9 Cultural Assimilation Tips to Help You Kill it in a New Office

By Stacy Livingston, originally posted on the LaunchSquad Tumblr

At the start of this summer, I got on a plane. I spent six hours sitting next to a senior citizen with a persistent and phlegmy cough. I got off said plane.

It was my first time on the West Coast, and making my way from the hallowed grounds of San Francisco International Airport to LaunchSquad HQ felt a bit like this:

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You see, I’m an East Coast girl, but a three-month internship at LaunchSquad NYC behind me and the harsh reality of senior year / graduation / real life (and, therefore, the disappearance of convenient, 10-week trimesters built for trying new things) before me, I decided that it was time to check out the whole West-Coast-best-coast thing.

There’s a certain weirdness that accompanies taking old skills to a new team, and assimilating to a new office culture is always tricky. After a couple of notable missteps, though (a la me calling it ‘San Fran’ in a blog post. Do not call it San Fran. Apparently, “no one who actually lives here calls it San Fran” and it’s “so obvious” that people who call it San Fran are not locals) I’ve found myself feeling totally at home at the SF Squad.

Not in Kansas anymore? Keep these tips and tricks in mind:

Do: move around – in our San Francisco office, there are an intimidating 340 spots to sit, and the seating plan is open. Make like a lemur and move it move it, because the more mobile you are, the more people you’ll run into, especially if the space is large. Like, 3x-the-size-of-the-NY-office large.

Don’t: eat at your desk – Circulate. Stake out the kitchen. Apologize repeatedly for the fact that the chicken you have in the microwave is popping like gunfire and smells like a dirty sock. It’s the fast track to friendship.

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Do: Read up, speak up, and ask questions – contributing in brainstorms or even reaching out to project managers independently is a great way to value-add, and offering to own a project from start to finish makes you an integral part of any team, no matter what your role.  When people see you as an asset to the team, they’ll see you as an asset to the office, too.

Don’t: be afraid of personal questions– I don’t mean, “so I heard you’re getting divorced, who’s getting the kids,” but asking about someone’s weekend or chiming in during a conversation about life outside of work is not only a great way to help people in the office get to know you, but there’s actually evidence that funny, more personal meetings are more productive. Everybody wins!

Do: Leverage your Slack game – If you’re working in a bigger office, it’s unlikely that you’ll be working personally with everyone. In fact, with people in and out all the time, you may need to wait for holiday week or another big event to even meet everyone. But recreational Slack channels are the one place where you’re guaranteed to find people relaxed and relatively stress-free. Don’t be afraid to chime in with shared interests, reactions, or cool things to share (or, you could create a custom emoji, and be everyone’s hero :fierceBeyonce:)

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Don’t: Lose the connections you already have. I’ve done some of my closest work (and gotten some of my best advice) from the sage wizards who work in our New York office. Your mentors are still your mentors – and Account Managers with contacts at the Washington Post are still Account Managers with contacts at the Washington Post – even if they’re a 6 hour plane ride away.

Do: keep people in the loop on what you’re doing. While you might be worried about cluttering someone’s inbox, not communicating makes it 10x harder to integrate into a new team.

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Trust me, CC is your best friend (but beware of bystander apathy! If you need something done, you’re better off reaching out to just one person. Spreading out responsibility makes it less likely that someone gets back to you).

Don’t: wait. Joining a new office is a lot like starting college – while you might be tempted to hang back and learn the ropes before you jump in, striking while the iron is hot will make you feel comfortable much faster (really!). Questioning whether to hit up the office happy hour this week, or wait until the next time, “when people know you?” Get out there.

Do: make jokes/ be yourself. When I first started my winter internship, I was so worried about being “unprofessional” that I barely made a peep outside of volunteering for projects and telling people when they were done. Occasionally, I would ask a question, usually prefaced with, “sorry to bother you.”

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It was only once I’d been in the office a few weeks that I started to come out of my shell, laugh with people, wear jeans to work (gasp!), and after this transformation I realized that I was actually more productive, which brings me to my last tip…

Don’t: worry! Your energy is so much better spent cranking out pitches or writing up briefing notes than stressing about whether or not it’s annoying to gchat your supervisor with (another!) clarifying question or if it’s okay take one of the dried mangoes from the snack bin. It’s okay to take one of the dried mangoes from the snack bin. Just do it. Take the mango. This is your office, silly. Welcome home!

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