The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: “How do you make friends at a new job?” is written by by Ritu Anand, deputy head of global human resource at Tata Consultancy Services.
Starting a new job is rarely easy. In addition to all the demands of your actual job, you’re trying to meet new people. Even for the most extroverted among us, making friends in your new workplace can be challenging, even stressful – especially if you’ve relocated for your position. Over the past several years, companies have done a fantastic job of bringing employees together to help them expand their professional and personal networks, support meaningful causes, and pursue shared interests.
When I think back to the first friend I made at Tata Consultancy Services, I realize how lucky I was to meet her so early in my career. I was introduced to Yasmin during an orientation session and then sought her out at lunch. It was Yasmin’s first job, too, and that became a common bond between us. At the time, we were among only a small number of women at TCS (today there are more than 100,000 women), which only strengthened our friendship and ability to navigate our work environment. Yasmin left the organization, but we continued to stay in touch. As we have risen through the ranks we are close friends and use each other as a sounding board for dealing with particularly challenging issues. At times she has been my mentor, my advisor, giving me the answers. At other times, a coach, asking the right questions and letting me steer on my own; sometimes my counselor, lending a listening ear; and above all this, a loyal friend.
While we met and hit it off coincidentally, it’s important to also be proactive about meeting new people at work.
One way is through women’s networks, which have become a driving force in many companies supporting both work/family integration and advancement. You will meet women from all areas of your company and all stages of their careers and in so doing you will gain insights and wisdom from your female counterparts, exposure to other departments and functions and new friendships that transcend office boundaries.
Many companies have stepped up their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs to support the communities in which they do business. This is an increasingly common and fertile source for building relationships with your colleagues.
Corporate-sponsored fitness programs such as lunchtime walking groups, Fitbit competitions, hobby clubs, workplace parents and women discussion circles provide a comfortable way to meet new people. These programs come in all shapes and sizes, so find the one that is right for you.
And if none of the networking, community-building, or fitness programs your company offers sounds appealing to you, you can always just stop by your office neighbor’s desk and introduce yourself. It may sounds old-fashioned in the age of texting and social media, but it can be a highly effective way to get a friendship off the ground.
You may also plan and target to meet 10 (or choose a number you are comfortable with) new people every month. Make it a point to connect multiple times, adding them to your groups on LinkedIn, helping them connect by making introductions or simply keeping in touch with a text or an email. For some, making friends doesn’t come naturally, and so chalking out a plan targeting a certain number of connections in a given time frame works wonderfully well. Do remember, even if you haven’t done it until now, it’s never too late to start. Practice makes one perfect, and the more often you connect, the better and easier it gets.
Making friends may seem daunting to some, but a conscious effort to shed your inhibitions, put yourself out there, reach out to others, can reap manifold benefits, both personally and professionally.