You know when you go to another country on vacation and everyone is speaking a different language? That’s the way it kind of feels walking into a new job and you are by far the youngest in the room. Everyone seems so educated, knowledgeable and probably old enough to be your parents. But don’t worry - I’ve (kind of) successfully learned how to navigate this intimidating world of adults and I’m here to share my awkward experiences to minimize yours.
Dress the Part
If you have no idea what you are doing, at least you can look like you do! Finding the perfect power outfit for the first day can give you that extra boost of confidence you may need. Ditch the skater shoes and baggy pants for a nice pair of dress pants and a blouse or collared shirt. Dressing professionally will make others and yourself feel more confident that you are in the right place.
The Art of “Small Talk”
Ah, small talk - probably the most uncomfortable activity if you don’t have much experience doing it. Here are some tips:
Always introduce yourself to everyone who hasn’t met; don’t wait for them to approach you first. By going out of your way to introduce yourself to someone, it shows that you care about engaging in conversation with them and will leave a lasting impression.
Once you introduce yourself, try to remember their name and use it next time you see them. This is harder than it may seem – especially if you’re meeting a lot of people at once and you typically blackout after “Hi, my name is …”. One trick is to write down as many names as you can in a notebook or on your phone.
Some easy go-to conversation starters can be “how was your weekend” or “how was your evening”. You can never go wrong with a compliment as well.
Pro tip: Remember what your co-workers tell you and follow up with them. This shows that you were actually listening to what they were telling you - and it’s another good conversation starter.
Now that you started the conversation, try to relax! Don’t be afraid to contribute or crack a joke once in a while, which leads me to my next point…
Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions
Asking questions in your first week at a new job can sometimes feel scary. If anything, asking questions shows that you are engaged and want to fully grasp what you are being taught. Want to really engage? Whip out your notebook and write down some notes when being trained to really impress them. It not only shows you care about what you are learning but will also be useful.
Make the Most of Your Time & Learn, Learn, Learn
Going back to my first point about feeling like everyone around you knows so much more than you – instead of dwelling on that, think of it as an opportunity for you to learn from the people around you. There is a saying that “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. Take this opportunity as a co-op student to really soak up the knowledge the people around you can provide. Remember you are not restricted to your job description – if you hear about a project that interests you, ask your supervisor about it! There may be an opportunity for you to be involved in some way but you never know until you ask. Make the most of your time – your future self will thank you.