How Starting a New Job Is Like Moving to a New City


5 do’s and don’ts for an easier transition

In the last five years, I’ve lived in four different cities from coast to coast. I’ve made my home in three apartment buildings and two houses. I’ve learned how to navigate San Francisco’s BART, Boston’s T, and Seattle’s light rail.

Over that time, I’ve also climbed a steep learning curve, and I’ve come to realize a simple fact: Starting over in a new city is a lot like starting a new job (and the two often go hand in hand).

If you’re lucky, you’ll have someone to help you navigate unfamiliar streets and office spaces, but finding the nearest Starbucks isn’t the toughest part of the transition. Rather, there are a few subtle guidelines you’ll want to keep in mind when finding your feet — but we’ll get to those in a minute.


Getting off on the wrong foot

While fewer people today are choosing to move for new jobs, many professionals still look beyond the nest for employment, taking opportunities in never-before-visited cities. Of the 11 percent of Americans who moved last year, 1 in 5 did so for a new job.

I was one of these in 2012. The summer between my junior and senior year of college (a school located just 30 minutes from my childhood home), I packed my bags for Boston, Massachusetts, bound for a three-month internship in publishing.

Looking back, it’s safe to say no one was greener than me. There I was, stepping off the plane wide-eyed, blinking into the sunshine reflecting off the crazy-tall skyscrapers and my blindingly bright expectations for big-city life.

I lived with a group of students from around the country, and the only commonality between us was our purpose for being in Boston. I thought I’d be in good company, with peers from similarly rural areas who also had never ridden the subway or seen a building more than 18 stories high (Boston’s tallest building is the 60-story John Hancock Tower). But that was not the case.

As I found out later, my naive exclamations every other minute (“One-hour parking for $12?! In Boise, the first hour is free!” or “I’ve never taken the subway before!” or “Boise doesn’t have a Whole Foods!”) were neither wanted nor appreciated.

What I considered processing aloud and a sharing of cultural differences, my roomies heard as annoying chatter. I wish I could say this news was delivered in the form of some tough love, but it wasn’t. So in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Now, I’m here to make my hindsight your 20/20, and considering we at TSheets love employees, I hope you’ll take it as a kindly heart-to-heart.


5 new job do’s and don’ts

1. DON’T make comparisons.

Whether your previous job was across the country or down the street, it’s not going to surprise anyone that people did it — whatever “it” is — differently there.

Connecting every conversation with your new co-workers to stories about your old co-workers/benefits/coffee bar isn’t going to help you make friends. Try to stay present with observations of the here and now and leave the comparisons for after-work drinks with friends.


2. DO be positive.

There’s a difference between being positive and being friendly. I’m from a state where we’re known for waving in other drivers even when we have the right of way, so I was initially confused when one of my roommates informed me that I was a negative person.

“But I really love this city!” I thought. “Didn’t I say that?” Maybe, but such exclamations were probably lost in my verbal string of consciousness, including (but not limited to) “I’ve never seen so many pigeons!”

When starting a new job, you may still be feeling bitter about your old boss or some company policy you always hated. But bringing up all the things you disliked about your old job, or bashing on the place or people you left behind, doesn’t earn you loyalty points at the company you just joined. It’s simply negative.

Rather than dishing on your past employer, focus on the positive aspects of your new workplace. Loving the vast array of snacks in the breakroom? Share that love with your peers and leave it at that.


3. DO make preparations.

Scraping your jaw off the floor of your new address will be a lot easier if you do your research ahead of time. Sure, nothing can prepare you for the thrill of your first subway ride, but reading up on the culture and sights of your new home is second best. Check out this post from LifeHacker for a few helpful tips and resources for scoping out a new city.

Likewise, if your new job is in an unfamiliar part of town, plan your route and use Google Maps to estimate the commute for your first day’s arrival time. Career coach and Forbes contributor Caroline Ceniza-Levine recommends going a step further by reaching out to your manager for resources prior to your start date — any reading material or paperwork you can complete that will help you hit the ground running. Some companies send employees the HR paperwork ahead of time, but if yours does not, asking for it never hurts. Look at you showing initiative!


4. DON’T expect everyone to come to you.

If you want to befriend your new neighbors, introduce yourself. If you want to meet your co-workers, the same rules apply. In both cases, bringing along a tray of cookies to break the ice is likely to increase your chances of establishing a good first meeting.

Business Insider recommends being “a geek about introducing yourself.” Saying hi to someone in the bathroom might sound a little strange, but think about it. In two weeks, when you know every face on your floor, you’ll be glad to have the introductions mostly complete.


5. DO become a resource.

One way to make friends or at least establish your place in the group is to become the go-to person for something people want or need. Maybe you’re the co-worker with the fully-stocked drawer of over-the-counter drugs. Maybe you’re the neighbor who puts out a basket of umbrellas on a rainy day. Or maybe you deal in information. When someone has a question about overtime rules, you have all the answers (or at least the number for TSheets’ customer support line).


A successful transition is up to you

At the start of a new job, everyone wants to fit in, or at least make a couple friends to sit with at lunch. Depending on your personality — introvert or extrovert, naturally bubbly or a bit of a pessimist — the guidelines above are either a tall order or a walk in the park. But the great part about guidelines is they’re adaptable. Take these tips and make them your own!


Have you ever moved jobs and struggled with the transition?
What advice would you give to others now that the worst is over?
Chat with us in the comments!