Fitting in at work can be daunting – even if you’re joining as permanent staff and have a lot of time to get to know the team and settle in.

But as a contractor, you may not be in the role for long, so you have the added pressure of getting to know people and making a good impression very quickly. Even if you prefer to work independently, making connections can help you do your day-to-day job better and open doors for you in the future.

Fortunately, there are lots of shortcuts to making connections fast in a new team. Here’s how to hit the ground running when you’re joining a company as a contractor.

Related: 7 benefits of working as a contractor

Observe the office and take notes

Whether you prefer to take literal notes or mental ones, make sure your eyes and ears are open from the moment you turn up for an interview. When you commence your contracting gig, notice the structure and dynamics of the staff.

Keep track of all the people you meet, including memorising their names and what position they hold. Collecting business cards can help, and you can make brief notes on the back to remember who’s who. Otherwise, larger businesses should have an organisation chart they can provide you with.

You’ll also want to take notes during the induction and onboarding sessions. You can learn a lot from observing your work surroundings. Is it a particularly formal office or team? How loud or soft do people speak? What do people wear, and how do they present themselves? Is a hierarchy apparent? Mimic what you see around you (while not losing sight of your own personality), and you’ll be on track to fitting in fast.

Find out what PageContracting can do for you.

Ask about company culture

If you are afraid to ask questions when you enter a new office, you need to put that fear to rest. Start by asking your supervisor about the company culture to make things easier: Is there a casual Friday? What do teams do for fun? Where does everyone like to get lunch? Are there any social events coming up?

The answers to these questions can help you connect with people and bond over something that is not directly related to your tasks but a shared experience – working for this company.

Related: Contracting on the rise in Malaysia as a flexible staffing solution: survey report

Don’t shy away from coffees, work drinks and social events

The best way to fit in fast is to be sociable, even if you are introverted. The simplest way to be social as a contractor is to make an effort to start conversations at the pantry. Make eye contact, smile and pay compliments like, “I love your earrings!” or ask, “Where’s a good place to get coffee around here?”

Remember, it’s not so much the content of the conversation that’s key here, but the connection and effort you’re making. Heading outside to get takeaway coffees with a co-worker or saying yes to post-work drinks are great ways to further galvanise your relationships. And never underestimate the power of having a box of chocolates or chips on your desk.

Related: Contracting vs permanent job: Which is better for you?

Take a genuine interest in your colleagues

Just like you would in any social situation, taking the time to get to know people at work can help you form fast bonds – many of which can become long-lasting friendships. Better yet, job references.

Asking about someone’s weekend or what they have planned for the evening is a great conversation starter. It often leads to discovering shared hobbies or interests. Even if you and a colleague don’t have anything in common, taking an interest in their lives (without prying) will help put them at ease and make them feel comfortable around you. This also helps break down barriers from their side, so they’ll be more inclined to ask you questions about yourself and ensure you feel like you’re integrating into the team.

Related: 4 ways to find the best recruiter for your contracting career

Making an effort to fit into a new workplace as a contractor has the immediate benefits of making your work life a bit more fun and interesting.

However, there are also longer-term benefits of being easy to get along with and great at your job: you might make new personal friends; you might pick up new skills; you could become the contractor of choice at that workplace; you might be referred on for other work – and you’ll undoubtedly expand your professional network in the process.

Are you looking for contracting roles? Here are the latest job opportunities for contract professionals. If you would like to speak with a recruiter, contact us here.

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