The Introvert's Guide to Surviving a New Job

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Well hello there! I realize it's been a hot minute...or a few hundred thousand. The reason I've been MIA — and Quiet Girl Speaks went on an unplanned hiatus — is because...drumroll please...I got a new job!

I've been in my new role for about three months now, and it was exactly the change I needed. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of obnoxious coworkers to go around, and I never seem to have enough time in the day to get through my to-do list. (And more importantly, I have no time for online shopping breaks. What kind of job environment is this?!) So far, though, it's been a great experience. My mood has improved so much that the boyfriend must think he's dating a different person.

Adjusting to my new role hasn't been totally smooth sailing, though. Being introverted, new experiences are always tricky to acclimate to. I'm sure switching to a new job can be a difficult decision for anyone to make — but it's especially true for those of us who are creatures of habit and consistency. Sure, I disliked the situation I was in at my previous job, but at least I was comfortable. I had friends, I had a (relatively) manageable workload, I had free snacks — what more could a girl ask for? (As it turns out, the answer is a lot. I had really lowered the bar of standards I sought from my job.)

The Dreaded Experience of Being the New Hire

Joining a new company as an introvert is always nerve-wracking, because it combines my least favorite things in the most unbearable way: strangers and changes. You meet a lot of new people, you spend extensive time interacting with said new people, you must adapt to a new environment, and you have to change how you work to fit a new role and team strategy. In other words: not. fun. at. all. (I know how much you extroverts feed off of others' energy and enjoy meeting new people, but from where I'm sitting that sounds like torture).

As an introvert who is herself navigating the twists and turns of a new company culture, I thought now would be the perfect time to share the tricks I've learned to help overcome being the newbie on the cubicle block. I offer to you, dear reader, my tips to help introverts survive — scratch that: to thrive — during those crucial first months at a new job. (And perhaps even you extroverts will discover a few nuggets of advice.) Enjoy!

1. Reframe Your Perspective

So you made a big decision, and now you're anxious about starting the new job? So was I. Sure, I did the grunt work to arrange for a new role and voluntarily agreed to adjust my daily reality. I wanted to claw my way out of an unpleasant and stagnant position — and I did. But I knew that leaving behind what had become my normal meant facing new challenges.

A broader role with more responsibility? Terrifying. A boss who would be supportive but also had high expectations? Sounds stressful. A new company filled with strangers I'd need to win over? Hand me a bucket, because I need to vomit.

All of these thoughts filled me with dread as the papers were signed and the change became official. But then I realized that worrying so much and having so little confidence in myself had only worsened work life for me in the past. So, I decided to change my perspective. Instead of focusing on what scared me, I decided to concentrate on the things I could control: being a diligent worker, showcasing my skills, and proving my worth to my boss and team members.

I sought to push past the uncomfortable moments until my new coworkers looked less intimidating and my old job was barely visible in the rearview mirror. I committed to being confident and believing in myself, and so far it all seems to have worked out quite well, if I do say so. 

2. Don't Be Afraid to Say "No"

As an introvert I like stepping in to lend a helping hand, because I want others to do the same when the roles are reversed. Unfortunately, I've found that sometimes people use my generosity to their own advantage. Coworkers will pass work on to me that they can't be bothered to do themselves, or they'll lazily write content with the assumption that I will step in and fix it for them.

This time around, I'm trying to ground others' expectations in reality and make sure they know that I am not in fact their personal writer and editor. I've had to learn to say "no" (or use a more tactful phrase that conveys the same message) when my coworkers have an unreasonable request or try to pile another project on my towering workload. I've discovered that "no", when used politely, can make the difference between drowning in too many demands and being able to prioritize the projects that matter most for my role. 

I think as individuals we gain back a lot of power when we're able to say "no" to projects or tasks that we don't have time for. (And in my case, I've also learned to love the word "no" for other reasons, such as when responding to invites for outings that sound like they were planned by extroverts for extroverts.) Now, a few obvious rules apply to the use of "no":

  • Never say it to your direct boss (instead, I prefer to ask for clarification on priorities and share my bandwidth)
  • Suck it up when you have a task that you'd prefer to say "no thanks" to but is in fact a must-do
  • Think of the word "no" as that ace in your back pocket — to be played strategically rather than frequently

3. Put on Your Game Face

Anyone who knows me is aware that I occasionally let slip a few sassy comments here and there. (Truth? I'm super sassy, but try to keep a handle on it at work. Usually I fail.) But I wanted to get on my new coworkers' good sides and make a good impression as a positive, friendly, and helpful employee. So I chose to put a lid on the sass and get my game face on. (Spoiler alert: it seems the sass is untamable.)

When I started my new job, I put my best foot forward. I was focused and driven, I was friendly and courteous, I played nice with all of my new teammates. I went to a conference my third week on the job, and I mingled my ass off — while running an impromptu and poorly organized project. By concentrating on how I presented myself, I was able to establish my value early on and prove that I was competent as well as serious about my work.

Yet inevitably the sass made a reappearance. Working at a company larger than what I'm used to meant encountering more individuals with big personalities, big ideas, and (occasionally) big attitudes. With so many clashing opinions, it became impossible to maintain my cool façade forever. But still, I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished so far with my game face. (And honestly, how can I not be sassy to a coworker who vents all of her personal frustrations at me while practically yelling in my face?)

I'll admit that I can't always keep the sass inside, but I make a conscious effort to remain focused and not get caught up in any drama that's not worth my time or energy. At the end of the day, you have to remember that it is just a job — it doesn't define who you are or who you'll become. But keeping calm and carrying on never hurts. 😎

- K