I will be the first person to tell you that I struggle to make new friends. I'm shy, I have a hard time approaching people, and I'm never sure what to say to make good conversation (so I often end up just standing around saying nothing, even when I'm with people). This is one of the reasons why social situations are so hard for me ... and it's one of the things that made me most nervous about starting a new job. I will probably be spending a decent amount of my time at the office, and it would be nice to have some people in the office to talk to and maybe even sit with at lunch ... but how am I supposed to find those people if I struggle to make new friends?
My opportunity to make new friends started with breakfast on my first day. My company does a structured orientation for new hires every other week, and my orientation included a total of seven new hires. Which meant that I started off my time at the company with a group of great people who knew my name from day one. At the end of our first day of orientation, we had "Cookies with Rookies," an opportunity for the rest of the company to enjoy some cookies and meet the new hires. I met some great people during this session, including some of my fellow engineers.
Day two was my first day with a company-wide lunch, and while I had brought my own lunch, I still went down and sat with some of my fellow new hires. On Thursday I ate with my onboarding buddy (we get assigned someone to eat lunch with one day the first week) and got to meet some more great people. On Thursday I also met my engineering onboarding buddy (a member of my team who would be helping me get acquainted with what we do), and spent some time learning from him and from the engineer working with the other new member of our engineering group. Even for someone like me who struggles to interact with new people, there were a lot of opportunities for me to talk to others and get to know some new people.
Having people to talk to about work is great, but I also enjoy spending time with people in social situations, and I didn't get a huge amount of that at my last job. The first thing that happened that made me think this situation might be different than my last job on a social level happened on Thursday afternoon of my first week. A member of our engineering group had a birthday earlier in the week, and a group of people were going out to celebrate after work, and someone invited me and the other new engineer in our group to join them. I very rarely get invited to things (even in my regular social circle), and this group of people who had known me for less than a week were inviting me to join them. This really helped me feel like my new coworkers wanted me to feel welcome and wanted me to be a part of the team as a friend, not just a coworker (and I had a great time out with my teammates).
My second week at work was a bit unusual, as we had our company-wide assembly, with all of our remote employees joining us in the NYC office for a few days. I ended up sitting by myself at some points and eating by myself at various points in the event, but there were still moments that helped me feel included. Early in the event, I offered to help distribute name tags, which helped me feel like I was contributing in a meaningful way. Later in the event, I was in a situation where I was feeling extremely uncomfortable, and one of my teammates noticed and came to check if I was okay (and sat with me as he tried to figure out how he could best help me).
Going into this job, I was definitely worried about being included and being welcome. But my team (and the company as a whole) has definitely been doing their best to make me feel welcome, and I really do feel like I'm on my way to making some great work friends.
While I am still eating lunch alone at my desk some days, I understand that there is another option. I know that I am welcome at any lunch table that contains engineers (honestly, I'm fairly certain I'm welcome at any lunch table at the company, even if it's all people I've never met and may never interact with again). My goal for myself over the coming weeks is to become comfortable with either picking a table and sitting there or picking a teammate and making plans to eat lunch with that person. I've done it once already and it worked out great, and now I just need to focus on doing it more consistently.
Making friends has always been hard for me, and making friends at work is even harder. But I'm lucky to have found a company where all of my coworkers are wonderful people and I truly do feel welcome on the team. Right now, I have an amazing group of coworkers and teammates, and I'm certain that within the near future I will also be fortunate enough to consider these amazing people my friends.