A strange situation

Starting a job, a placement or an internship in a new environment where you don’t know anyone else can be daunting and anxiety provoking. I know those feelings all too well, you are not alone.

This blog post is inspired by a question I was asked recently about any tips I had about integrating into a new workplace and making friends on placement. As someone who has done a few internships, a placement and a few other work related experiences on my own, I have a lot of ideas that you can implement to help you adjust to the new environment and find new friends. 

In any new job, your line manager is going to be your greatest resource. They have been with the organisation for a while, they know a lot of people within your department and potentially outside of your department. Which is why it is very important to get to know them and create a relationship with them, they can provide guidance and support on issues you are facing in work. For instance, wanting to integrate into the workplace more. Your line manager can facilitate introductions within the department and outside, try and get them to do this when you first start. There’s nothing more daunting than starting a new job and not knowing anyone in the office. You won’t remember all the names but at least you’ll see all the faces of the people you will be working with, and likewise the other team members will know who you are. They will be useful to know if you want to branch out on placement and get to know other aspects of work within the team.

Your line manager can also help you get involved with workplace groups. Many organisations have smaller groups within, that are focused on specific issues like wellness, charity or 5-aside football. If there isn’t a group you’re interested in joining, you could always create one. This would show your initiative and proactiveness, qualities employers are always keen to see demonstrated in their employees.

Adding to that, you may not be the only new starter in the organisation. For example, another placement student in a different department. Again, your line manager can find out if there are others in the same boat as you and facilitate this relationship building. A shared experience is great for bonding, and it can help reduce the feelings of isolation as a newbie. From there, they could introduce you to other people/future friends. 

Finally, take advantage of any social events outside of work. Most workplaces have a social on a Friday after work, try and go to a few. It’s a great way to get to know your colleagues in a more casual environment and get to know who they are outside of work; their hobbies, interests, etc. A relaxed atmosphere can make it easier to make more meaningful connections.

OUTSIDE OF WORK

There is more to life than work! You might not have that much in common with your work colleagues or there isn’t much of a social aspect. It’s not the end of the world.

Whilst I was on placement at UCL, I was in that exact position. There wasn’t a lot of opportunities to get to know the people that worked in the same department as me. And even though I was in London and from London, I found that a lot of my friends who were in London were either busy with university or their own work.

I ended up joining the website called MeetUp. It’s like a student union but for adults who work. It’s where groups of people have socials based on shared interests. I joined one which was like the African Caribbean Society back at university; we had socials to events around London that showcased Afro-Caribbean culture. I also joined another group which was essentially a book club. I was so glad that I found the website because otherwise I would have been on ‘eat, sleep, work, repeat’ for the entirety of placement which wouldn’t have been too healthy. It’s a really cool atmosphere because there’s a high chance that you’re not going to be the only one flying solo, and everyone is really welcoming which takes away the anxiety of trying a new thing alone. There are so many different groups and you are bound to find something that interests you, and like at university - you can create a brand new one!

There are plenty of other things you can join outside of work which can be great ways to meet new people and form new relationships. Try taking up a new hobby like dancing or volunteer. I took part in a eight week beginner’s coding course, learned how to swim, took up weightlifting… there is never a shortage of inspiration. Is there something you have always wanted to do? Now’s the time, and you’ll meet new people along the way.

These are just a few ideas though, do what feels comfortable for you. But I do encourage you to be brave and put yourself out there, it’s the only way you will be able to integrate yourself and make new relationships in a new environment. It is scary, but the more you do it, the less scary it gets. Speaking from experience, I always dread these kinds of things. I am an introvert at heart, but like everyone else I don’t always want to be alone. I always make myself go out and do things, and I feel so much better for it after. It’s like when you have to go to the gym, you don’t want to do it at first but once you do go, you feel energised and healthier. 

We are social beings, and want to feel like we belong somewhere and having relationships help that. Despite this, it’s also important to remember to take some time for ourselves. It’s very easy to burn out in a new job, especially so if you’re stretching yourself too thin by trying to be involved with everything. Try and do something just for you, every once in a while because your well-being is way more important than attending every social. Lastly, don’t compromise who you are for the sake of fitting in. I made that mistake in my first year of university, and the only good thing that came out of it was hindsight. I was able to reflect on how silly I had been for trying to change who I was to make friends.

Let me know in the comments if you have used similar techniques, or have one that I haven’t mentioned!