If you’ve started a new job recently, you may be struggling to figure out how to get to know your new colleagues, especially if everyone is still working from home.
How much effort you put into it depends largely on factors like whether this is a job you really want to continue with versus something to tide you over, and how social you normally are. But in any case, I do recommend you take some steps to get to know the people you’re working with. If nothing else, you’ll be practicing good networking.
If you’re a more social person, this probably looks like joining in those coworker happy hours. You can learn a lot about who people are through these. Are people drinking, and if so, what? What do they have going on in the background? Do you see children or pets intruding on the calls? (On that note, try to minimize distractions on your end. You can use a virtual background for your calls, or position yourself so there’s something neutral behind you, like a wall with some art on it or a bookshelf. And try to corral those pets and kids so they don’t interrupt, but also know that if they do, it’s not a big deal.)
If you’re less social, you can engage in a sort of water-cooler chat before the meeting starts officially. Jot some ideas down on a notepad so you can remember them, and ask people some friendly questions. These can be things like what others are reading or watching right now, if they’re from the area, if they’ve picked up any new hobbies since quarantine began, and so forth. If a child or pet does interrupt things, feel free to ask names, ages, and so forth. (You don’t have to do this if it feels weird, of course.)
In either case, be ready to engage in small talk. I know that to many introverts, small talk feels like a ridiculous waste of time, but it’s a good way to get to know people and to present yourself as approachable and friendly. And since it’s virtual, you can even take notes! Just have pen and paper ready and you’ll be that brilliant person who remembers that Suzie’s kid lost her first tooth and is excited about the Tooth Fairy.
Everything feels just that little bit forced these days, so cut yourself some slack as you do this, and just breathe into the weirdness. And when in doubt, just smile and nod—that’s gotten me pretty far in life!
If you need some starter questions, check out this fun worksheet I found online:
You may want to ask different things, but this is a nice starting point. What suggestions do you have for getting to know people better when your contact is all remote?