Having worked across three countries, four cities and four organisations in the last five years, I’ve realised that there is no easy way to immediately fit into a new workplace. The need for Cultural Intelligence - the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures - is never more apparent than when you’re moving to another country or city for a new job.
I’ve written some tips based on my experience, let me know what you think and please do share your own experiences in comments
- Understand the language: All organisations speak a particular language. By that I don’t just mean English, Hindi or Spanish. The use of certain words and phrases convey specific meanings within specific contexts. It’s also important to understand which medium of communication is used by most people. One of the organisations I used to work for had young staff – with nobody over the age of 38. All official, personal and group communication happened on G-chat; whether at the desk or on the go. People simply didn’t respond as much via other mediums. When I moved to a different organisation, all communication was via email – even one-liners. It’s important to be able to adapt and learn the language and preferred method of communication right at the beginning.
- Knowing the lay of the land: As soon as possible, figure out which modes of transport get you there earliest, what the kitchen rules are, how to book a meeting room and how to use the microwave. It seems frivolous, but if you are uncomfortable with your personal logistics, you will always feel out of place.
- Friendships take time: Don’t be disappointed if you don’t form friendships immediately. Real, lasting friendships at work come from being through challenging times together – like working all-nighters and meeting tough deadlines. In the meanwhile, be happy with the snippets of conversation you are part of, over lunch or at random gatherings in the kitchen.
- Teams: Quickly understand what functions and responsibilities lie within different teams. It will help you know how the organisation functions and help you perform your tasks with more insight.
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes: I think everyone has a certain store of early mistakes to be made. You cannot avoid making a fool of yourself or being completely wrong. I think it’s better to finish your store of mistakes sooner and take more risks in the beginning; learning and settling into the organisation faster. (Don’t let anyone tell you "there are no mistakes”. You will often be wrong. Just learn to know when you are and avoid it.)
- Read: In any spare time you get, read. Read documents about the organisation’s history, articles, sales proposals, website content – anything! I read because it helps me get a deeper insight into the past and future of the organisation and how the organisation wants to present itself to the outside world.
- Volunteer: Volunteer to participate in projects that are not managed by your team and are disconnected with your goals. Pick projects which interest you – this allows you to get to know more people and livens up your work day.