How to Shake off the New Kid Stigma At Work


As a former sales person, teacher, and now writer,  I have had my fair share of experience being the “new kid” in a group. As a result, I can sympathize with those who find themselves in this position, enduring constant patronization by those who are more experienced in the field.We come in with all these great ideas and fresh knowledge, and yet, it can be quite demoralizing to see how those around us smile and pat our backs, letting us know just how “green” they think we are.

Though we all have our dues to pay in this department, there are some ways I have discovered to expidite your movement from newbie to professional status.

If your ready to shake off the new kid stigma, take a gander at my suggestions below. They have always proven to be effective when I found myself in that position.

Play Nice with Others

I’m not going to lie to you, its threatening for most to see a “newbie” walk through the door. In most jobs today performance and productivity are in the forefront of  bosses’ minds and therefore the minds of employees. Naturally, when the tenured staff sees some young thing walk in lookin’ spiffy and speaking some new lingo that they’re unfamiliar with, it becomes natural to want to deflect that uncomfortable feeling. Thus, the patronizing pats the newbie receives as the “oldies but goodies”  remind them that they were in fact, born yesterday. On the other hand, as newbies we also come in with an inferiority complex and feeling of intimidation – though we may be quite artful at hiding our insecurities behind a cocky expression.  As the new kids, we often feel the need to get out there and prove ourselves, and as a result, can take on an “every man for himself” attitude, not considering the fact that we are, in fact, part of a large and well-established team. One thing we need to keep in mind is that we do have to work with these folks for a while, therefore,  it might be a good idea to learn how to get along, share and help in any way we can, regardless of if it earns us a gold star in our folder. It will also help to break down the barrier of intimidation between the old and the new, making everyone realize, “We’re all in this together.”

Shut up and Listen

One of the earmarkings of a new kid is their naively “know it all” stance – particularly those who have just gradated college and are oh, about 22 or so. Not to say that we have nothing valuable to offer, but the fact of the matter is that we’re the new guys, and, as enthusiastic as we may be, and as much as we have learned during our training and schooling, we still lack that golden commodity of experience. To paint a clearer picture, this summer, I was asking my six-year-old  son what he thought he would learn this year in first grade. His answer to me was, “Nothing. I already know everything from kindergarten.” Just as I inwardly smiled to myself and thought “Kid, you have no idea,” so do seasoned professionals smile and pat us on the back when we think we know it all.

The take away here is this: Come in quietly with ears and minds wide open.  Keep your enthusiasm, but apply it to becoming skilled at your job and not trying to restructure the entire organization. One of the best ways to do this is by seeking out a mentor – someone in the workplace you admire as a good example of leadership and expertise. Ask them questions, and don’t fear letting them know when you are in the dark about something. Chances are, they’ll be flattered by your interest and  happily offer their own crystalized expertise. Gaining from the experiences of others can be the short path to a long career of success.

Do Your Homework

Besides securing a great mentor, it is also important to develop a craving for current knowledge in your field. Though mentors can provide experience-based knowledge, there are advantages to learning what research in your fields says about best practices and strategies. If you take a look at anyone who has ever been successful, whether they are athletes, actors, professionals or common joes, one thing they have in common is a nearly compulsive obsession with becoming experts in their field. Take, for example, Muhammad Ali. At 4 am when most folks were dreaming of sugar plums, he was out in the streets working on his run. When folks were getting ready for bed at night, he was out pumping iron at the gym. People who are successful are the ones who put in the greatest effort and strive to become their own private expert in the field. They work tirelessly to hone their art and refine their skills. To begin shaking the new kid stigma, take on a serious attitude about your work, and strive to become an expert in your field. Before long, people will notice and may even ask you for advice.

Know That You Suck and Figure Out What to Do About It – AKA Reflect!

For many new professionals, one thing that may hold them down in the ranks of the new kids is a lack of reflective thinking. Reflection is ultimately a catalyst for chance. If we always do what we’ve always done, without considering the effectiveness (or lack thereof) we will never go anywhere. One of the surest ways to establish ourselves as serious professionals is to show that we are aware of personal weaknesses, and are doing something about them. It’s not fun to admit when we suck at certain aspects of our job. Indeed, it’s much easier to tout our strengths. However, if we make reflection a daily practice, aimed at “outing” our weaknesses and then develop plans for improvement, we can soon make a name for ourselves as the one that’s “worth keeping an eye on.”

Editor’s note: This is a guest post for TrackVia by Cammy Harbison