As you know, I recently started a new job. When leaving JCC Association, I knew that I would probably never again have a team of such epic proportions. I will probably never have a boss who I not only respect as a colleague, but consider to be a close friend. I knew that, more than anything, I would miss my coworker soul-sister, Mackenzie, who had become my confidant and lunch buddy and mutual stress reliever over the course of almost two years.
Starting in a new office, on a team of five and within a department of twenty-five, meant I would have to break in to pre-existing social circles. Unfortunately, I can’t rely on my wicked PHP skills to make friends.
To those who know me well, it might come as a surprise that I didn’t immediately pick up some new friends (who am I kidding, it surprised me the most). I know very well that it can take three months to start to feel comfortable in a new place. I know it took me four months to meet Mackenzie and another two to get the courage to make her be my friend (though she’d say I didn’t “make” her do anything). That being said, I came in wanting people to like me and be my friend. I’m nice! I bake things! Be my friend and I’ll make you awesome cookies!
Ok, maybe this is extreme.
I’ve been here for a little over a month, and it’s time for me to take some real initiative to make friends. These tips are as much for readers as they are reminders for myself that friendship is a two-way commitment. I can’t just expect people to invite me to lunch or happy hour.
Tip One: Ask questions
Of course, this starts with your coworkers’ names. If you’re anything like me, you may need reminders of names. But once you’ve got that down, learn about who they are. Your coworkers are more than just their position within the department. Find out about their hobbies, where they went to school, what they were doing before their current position, etc. This is an opportunity to find things in common with your colleagues and to plain and simple listen.
Tip Two: Spread the love
Personally, nothing brightens my day quite like an unexpected compliment. Compliment your coworkers on a piece of clothing or the way they’ve decorated their cubical. Remember to be genuine. If you say that you love that bracelet, actually mean it. Don’t Regina it.
Tip Three: Be helpful
Offer help for everything from collaborating on project ideas, taking on projects that seem to be dejected by your colleagues, or even just giving advice on where to go for brunch. When someone approaches you and asks for help, do whatever you can (within the confines of your position and the law, of course) to help. Better yet, help with a smile. You’ll become the person who is known as friendly and eventually, people will come to you with more than just work help requests.
Tip Four: Invite them out
At the end of the day, you have to be the one to take initiative. Even after you’ve learned all about the person, spread the love, and were super helpful, you may still be the one who has to offer the invitation. Plan in advance, and invite them for a future date. Be open to scheduling something in the future and be conscious of their work schedule. If your colleague is staying late every night working on something, perhaps offer to schedule for a future date.
That being said, if you get a clipped decline instead of reception to rescheduling in the future, respond warmly but without attempt to change their mind. It may be a sign to let them come to you in the future instead of forcing something that may not be meant to be.
Nothing wrong with alone time.
At the end of the day, you still may not end up becoming friends with your coworkers. It may never go beyond friendly hellos and head nods. You are at work to focus on, well, getting work done (getting that paycheck, advancing that career). Remind yourself that you tried your hardest, but sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.
Don’t give up all hope. Remember, if you’re awesome, eventually people will come your way.
Alexandra is a WordPress & front-end developer who builds awesome things. She loves craft beer, apple cider cookies, and traveling to new places (especially when the trip is free). You should follow her on twitter and maybe you can become internet friends. Or maybe even IRL friends.