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Entering a New Role, Taking that First Step

“I shouldn’t be nervous at all.  I’ve done this half a dozen times”, I say to myself as I enter Two Chatham Center, home to the Pittsburgh based AccessData, a Broadridge company.  I made my way into the office, where I greeted my fellow interns and my supervisor with a bright smile on my face but a knot in my stomach.  This was to be my next internship for around four months (or longer) and even after having several internships and part-time jobs before now, I was still uneasy.  For some reason, the foray into an unfamiliar office environment, with little knowledge of the company, the culture, and the people, still unsettles me.  What is even more bizarre is that I knew I had nothing to be worried about: I had obviously interviewed well, beat out the best of the best candidates to get to this point, and demonstrated that I match the “type” any company looks for in a qualified, outstanding employee.  Maybe I’m concerned other employees won’t like me.  Perhaps I’m concerned I won’t perform to the level expected of me in my new role.  With all these reasons to doubt myself, it can be difficult to enter a new job with a positive attitude, and although I masked my nervousness well, these thoughts still plagued my mind like a swarm of pesky flies.

It’s now one week later and I can definitively say (as I knew was the case all along) that I had nothing to worry about.  Not only were all of my colleagues welcoming and supportive of me and the other new interns but our supervisor did everything possible to settle us into our new roles with the least amount of friction.  I felt like a valuable part of the team right from the beginning, and by the end of the week I had the confidence to know that I can take on this job with the can-do spirit that I’ve come to hone through my past experiences.

So why was I at all nervous?  If you’re anything like me, you subconsciously ask yourself questions at an almost breathtaking speed, where as soon as you’ve settled one thought, another one pops up to take its place.  And while I can’t necessarily stop the questions from coming to a head, I can take some managed steps to mitigate the impending tension (or, in other words, calm down).  First, I always have positive attitude when I enter a new company.  Even if you’re masking some insecurity, a friendly demeanor will undoubtedly make everyone around you more comfortable and receptive to a new presence in the office, and may even initiate fast friendships.  Second.  I learn as many names as I can.  One of the topics in Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People (my review can be found here) is that learning people’s names goes a long way to showing you respect and care enough about your colleagues to remember a vital piece of information about them, and it may make conversation or asking for help go more smoothly (instead of saying “hey you!”)  Finally, I believe that the most important trait to have is a can-do spirit.  Having the mindset to always try your best at a new task or perform to the best of your ability in your new role will always garner more respect than saying “I can’t do it.”  We show appreciation and respect for our new colleagues, who were often times in the same positions as us, when we roll up our sleeves and say “Yes we can”, even when the opportunity for failure exists.

As I continue down my career path, I know that I’ll have to enter many new offices with the same thoughts and uneasy feelings as I had experienced a week ago.  But following my plan and staying true to what I do best, I’m sure I can meet that challenge and succeed.


Friends can Take You Anywhere

I’ve come to realize the importance of making friends quickly in a place where you knew almost no one before, and the power that making these new friends can bring is amazing.  Friends can turn the worst day of your life into a fun night on the town where your troubles melt away, or your friends can transform into the most reliable confidants with fresh perspectives on any issue that comes to mind.  Good friends are impartial in their sincere advice, “hearty in their approbation and lavish in their praise”, as Dale Carnegie said.  As often as I try to surround myself by good friends, I also try to be a good friend because friendship is a two way street.  In the case of a new environment, friends can make all the difference between a positive and negative experience, and a little hospitality can most definitely bring out the positive.

I have two examples to illustrate this positive attitude to friendship: First, I was in Paris last weekend and while I should have been enjoying my trip, initially I was not.  I was in a completely new city with no one that I knew.  Everyone had already determined his or her friend group and I appeared to be the odd man out.  Walking the streets of Paris alone that first Friday night, I was determined to include myself in one of the groups for the rest of the weekend by being a little more proactive and demonstrating some hospitality on my part.  The next day our class was given a bike tour of the city, and I opened up to one particularly nice group from the University of Missouri.  In my exchanges, I made sure to ask them lots of questions, show them that I genuinely cared about who they were and what they did, and arouse in them an eager want to be my friend in return.  After the bike tour, this particular group invited me on their escapade to the Eiffel Tower, The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triumphe, and we all took some pretty awesome pictures together while getting to know each other.  These new friends showed me the simplest form of hospitality (acceptance and inclusion), to which I was incredibly thankful for, and because of that my entire trip was made so much better.

Friends don’t just reside in pure social situations; they also arise from one’s job.  I’ve been at my internship for several weeks now and while I was absolutely loving everything I was doing, I was also worried that I wasn’t connected with my colleagues beyond the pleasantries of day-to-day conversation.  I could tell that they knew I was working hard and that they appreciated the quality of the work I produced, but for some reason I wasn’t sure they fully accepted me as part of the team.  That was until last Thursday, when my colleagues invited me to a social get together with the London Sales Office, a separate Marriott office that handles smaller bookings to all the Marriott hotels in London.  It was an extremely fun night with delicious food (including some of the best cheesecake I’ve ever had, seriously), champagne, tours of the hotel, and an atmosphere away from my desk in which to talk with my colleagues as more than just an associate.  I really felt like one of the team members that night and I went into work the next day knowing that as much as I care about my colleagues, I know they care about me just as much if not more.

These types of relationships, ones rooted in acceptance, inclusion, and appreciation, mean more to me than any number of physical gifts I could get from the same people.  It has been said that one of the deepest human desires is to feel important and I have to agree; I feel very important when I’m surrounded by so many amazing friends, and each one I make adds to that feeling of importance.  So consider that when you are ever feeling unimportant; make the effort to surround yourself with a few of your friends and you’ll be right as rain in no time.


What’s in a Name? Everything.

“A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

-Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People*

I thought it was appropriate to write about the importance that proper names have while reading Romeo and Juliet for my Shakespeare in London class.  One of the most famous lines from Shakespeare’s immortal play was spoken by Juliet herself: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet.”  It’s obvious that Juliet never took a course in human relations, because if I greeted “Rose” by calling her “Jessica”, it doesn’t matter how sweet she smells, I’ve probably made her quite upset.

All jokes aside, names are incredibly important, especially our own name to ourselves.  Each and every one of us longs to hear or see our own name.  We love the sound of our name when somebody calls it.  We even imagine that our name is being said, only to look up from whatever we’ve been doing and realize that it was never spoken.  If we apply this type of thinking to the world around us, we can understand that everyone loves to hear the sound of his or her own name.  This is a fundamental truth about human nature that few people appreciate.  Moreover, knowledge of this truth and its application in life can definitely help in getting along with people.

For example, I recently began work at Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel as a Sales and Marketing Intern.  The Sales and Marketing department has 17 employees in it, each with a specific role, function, and of course, a name.  Rather than being daunted by the amount of new names I would have to memorize, I made it my goal to learn everyone’s first name and his or her role within the company by my second day. The effect of accomplishing this goal was immediate; not only did I avoid the awkwardness and embarrassment of asking for any of my colleagues’ names again but I also contributed to the efficiency of the office by knowing exactly where everyone was and what he or she did, so as to accomplish tasks that required collaboration with my coworkers more quickly.  In addition, I am sure my colleagues appreciated the fact that they weren’t badgered 2 or 3 times for their name in the course of my first few days at work.

Now 17 people may not seem like a lot to learn, but now try the entire class and staff that make up my study abroad program, numbering around 270 people, and the game has changed.   Granted, I don’t know all of these people and their names as of yet as I’ve only introduced myself to a fraction so far.  However, I make an effort to try and learn the name of every person I meet for the first time, going to great lengths to make sure that person’s name sticks in my mind.  So far I’ve had a lot of success from this, as everyone has been extremely friendly and pleasant to me instead of annoyed and subsequently disinterested in me when I couldn’t remember his or her name.

The point I’m trying to make with all of this is that it is crucial to remember a person’s name if you want a good relationship.  It doesn’t matter if the person is a colleague, a friend, a client, or a family member, everyone’s name is important to him or her, so therefore it’s important to you.  Think about a time when someone forgot your name and how that made you feel.  You most certainly would not want that same feeling brought about any new friends or coworkers.  It’s another dimension to hospitality, making someone feel as if you truly care about him when you use his proper name in conversation.

As for the methodology, whatever works for you in remembering something as specific as a new person’s name is what you should use.  Whether it’s using adjectives to convey a personality (Marvelous Maria) or maybe associating something unique with the person (Darrel always wears dark brown shoes), or even using the name in coversation a few times, use the trick that works for you.  A colleague of mine told me that repeating something to yourself 7 times will make it stick with your brain longer, and revisiting the thought throughout the day also seems to help an idea or a name stay with me.  Whatever the trick of the trade happens to be, make sure it is as lasting as that person’s name.

*An entire chapter on the importance of names in our society can be found in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book that I am currently reading.  Stay tuned in the “Reflections and Selections” page for a full review.