How to Get on with People You Have Never Met

When you walk in the door, a shiver of fear runs down your spine.

You don’t know anyone.

We’ve all been there. Whether it is your first day in a new job, a sales meeting at a new client or a dinner party with a load of strangers, we are all familiar with that brief feeling of wondering how to navigate the initial awkwardness.

While all the typical body language advice is useful (smile, be open, etc.), the real obstacles in this sort of situation are in your mind. When a graduate walks into their first employer, their minds are buzzing with how they should react to every situation. A far more useful approach would be to put yourselves into the minds of everyone that you meet. When you think about yourself, you will be able to influence only your objectives. Thinking about others first, finding out what matters to them and helping to solve their problems, is a far better way of building rapport.

Putting it simply, put your agenda to one side.

The first day at work for a graduate is not an interview anymore. No one is especially interested in what grades you got or how you were captain of the university sports team. They might nod politely, but inside their minds will be wandering. Such conversations have little impact on their lives, and you are on the lowest rung of the career ladder. You are there to make a difference, but you won’t make a difference by making everything about you (even if you think you could run rings around most of them). No, to make a difference to people, and to get on with them, you must strive to meet them where they are rather than bringing them to where you are.

Working in graduate recruitment, this is the golden piece of advice that I would tell anyone, irrespective of their industry or type of company. Yes, they are there to make an impact, but in order to impact the business, you primarily have to make a difference to the people who are working there already. You won’t come up with a new incremental business stream in your first six months, so to make a difference and be appreciated, you must learn to get on with those around you. If you are there for them, they will be there for you later.

Interestingly, our business model enables us to find these rare individuals. The students that we take on for work in the hospitality and events industry (for example) then go on to have strong starts when we place them with their employers after graduation. They have a “service” mentality, and there is nothing more important in the first six months of your first job than wanting to give a great service to others. If your colleagues feel that you are giving without an expectation of any return, they will quickly warm to you.

Putting your agenda to one side, and giving freely to your colleagues is the best way to win their hearts and minds for the long haul.