day makes your eye contact more important. Since you might not be given to big hand gestures or other ways of showing your presence, consider upping your game with more obvious eye contact. That could be as simple as turning your head more fully to face the person you’re talking with or holding your gaze longer.
Talk a little more than usual. Silence is golden, but it can also be interpreted as standoffish—or worse—as disrespect if others feel unacknowledged by you. Commit to being “on” the moment you enter the building (rather than waiting for your first patient) and you’ll be better positioned to connect with each person you meet.
AND FOR EXTROVERTS…
Read the social distancing cues. For extroverts, the recent period of reduced interaction has been challenging. Now that you’re starting a new position, you’ll can finally be yourself, while meeting colleagues you could know for your whole career. Even so, remember to watch for social cues on things like handshakes, fist bumps, and social distancing in general. Others will warm up to you more quickly if they don’t feel uncomfortable initially.
Hold back slightly in conversation. Somebody has to say hello first, and it might as well be you. But once the introductions are made, consider holding back to let the other person talk, or to leave if time is tight. You’ll have time later to finish the conversation, even if it happens in repeated interludes on the way to meetings.
If you’ve read all these tips, then you’re more than ready for the first day in your new job. Polish up your Queen Square Hammer and grab your lunchbox. It’s time to go to work!