The goal of the jobseeker is simple. The focus is set squarely on landing a new job.
With all your attention set on successfully navigating the recruitment process, it’s easy to lose sight of the next challenge once you successfully land a job: acclimatising to your new surroundings.
As a new graduate, it’s likely you’re looking for a job that will kickstart your career. Though you may have worked before during your studies, or as an intern after graduating, this time it may be quite different.
In fact, the experience of starting a new job is at times overwhelming, and can often cause many of us to suffer from a little “new job anxiety”.
There’s a lot to take in beyond your employer’s expectations, the new responsibilities you’ve been handed, and the challenge of getting through your day-to-day workload. There’s a bunch of new people to get to know (and work with effectively), unwritten rules to surmise, office customs and traditions to get your head around, and much else besides.
Yes, there is such a thing as workplace culture shock.
Although one’s experience in a new job depends on many variables, most people will pass through four recognizable stages: honeymoon, anxiety, adjustment, and acceptance.
Here’s our guide to successfully tackling culture shock in a new job.
Stage one: the honeymoon
One of the more difficult aspects of tackling workplace culture shock is any new job anxiety that you feel will most likely come out of the blue.
In pretty much any new job everything will seem rosy at first.
You were probably delighted to hear that you got the job, putting an end to the uncertainty and stress of your job hunt. You’ve been told that you’re the person your new company really wants to hire, and that feels good.
This ‘new hire glow’ will accompany you into work on your first day, and may well stay with you for a while as you settle in.
How long this honeymoon period lasts depends on how much of a culture shock you experience in your new workplace.
Worst case scenario, you’re already regretting accepting their offer by lunchtime. More likely, the first week or two will fly by as your colleagues go easy on you and the relatively light workload gives you free reign to carefully get to know your new surroundings.
For the lucky few, the honeymoon never ends and their dream job effortlessly unfolds before them. For most, temporary new job anxiety is just over the horizon. In this case, it will help to prepare for an abrupt end to the good times.
What you can do:
- Anticipate what problems you may face in the future. Keep your eyes peeled for future challenges and difficulties, either with your workload, your colleagues or with external stakeholders or clients.
- Be yourself at all times. As people get to know you, it will be advantageous to show them the real you. There’s no point putting on an act you won’t be likely to sustain for the long term.
- Get to know people as soon as you can. As a new starter, you won’t have the faintest clue about who your colleagues really are. Now’s the time to strike up a conversation, forging alliances and working people out. You’ll never have a better time to strike up an introductory conversation.
Stage two: anxiety
It may seem unlikely during the honeymoon stage, anxiety is quite likely to strike after a week or so in any new job.
The ‘new hire glow’ has dimmed, issues and challenges have started piling up, and you’re no longer being given the benefit of the doubt as a ‘newbie’.
The harder edges of some of your colleagues personalities may begin to reveal themselves, and you may start to see cliques and tensions that have formed within the office over time.
It can be emotionally draining to form so many new relationships at once, and this will start to wear you down once the honeymoon period ends and your workload starts to weigh more heavily on you than before.
With your presence no longer a novelty, you may start to feel like an outsider, questioning how your colleagues really feel about you.
The good news is that all these feelings are natural. And that there are two more stages to come. Your anxiety won’t last forever.
What you can do:
- Take it seriously. Fitting in culturally and socially in a new workplace is actually crucial to performance and long-term job satisfaction. Feel justified in raising any concerns with your manager – you will be surprised how willing others are to help you fit in.
- Look on the bright side. Anxious feelings are entirely natural, and they will not last for long if you maintain a positive attitude and look to overcome the challenges you face as soon as they reveal themselves.
- Carve out a niche for yourself within your team and office. Ensure you don’t feel left out by building relationships and creating a routine. It is also wise to make sure everyone knows what you bring to the team, so they feel able to reach out to you.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’re new to the company!
Stage three: adjustment
In order to overcome the challenges we face as a “new guy” or “new girl” it’s often necessary to adjust ourselves to the situation.
Your job is doubtless of great importance to you, and it’s probably the one place besides home where you spend the most amount of time. So it’s important to feel comfortable and confident in the workplace.
Adjusting to fit in with your new colleagues is part of overcoming the anxiety of a new job. You will also need to adjust to your new responsibilities, and to your workload.
These are important sacrifices to make if you are serious about making the most of the opportunity you have, and doing so is a natural reaction to the challenges of a new workplace and office culture.
It may be hard at first, but we are all shaped by the work we do, and the people we work with. Allowing yourself to adjust naturally to your new surroundings will help to avoid the tension and anxiety of sudden change.
Unless the job is just not for you, or the anxiety that you feel has nothing to do with being new, adjustment is a natural next step to any period of anxiety and worry.
What you can do:
- Get involved in social events and extra-curricular activities with your new colleagues, and join committees or initiatives within your workplace. This will help you feel at home and help people get to know you better.
- Try new things. Your new job has put you in touch with lots of new people and a new routine in your life. Be open to picking up new hobbies or interests shared with you, taking advantage of these new connections.
- Focus on your goals. At the end of the day, you’re working at the company for a reason. Don’t lose sight of why you want to get on with your colleagues and feel comfortable at work. Workplace adjustment is a natural part of realizing your long-term career objectives.
Stage four: acceptance
After all the stress and anxiety of starting a new job, you will eventually reach a state of acceptance – both of being accepted by your colleagues, and of accepting the conditions of the job for yourself.
By following the advice in this guide, you should reach a state of acceptance pretty quickly and without too much pain. But regardless of how long it may take, this final stage can always be reached through positivity, commitment, and hard work.