Whether you just celebrated your graduation or you’re thinking about transitioning into your dream job, the struggle is real when it comes to making friends in a new workplace. It makes total sense: When you’re busy learning the ins and outs of your new gig and adapting to your company’s culture, work relationships can easily take a backseat. But by focusing on building friendships with your coworkers, you can make all the hours you spend at your job a little bit more meaningful — not to mention fun.

Ready to dive in and forge new friendships (and maybe even your new work BFF?) at your job? Here are four strategies for making connections that last.

coworkers talking

1. Be yourself, not who you think you should be. Dr. Kat Cohen, founder and CEO of Ivywise and one of the leading independent admissions counselors in the world, says attempting to “recreate” yourself for a new job can be tempting. But since you’ll be most confident when you’re simply being yourself, it’s best not to try to reinvent yourself at work. “Go into your first day feeling confident in who you already are; since you got the position, it is clear your company already likes you,” she tells Brit + Co.

2. Find the right balance between personal and professional. While it’s counterproductive to hide who you truly are at work, it’s also important to stay professional on the job. Dr. Cohen recommends presenting your best self by dressing appropriately, speaking with authority and confidence, and staying engaged in conversations with coworkers. Make an effort to meet as many members of your company as possible, even those you don’t anticipate working with directly. “Treat each greeting as an opportunity to practice not only presenting your best self, but also allowing your coworkers to get a glimpse of your personality and the traits that make you unique,” she says.

3. Challenge yourself to say “yes.” Of course, every company has its own culture, but most jobs offer opportunities for employees to connect and socialize, from after-work events like happy hours or work-related community service projects. It may be tempting to skip out on extracurricular activities (especially when you’re off the clock), but remember, these are your opportunity to forge new connections without the distraction of your normal work.

“Seeing your coworkers outside of the office will help you focus on building relationships with them without having to worry about your to-do list for the day,” Dr. Cohen says. Even if you’re nervous, Dr. Cohen recommends disconnecting from your phone and being as present as possible at work-related events. And don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions — it’s the only way you’ll be able to break the ice and start building authentic relationships with your coworkers.

4. Be a team player from day one. “When you’re the newest member of a company, it’s easy to feel like you always have a get out of a jail free card in the back of your pocket — you can rationalize leaving early or letting coworkers take the lead because you are new and still figuring things out,” Dr. Cohen says. But to win over your colleagues, it’s important to be proactive from the start. Lending a helping hand will not only help you get up to speed on your new job quickly, it will also show your coworkers (and your boss!) that you’re supportive, engaged, and ready to help the team succeed.

What’s your favorite way to connect with your coworkers? Tell us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)