Fitting in to a new office can be daunting, even when you’re joining on a permanent basis and will have time to get to know the team. But as a contractor, with the knowledge that you won’t there for long, you’re faced with a dilemma: put effort into making short-term connections, or keep to yourself and risk feeling isolated?
Simply put, the former option is the better choice. Even if you prefer to work on your own, making connections will help your day-to-day job run smoothly, and it could open doors for you in the future.
However, you will need to start building these contacts quickly to make the most of them. Fortunately, there are lots of shortcuts to making connections fast in a new team – here’s how to hit the ground running when you’re joining a company as a contractor:
Whether you prefer to take literal notes or mental ones, make sure your eyes and ears are open from the moment you turn up for an interview. Take note of the layout and dynamics of the office and try and keep track of the people you meet, including memorising their names and what position they hold. (Pro tip: collecting business cards can really help and you can make brief notes on the back to remember who is whom.)
You’ll also want to take notes during the induction or onboarding sessions. You can learn a lot from not only the information given, but the way in which it is given. Is it a particularly formal office? How loudly or softly do people speak? What do people wear? Is a hierarchy apparent? Mimic what you see around you (while still maintaining your own unique personality, of course), and you’ll be on track to fitting in fast.
Ask about the corporate culture
If you are afraid to ask questions when you enter a new office, you need to put that fear to rest. To make things easier, start by asking questions of your supervisor: Is there a casual Friday? Are desk ornaments appropriate? Are emails formal or are emoji ok?
Once you start to meet your co-workers, ask them questions as well: What did you wish someone had told you on your first day here? Do you have any tips for office etiquette? Where’s the best place to get lunch?
Asking questions of this kind is also a great shortcut to creating connections with people, as it allows you to bond over something that’s not directly related to your tasks, but that is a shared experience - working in this office.
The key here is that once you’ve received your answers, follow the advice.
Don’t shy away from after work drinks
The single best way to fit in fast is to be sociable. Some contractors like the freelance lifestyle because they’re somewhat introverted - they might also like working from home, for instance. Other contractors relish the chance to make new connections in different teams. Even if you fit into the former group, you stand to gain a lot by accepting social invitations at least every once in a while.
The simplest way to be sociable is to make the effort to start conversations in the kitchen (or other common space). Make eye contact, smile and say things like “How was your weekend?”, “That’s a nice scarf!”, “Where’s a good place to get coffee around here?”. Remember, it’s not the content of the conversation that’s important here, it’s the connection you’re making.
Taking a coffee break with a co-worker and saying yes to post work drinks are also great ways to form connections. And never underestimate the power of having a bowl of shared fruit on your desk.
Making an effort to fit in to a new workplace as a contractor has the immediate benefits of making your work life a bit more fun and a bit less isolated. However, there are also longer-term, possibly unforeseen benefits of being easy to get along with and good at your job: you might make new personal friends; you might pick up new skills; you could become the contractor of choice at that workplace; you might be referred on for other work and you’ll certainly expand your professional network.
Fitting into a new office is achievable and won’t take too much effort if you:
- Ask questions and take notes
- Talk to your supervisor and co-workers about office culture
- Initiate casual conversations with co-workers