Getting to know new colleagues through a box on your screen while working from home can have its challenges.
Recent hires already have a lot on their plates when it comes to making a good impression, but forging relationships with your new co-workers should also be a high priority, even if you’ve never met them in person.
“It is very important to build personal connections with people at work,” said Jennifer Benz, a senior vice president at human resources consulting firm Segal. “If you have those strong personal relationships at work in the tough times and the good times, you are going to have a better support system, and that’s really important not just for your happiness, but also for your professional success.”
If you are joining a company remotely or only occasionally seeing your team in person, here are some ways to get to know them better:
When random hallway introductions and spontaneous walks for coffee aren’t an option, you need to be more intentional about setting up get-to-know-you chats.
“It will require effort … if you want to forge relationships when you are new,” said Tessa White, CEO of The Job Doctor. “They won’t come to you, you have to go to them, which means you have to expend extra effort in whatever feels most natural to you.”
Ask your manager for recommendations of people to reach out to and connect with.
And these casual meetings don’t have to take place in front of a screen.
“Take a meeting while walking your dog, anything that creates connection,” said White.
She added that asking questions like: “How can I help you in your job?” or “Tell me something you’d like me to know that I don’t know about you,” can help get conversations going.
But also asking new colleagues about their own personal career path can help them open up on a more personal level and provide advice.
“Ask people: ‘What were your first few weeks like and what helped you navigate that time?’” suggested career coach Octavia Goredema, author of Prep, Push, Pivot: Essential Career Strategies for Underrepresented Women.
Ask for a buddy
If your company’s onboarding process doesn’t include a person assigned to help you get to know the organization and make introductions, Benz suggested asking for someone. And that person shouldn’t be your manager.
Check the company’s handbook or internal website for other ways to connect with colleagues, including employee resource groups (ERGs), a mentorship program or volunteer activities.
“Those are going to be other opportunities to meet people and build connections beyond the immediate group of people you work with day-to-day,” said Benz.
You can also ask to be connected with other recent hires – even if they aren’t on your team.
“Someone who is just a few months ahead of you has a perspective that will be so helpful,” said Goredema.
Set goals: small and big
When starting a new job, it’s always a good idea to set short- and long-term goals for your role, and also map out the relationships you want to cultivate, suggested Goredema.
“Think about whose support is going to be pivotal to your success,” she said.
For instance, a short-term goal could be remembering the names of the people on your team and knowing something specific about them. “Also, think about what you would want them to know about you,” she added.
And because it takes a few months to get acclimated, Goredema, suggested taking notes.
“Keep a cheat sheet that can help you when you go back and reflect on with who’ve you met and what you’ve observed.”
A longer-term goal could be learning your manager’s and team’s expectations and aligning your own expectations with them, including knowing how they like to communicate, how they interact and what the deliverables are.
Ask to shadow
Ask your manager if you can listen in on meetings virtually if appropriate, that can help you meet new people as well as learn the company’s meeting culture.
“Asking to shadow someone and being able to sit in on meetings and ask questions and debrief after the meeting – that is a great way to learn,” said Benz.
She also recommended offering to take notes or track any follow-ups after the meeting or help with any prep. “That is going to be a benefit for your team as well as for your learning.”
Make the most of your in-office days
If you work in person part of the time, ask your teammates when they’ll be in the office and set up lunch, in-person meetings and coffee runs in advance.
“And if you’re the young professional on your team who has the most flexibility in your schedule, then [match] to what the other folks on your team are doing and where you can interact and have the most time with them in person,” said Benz.
Turn your camera on
As we head into year three of the pandemic, we’re all tired of being on camera for meetings.
But it can be hard to remember a person’s name if you can’t envision their face, so Goredema suggested turning your video on to help forge better connections.
“It’s not just what you share…it’s how you show up and how you are present,” she said. “Video meetings are a great opportunity to show clues to who you are – professionally of course.”
She said adding your favorite books on a shelf behind you, or a mug with your alma mater or favorite sports team can help get a conversation going. “All of these things help forge connections and associations.”