10 pointers to help you fit in at work

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Your first day at work can be scary. You have to adjust to many things. You need to learn how to deal with co-workers and clients. You also need to do your job well.

Don’t worry! It becomes easier with time. Knowing these 10 tips can help you:

  1. Punctuality

    • Being on time is important because:
      • time is money
      • it shows respect
    • Being punctual means:
      • being at work 10-15 minutes before your time (or a meeting).
    • If you cannot avoid being late:
      • call to say that you will be late by 5-10 minutes
      • apologize and give a good reason
      • do your best not to be late again

  2. Language

    • You need English to communicate well in the workplace.
    • Get used to how your co-workers speak.
    • Observe:
      • how they pronounce words
      • how fast they talk
      • what idioms they use
    • Never stop learning the language.
    • Speak English as often as you can. Practice makes perfect!
  3. Interpersonal communication

    • Canadians are polite and respectful.
    • They say things indirectly.
    • They will say: “how are you?” to start a conversation.
    • Answer with “I’m good/I’m fine, thank you”. Ask them how they are as well.
    • In a conversation, remember to:
      • have good eye contact
      • pay attention and listen well
      • ask them to repeat what was said if you did not understand the first time
      • ask politely
      • say “please” and “thank you” when appropriate

    At meetings

    • Listen and participate.
    • Bring a note pad. Write down important points. It shows that you are engaged and listening.
    • Participate:
      • ask questions (make sure that they are relevant).
      • share your ideas
      • disagree but be tactful when saying it. Be sensitive.
      • do not interrupt when someone is talking
      • wait for your turn to speak.
    • Put your phone on silent mode. Don’t answer a call unless urgent.

    Professional jargon

    • Jargon are words that are used in your field. They can be technical terms.
    • Use jargon when appropriate.

  4. Body language

    • Eye contact is important.
    • Shake hands firmly when meeting people. This shows respect.
    • Don’t cross your arms across your chest when speaking to someone. You will look unfriendly.
    • Fidgeting and slouching shows that you are bored. This is impolite.
    • Smile! It shows that you are open and approachable.

  5. Small talk

    • Small talk is light conversation with your co-workers. It is done usually before starting the work day or during breaks.
    • Talk about:
      • the weather
      • current events
      • sports
    • Don’t talk about:
      • finances
      • salary
      • married/love life
      • religion
      • politics
      • race
      • sex
      • any topic that is too personal
    • Don’t gossip or complain, especially about the boss.
    • Read 5 big ideas for better small talk.

  6. Personal space

    • Observe proper distance when talking to someone.
    • It is safe keeping at least two feet of space (or an arm’s length).
    • Order is expected in all workplaces.
    • Avoid shouting or talking loudly. Do not disturb your co-workers.

  7. Hierarchy

    • Status is not a priority.
    • Respect is given to everyone equally in the workplace.
    • Seniors and bosses may be addressed by their first names.
    • When meeting someone for the first time:
      • address them by Mr., Ms. or professional titles like Dr. or Professor
      • wait until they ask to be addressed by their first names
    • Don’t use “ma’am” or “sir”, or “madam”. These are too formal. They are not used in the workplace.

  8. Individualistic culture

    • Do your own job well. But help your team succeed.
    • Help whenever needed. Do more than your job description.
    • The most important values at work are:
      • flexibility
      • continuous learning
      • openness to change
      • positive attitude
      • initiative
    • Don’t expect your boss to tell you what to do.
    • Work independently with minimum supervision.

  9. Initiative and accountability

    • Be proactive at work.
    • Think of ways that will make your work better and more efficient.
    • Don’t wait to be told what to do. Don’t ask before you do a task that is part of your job.
    • Always meet your deadlines. It is a serious commitment.
    • Learn to under promise and over deliver.

  10. Dress code

    • Dress is informal to casual in most offices.
    • Dress simply and neatly. Don’t forget to dress appropriately for the weather!
    • People who work in banks or law offices are expected to wear formal business attire.
    • Ask the HR if this is not clear to you.
    • See if your workplace has a “scent-free environment” policy. This means that no one is allowed to wear perfume or scented products. Some may have environmental sensitivities or allergies.

  11. Safety

    • Canadians value a safe and clean work environment.
    • Keep your work area orderly. Help maintain cleanliness.
    • Observe safety rules and regulations.
    • Follow safety rules strictly especially if you work in a high-risk work place (e.g. construction site or laboratory).
    • Workplaces have safety and emergency guidelines. Know them.

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Community Resources

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