Transitioning to a New Job: A Guide for Introverts

by Eileen Hoenigman Meyer

Article content is provided by HigherEdJobs.

Congratulations! Securing a new position is the end result of plenty of hard work. While it's exciting, the process of interviewing, negotiating a salary, accepting an offer, and resigning can feel overwhelming, especially when you're an introvert.

Once you have finished that complex initiative, another taxing one begins -- onboarding. The good news is that it signifies the last phase of your transition. But the onboarding process is an encompassing one, and it can make introverts feel like shell-less turtles.

While you want to make a good impression in the new workplace, your early days of employment there can be socially intense. You want to project a calm, composed, articulate, and friendly face to your new colleagues. But you've not yet found your places of refuge in your new environment, which can make socializing on such a grand scale difficult, especially for introverts.

It can be a challenge, as you may worry about the optics of disappearing into your book during lunchtime rather than pursing social engagements with your new co-workers. You may feel trepidatious about snapping on your headphones when you need some solitary crunch time to replenish yourself from the pressure of trying to find your next witty retort.

A couple tips and tricks can help you strategize your way through this transition, creating the boundaries you need to thrive.

Recognize the Timeline
Getting acclimated to a new professional environment tends to follow a pattern. Understanding this can make it feel less daunting. Mikaela Kiner, founder and CEO with uniquelyHR, explains that the first stage of the process generally takes about 90 days. She writes, "I like to remind people that learning comes in phases. In the first three months you usually learn the basics, then by six months you realize how much more there is to know. But by the one-year mark at least you've seen everything once whether that's the company's performance, product, or financial cycle."

While things may seem daunting at first, know that this is temporary.

Deploy a Plan
As you aim to absorb your new professional culture, you may find that your institution, like many in higher education, is a hospitable employer. This is great once you know the ropes, but it can feel off-putting if you're new and there are multiple gatherings in your honor. If you find yourself in this situation, don't panic. Deploy a plan.

Think of everyone you already know, including who you met during your interview process. Remember what you can about them. Try to recall names, but don't worry if you can't. Think of warm go-to lines: "I so enjoyed meeting you, remind me of your name."

Then mentally rehearse conversations you might initiate. Having some go-to point to make can calm your nerves, bolster your confidence, and make this meet and greet feel more manageable.

Consider these:

  • "I was really interested in the program you described when we chatted during my interview a couple weeks ago. You're a great spokesperson for Admissions! How did you get started at the university?"
  • "I loved the jacket you were wearing when we last met, but I thought I probably shouldn't mention that because, you know, job interview!"
  • "I'm glad to learn our teams will be working closely together. I would love to talk more about how our teams collaborate to facilitate events during alumni weekend."
  • "I've done enough talking about myself with the whole interview process. I'd love to learn more about what you do around here."

Part of what can make social interactions feel stressful is not knowing how to start a conversation. Preparing ahead of time can help. Once you have a couple successful interactions under your belt, it makes subsequent ones easier:

  • "I was just talking to Amy and she was telling me about your poodle! I have one too!"
  • "Sheila mentioned that you did your undergrad work at the University of Dayton. So did I!"
As you meet new people, shift the focus. Get them talking about themselves. It gets you out of the hot seat and gives you the chance to absorb your new environment. Enjoy your new colleagues and aim to remember what they tell you. It's a great way to forge friendships.

Onboarding is a two-way street. You're going through this transition in partnership with your colleagues. And they've been in your shoes; everyone you meet has weathered this transitional phase. So get to know them, and tag in their support.

Exercise Good Self-care
Onboarding is a big deal, so treat it as such. Recognize that for about three months, you are going to be intellectually and emotionally engaged in a taxing transition.

Kiner points out: "Onboarding is definitely tiring! You only get to say you're new once, so feel free to remind people that you're new and just learning the ropes. Make sure to pace yourself and set reasonable expectations about how much time you need. Everything is slower when you're new so don't take on too much." Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to be in transition.

It's also important to find a balance that works for you. Kiner explains: "Find the right mix between the social aspects of onboarding like meetings, coffees, and team lunches vs. setting up your computer and reading educational materials. Don't schedule too many meetings back to back. Make sure you have breaks between meetings and have no more than a few hours' worth of meetings each day."

You deserve extra care outside the office as well. Kiner advises: "Leave yourself time outside of work to relax. For example, don't plan to do a lot of social activities or entertaining in the evenings and on weekends when you're starting out. Especially if you're an introvert, build time into your personal schedule to read a book, take a long walk, or whatever keeps you resilient."

How Managers Can Help
Managers typically set the schedule for their new hires. And there are key ways that they can set new employees up for success, like having an open back and forth about what their new hire needs and wants as far as social volume and the rate at which they introduce new content.

Kiner advises: "Managers should remember what it's like to be new so they can empathize with their new hire. Some managers have a tendency to flood a new employee with all the information they'll need in year one, but people just can't internalize things at that speed. Managers should dole out information and introductions as needed. Think about what your employee needs to know in his/her first quarter and who s/he really needs to meet during that time."

Getting through those first three months can be dizzying, but once you settle in, you can find your comfort zone in your new environment. Congratulations and good luck!