new guy at work

How to Get Past Being the New Guy at Work

New guys can often have things rough for a couple weeks.

Being the new guy is really hard for most people. Joining an existing tightly-knit group of people can make even the most seasoned, outgoing, extroverted individual nervous. And even when you put your brave face on and try to be sociable, the team may not always be so welcoming. Whether you’re the new kid in class, the new employee on the marketing team, or the new drug dealer encroaching on a rival gang’s established territory, there is bound to be an awkward phase where you try to adjust to your new surroundings. With a positive attitude and a little luck, you’ll feel a part of things in no time!

Let’s help Alberto adjust to his new work surroundings

On his first day of work as Junior Interactive Designer at Northwestern Fork & Spoon Company, Alberto was led to his new work area. When he walked in the room, the other nine designers were all huddled around for the morning stand-up meeting. Alberto stood awkwardly, silently at the back of the room holding his notebook and pen.

“Hey guys, I want you to meet Alberto,” Anwar, the manager, said, as everyone twirled around to catch a glimpse of the new guy. “He’s gonna jump right in and helping out with the redesigns for the new flatware exit intent modals and landing pages. Come join us, Alberto, and say a few words about yourself.”

“Oh, um, hi,” Alberto said nervously as he fidgeted with his notebook. “I’m Alberto. My girlfriend and I moved here from Winnipeg. I had been doing some design work with one of your competitors, Allied Spoon. Umm… in my spare time I like to do lighting and set design for community theater. I’ve only been here for six days but I already saw the police shoot a guy in our apartment pool area, so…” Alberto trailed off. “Yeah, I guess that’s about it.”

“OK, well, welcome!” Anwar said, as the meeting continued. Everyone was using in-house terminology and strange acronyms Alberto had never heard before, but he kept quiet, thinking perhaps he should know them. “What is this EMBRYO project everyone keeps talking about,” he wondered. Everyone seemed so close; there was lots of silly banter back and forth, filled with inside jokes. How would he ever break through and be part of the team? Being the new guy was totally sucking major butt!

In the coming days, Alberto continued to feel like an outsider. It wasn’t like anyone was being mean to him or excluding him from things, but he also didn’t feel like a real part of the team yet. There was such a learning curve. He tried to make an effort and see if anyone wanted to play foosball in the break room. There was no response. He wasn’t sure if people just didn’t hear him or if they were ignoring him because they hated him so much. The latter seemed unlikely, but he went to the bathroom and sobbed in a stall anyway, wishing he had his old familiar job back at Allied Spoon.

What can Alberto do to make being the new guy easier?

  • First impressions are everything. If Alberto shows on Day 1 that he’s an interesting, happy guy who’s a team player, life will probably be easier.
  • Attitude is probably the biggest factor. Simply keeping his head up and a smile on his face for the first few days will be the biggest factor in Alberto adjusting and overcoming his “newb” status.
  • If you’re lucky, some special individual will take it upon themselves to make you feel welcome by showing you the ropes and making you feel included. This is far from guaranteed, but many offices have such individuals, frequently women.
  • Nothing gets a new worker acquainted like a team happy hour. Getting to know your co-workers outside the office will help bring everyone together inside the office. “Man Alberto, I really underestimated you. The fact that you can drink that much straight gin makes me view you in a new, more favorable light.”
  • Likewise, look for any “in” or conversation starter at the office. “Oh, hey man, I like the Molson Ice tattoo! I actually just moved here from Canada. I drank a ton of that stuff at university.”
  • Can’t find anything in common with others? Publicize yourself instead! Putting a picture of your cute puppy on your desktop is sure to ignite a couple chat sessions.
  • Quickly adjust to the company culture, whether that means the timing of break or the way everyone communicates. Conforming to accepted company standards will make Alberto part of the group sooner than later.
  • Ask to have things explained to you, or elaborated upon. “Wait a minute, hang on… Sorry, but seriously, what is this EMBRYO project everyone keeps talking about. Did I miss something?”
  • Take control of a project. “Hey there Anwar, if I’m overstepping my bounds here, let me know, but I’ve coded a ton of these modals and I’d be happy to take the reigns on this project and show these dullards how it’s done.” Or, you know, leave out the dullards part.
  • Likewise, volunteering for projects no one else wants to do is a good way to get your new team to take notice of your presence and gumption. “I noticed no one has tackled this project involving the meticulous reorganization of this stack of 393,200 index cards, and it’s been on the board since Halloween 2000. I guess I could take a stab at it.”
  • Simply being older and more experienced than many of your new co-workers gives you a leg up with the whole “new guy” factor. You may be new to the team, but you are not new to life.
  • Just keep your head above water until someone else even newer comes along; no one is the new guy forever!
  • It would suck if you or Alberto had to resort to this, but being a total asshole and demeaning others could make you appear more assertive and seasoned, and less of a new guy. Something to keep in your back pocket if things get real bad.
  • If you’re really overwhelmed even after a few weeks, you might consider taking more drastic steps, like taking your issues to HR, or asking for your old job back. But you should probably at least give it 3-4 weeks before doing anything rash.

However, there are situations where being the new guy has its advantages. For instance…

  • If being a quiet, introverted guy who prefers to be alone and zone out to podcasts while working is Alberto’s thing, maybe being the new guy won’t matter so much. He doesn’t really seek attention or friendships anyway.
  • Or maybe you crave the attention of being the new guy. If telling your life story time and again is your idea of fun and you have a receptive audience, frequently changing jobs may be just the ticket for you!
  • There could even be perks to being the new guy. “Since Alberto is the new guy, he gets to pick what color we use on the flyers.”

In the end, Alberto would outlast many of those colleagues. Just seven short weeks into the job, a different Alberto joined the team, and Alberto made sure to show New Alberto the ropes and felt like a part of the team from the get-go. And believe it or not, a third Alberto would join the team later that year. Wow. You can’t make this stuff up.

My Hot Take

I’ve been the new guy three different times in my professional career. The first time, obviously, was my first job, and since I was the youngest and least experienced person there, it wasn’t odd at all being new and treated as such. The second time, I landed on a great team that was very outgoing and willing to show me around town. I rather enjoyed the attention I was receiving. The third time was the hardest, having left that tight-knit team and its laid-back ways and going somewhere a bit more structured. But sure enough, everything worked out in time. A year into that third job, I had become the fourth longest-tenured employee on the team!


2 thoughts on “How to Get Past Being the New Guy at Work

  1. I, too, was the newbie after joining the hospital team. I was introverted and quiet, but time was the key…another tip: bring delicious baked goods or donuts, a sure way to be a much lived employee and team member!


  2. I´ve been the new guy three times since I graduated from college. It´s been real hard every time. I usually change jobs after a year, so I never get past the new guy status. Now I´m really having a hard time, for I´m sick of always being the new one who has to learn new stuff and get bossed around as though I´m not fit for the job. It´s been four months and a half now, and I feel it´s getting harder.


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