Tips for Starting a New Job Remotely During COVID

Starting a new job is always a little nerve-racking—but doing it entirely remotely makes it even more so. Despite record breaking unemployment, the job market is not totally stagnant. If you find yourself interviewing for new jobs, or are lucky enough to find yourself starting a new position, and are nervous about what the hiring process looks like in the era of COVID, I have some tips.

PREPARE YOURSELF/MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

I really think that the best advice you can get in life is to manage your expectations. Like, for everything. It is sage advice that works across time, space and nearly every situation.

Nothing is “normal” right now—the hiring process included. When I started my new position I went through the hiring process entirely virtually: from interviewing to on-boarding. Go into the experience knowing that there are going to be hiccups. Whether you’re internet is being glitchy, you can’t log into WebEx for some reason (that happened to me!), the landscapers come to mow directly outside your window while you do the final round of interviews with the COO (that also happened to me!), or your laptop hasn’t arrived by the first day on the job, just know that something will inevitably come up.

The good thing about COVID is that it has revealed how human we all are: we all have crying babies, barking dogs, upstairs neighbors that sing–that’s just life. Hopefully you’re interviewing with or working for an organization that will understand that.

FIND A WORK BUDDY

It’s my personal belief that the best thing that you can do anytime you start a new job is to find a work buddy. It’s harder to do that when you’re onboarding virtually, but not impossible.

Before I started my new position, I sent each of my coworkers a gift card to a Michigan-based coffee chain with a note that said, “If things were normal, I would ask to grab coffee with you so I could introduce myself and get to know you. Since we can’t do that right now, have a cup on me.” It was a fun way to break the ice and let my coworkers know that I was a) nice and b) looking forward to joining the team and getting to know them.

If you’re not into that or don’t have the money to spend (thankfully my team isn’t that big so it didn’t cost me too much), a great way to introduce yourself is to send emails to the people you know you’ll be working with. It never hurts to say hi and be friendly.

Once you start working, a great way to get to know people is through Slack or Teams. It’s like a virtual water cooler. It’s not a formal meeting, there’s no posturing needed—just a great place to chat and get to know each other. I really liked using Teams for this purpose because I felt like I could be myself, have a few witty quips and use GIFS to let my personality shine through.

ASK FOR HELP

Seriously, just do it!

If you’re somebody that hates asking for help, join the club. Should we get jackets?

In all seriousness, I hate asking for help. I’m too proud and too stubborn most of the time, but in this case it’s best to let someone know that you need a little bit of help with something. No one is going to think you’re lazy or that you’re a dummy (unless of course, it’s something you can Google. In which case you are a dummy). They’ll appreciate that you’re invested in doing something the right way and that you’re willing to ask for help when you need it.

With everything being virtual you have to be much more explicit about things. You might have people check in on you to see how you’re doing, but not as frequently as if you were in an office and someone could pop by your desk to check on you. That means you’re going to have to speak up. If you don’t understand something, need better or more clear direction, or need further explanation on something—say so!

LET PEOPLE KNOW YOU’RE NEW

I’ve been in my current position for 9 months now. I still routinely let people know that I’m (relatively) new. I work for a large company and interact with lots of people on any given day and lots of them have no idea that I haven’t been there for my whole life. In my opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Hopefully, at least at first, someone from your team will introduce you to others and announce your arrival. During normal times (or as I like to call it, the Before Times) people would see a new face around and realize that you’re new, introduce themselves and probably even offer to help you! If that doesn’t happen right now, don’t get discouraged. It isn’t yout—the reality is that most people are swamped, whether with work or the fact that we’re 11 months into a pandemic, and don’t have an abundance of mental bandwidth to process that there’s a new face in the organization.

Instead, advocate for yourself! Be explicit about the fact that you’re a new hire. Let people know that you’re new to the company and what your role is—and you would appreciate some help getting settled in or need help understanding the nuances of the organization. Speak up for yourself, even if it makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable.

Even 9 months in, at least once a week I find myself saying, “I’m still relatively new here and I’m still learning the ropes. Could you give me some more background on XYZ?” And every time I do so, the people I’m meeting with appreciate it. It shows that I’m trying and making an effort.

ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES & PROCESSES

What is your role going to look like? How are you going to communicate with the rest of your team? Your manager? How can you ensure that you’re successful in your role?

Since your manager and your colleagues aren’t going to be the same building as you, you can’t just pop into someones office to ask a quick question or try to better understand what’s expected of you. Be proactive. Make sure that you understand your role and responsibilities. Have a clear and open line of communication with your manager and your colleagues. For instance, when assigned a new project or task, make sure that you understand the deadlines and deliverables that are being asked of you. Be direct. It’s better to ask for clarification than to drop the ball.

Another important thing to keep in mind is if there are any tools, platforms or processes that you need to familiarize yourself with. In my case,

TL;DR

Interviewing for and starting a new position is nerve-racking no matter the situation. If you’re hired, just know that they chose you for a reason and they’re excited to have you there. Nervous jitters are okay and totally normal, but be confident and remember that you have this!

Have you started a new job during the pandemic? If so, what has your remote on-boarding experience been like? I’d love to hear it!

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