Fitting in at work can be daunting – even if you’re joining on a permanent basis and have lots 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 on your own, 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.

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 and try to keep track of all the people you meet, including memorising their names and what position they hold. Pro tip: collecting business cards can really 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.

You’ll also want to take notes during the induction and onboarding sessions. You can learn a lot from not only the information given, but the way in which it is given. Is it a particularly formal office or team? How loud or soft do people speak? What do people wear or 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.

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. To make things easier, start by asking your supervisor about the company culture: 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?

Asking questions of this kind is also a great shortcut to creating connections with people, as it allows you to bond over something that’s not directly related to your tasks, but a shared experience – working for this company.

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

The single best way to fit in fast is to be sociable. Some contractors like the freelance lifestyle because they’re somewhat introverted – they might also like working from home, for instance. Other contractors relish the chance to make new connections in different teams. Even if you fit into the former group, you stand to gain a lot by accepting social invitations every once in a while.

The simplest way to be social as a contractor is to make the effort to start conversations in the kitchen (or other common spaces). Make eye contact, smile and pay compliments like, “That’s a nice scarf!”, 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 also great ways to further galvanise your connections. And never underestimate the power of having a box of chocolates or lollies on your desk.

Take a genuine interest in people

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.

Asking about someone’s weekend or what they have planned for the evening is a great conversation starter, and often leads to discovering shared hobbies or interests. Even if you and a colleague don’t have much in common, taking an interest in their lives (without prying) will help put them at ease and make them feel comfortable around you. Hopefully, 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.

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 certainly expand your professional network in the process.

Ready to explore contracting opportunities? Browse the latest contract jobs, or get in touch with a Michael Page recruitment specialist to discuss your temp job search.

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