5 Ways to Gain Social Capital at Your New Job

As much as we can be connected by the swipe of a finger, sometimes stepping into a new job withe face to face personal contact with strangers can be intimidating, especially if you’re stepping out in a field you’re unfamiliar with. Sometimes you want to fast forward from office newbie to one of the gang. While we can never fast forward through the awkwardness of getting to know your colleagues, rest assured, there are some things you can do. Here are 8 simple ways to gain social capital at your new job.

  1. Say hello and say hello to everyone. Do not underestimate the impact of a consistent hello. Most people don’t think twice about who they say hello to in passing. Unfortunately, when you don’t say hello, most people remember. Not only will you establish a base level of communication, but it also forces people to remember your name. How many times has someone you know said hi and you scramble to remember their name in your head? Use that to your advantage.
  2. Listen, listen, and when you’ve done that, listen more. Social relationships in a work setting can be tricky. Although close relationships with coworkers can be an advantage, it’s not required. I have had the pleasure to work in in a close environment where my peers felt like extended family and in environments that were the exact opposite. In both situations, listening to the people around you can earn you a level of respect and social influence. This is a particularly hard skill for me. I tend to want to interject my own interpretation of what a person is saying, while they speak. It’s hard; I know. But it is critical to establishing positive work relationships.
  3. Take 5-10 minutes before & after a meeting to wrap up your thoughts. This is a new habit I’ve started to integrate into my schedule. I try not to schedule my meetings back to back and allow 5-10 minutes to wrap up all my thoughts about the previous meeting, create action steps, and prep for the next meeting. I learned this technique form Matt Chandler, a Christian pastor.  “Have you ever caught yourself not paying attention to the person who is in front of you because of what you have after that person? The only way I know to combat that is to take 10 minutes between this meeting and this meeting and reorient my heart.”  I’ve found not only does this help to keep me focused on tasks I have scheduled, but it also helps me place value on the people in front of me.
  4. Slow down and notice the people around you. I am very much an internal processor. It is so easy for me to get lost focusing on a new project or to sort through the thoughts in my mind especially if I’m on a deadline. However the people around you are just that; they’re people. Many times the best way to connect with your colleagues is to pause whatever project you have, to focus on someone else’s needs, and try and provide support. Not only does it increase social capital but it also transforms work culture and cultivates empathy. This doesn’t have to be every day or even every week. But if you find this hard, here’s an easy way to start. As you go through the month, take note of what people are saying and take the temperature of the office. Then schedule 10 minutes at the end of the month to encourage someone, help with a project, provide creative criticism, help solve a problem, or even as simple as stopping to have a short conversation about their life outside of work. A little goes a long way.
  5. Work hard and be consistent. A hardworking dedicated employee earns more respect than the kindest slacker. In a collaborative work environment of 2 or more, everyone wants to feel like every team member is pulling equal weight. If your kindness will only go so far if you don’t actually do your job (I know this sounds obvious, but trust me, I’ve seen it happen). Make good use of the hours at work and commit to doing the work. My coworkers and I will often bond over the sheer volume of work we find ourselves swimming in. Eventually, you will find that you’ll earn respect and sometimes opportunities for your own ideas and input.

Earning respect of your peers and a place on an established team isn’t a formula. Hopefully incorporating some of these tips can make your experience at your new job positive and maybe even change company culture for the better.

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