Entering the world of work after graduating from university can be a scary prospect, but with the added prospect of starting your new job remotely due to the pandemic, 2020 and 2021 graduates are stepping into uncharted territory.
It’s a big achievement to secure your first job, let alone during these unprecedented times! The next step is to begin preparing to face the challenges presented by starting your first job remotely. During our STEM Women Autumn 2020 events, we heard some amazing advice from female graduates who had recently started new roles remotely, and senior leaders adapting to working from home. So, we thought it would be great to share some of these invaluable hints and tips on starting a new job remotely.
Your first day won’t involve meeting your manager and colleagues face-to-face and having a tour of the office, however, you can still make the most of starting your first job by staying positive and following these easy tips.
1. Make sure you have a comfortable office space
If you are starting a new job remotely, you’ll need to set up a comfortable workspace at home. Whether you have a dedicated desk in the spare room, or make use of the kitchen table, make sure you have a quiet space with room to set up your computer. If you live in a shared house or with your parents, it might be a good idea to make some signs to put on the door to let your family or friends know you shouldn’t be disturbed at certain times. If possible, try to sit on an ergonomic chair and position your computer at eye level to avoid backache. Working from the sofa may be tempting but it won’t help your productivity levels!
In terms of equipment, most companies should offer you support and send anything you need directly to you before your first day. If you are using your personal laptop, make sure you have communicated with your manager to ensure everything is set up and ready to go. If your role involves a lot of video calls, you may want to ask for a headset so you can hear and speak clearly, whilst looking professional.
2. Prepare for remote onboarding
Your first onboarding experience will be done virtually, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Usually, everything you will need to learn can be done effectively over a video calling platform like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. If you haven’t heard anything from the company ahead of your first day, it could be a good idea to reach out to them and ask what the agenda will be for the day. That way you can prepare anything you need; do some research into anything you may not understand and have some questions at the ready.
Remote onboarding can be a little overwhelming, especially if you will be using new tech and tools in your job. Make sure you read through any documents you are sent, and walk yourself through each new tool, especially the ones that revolve around workflow and communication. Have a play around with them and if you get stuck, don’t be scared to reach out to a colleague to ask for help.
You may also want to take notes in these initial meetings, to help you remember names, log in details and general tips.
3. Get to know your colleagues
In your first week of starting a new job remotely, you may want to ask your manager to send out an email to your team, introducing you and inviting them to set up welcome calls or informal chats so you can get to know who you’ll be working with. Don’t be afraid to reach out yourself to ask for short introductory meetings too.
Ask about what your colleagues do day-to-day, what projects they are working on, and anything they think you should know about the organisation. These are all great icebreaker questions to get the conversation started and show you are willing to learn.
4. Identify someone who could be your buddy or mentor
Whilst you are getting to know your colleagues, it would be a good idea to ask your manager if they know anyone who would be willing to act as a mentor or buddy, if your company hasn’t already assigned you one. This could be someone from your interview, or a colleague. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them for guidance.
5. Learn how your team communicates
As everyone adapts to remote working, it’s good to find out the best forms of communication to use with different colleagues. If you are working closely with a certain team member, they may be contactable on the company chat platform, but tend not to respond to emails quickly. If your company uses Teams, there is also a function to indicate whether you are available, offline or in a meeting, which can explain why you may not have received an answer from someone. Picking up on little behaviours like this and simply asking what form of communication is best can really help you to get to grips with your new team and how they work.
6. Get to grips with expectations
Since you won’t be in the office, there won’t be opportunities to quickly pop to your manager’s desk to ask a question or ask your fellow grads when a piece of work is due, so it’s important to be proactive in understanding your role and what is expected of you. To help with this you can check in with managers and ask which systems or tools you should be using, when certain projects due dates are and schedule catch ups, so you keep up to speed with everything. Because it’s your first week, your manager may want to check in on you quite regularly, don’t take this as a sign that you’re not doing a good job, instead embrace the extra support and use it to improve and learn!
7. Request a video call with your manager
Hopefully, a one-to-one video call with your manager should be part of your onboarding, but if it isn’t don’t be afraid to ask for one! When you are in the office, it’s easy to stop by your manager's desk to ask for updates or set up a one-to-one if you need guidance. Chances are when you start your new job, your manager will set up weekly or bi-weekly meetings to check how you’re getting on. But if you find yourself getting confused at any time, drop them a message in their preferred channel.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’re stuck on a piece or work or are struggling to understand something, don’t be afraid to give your manager or colleagues a quick phone to ask for help and advice. It’s far better to be willing to learn by asking questions, than waste lots of time trying to figure something out yourself. It won’t make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, in fact when starting your first job, you are not expected to know it all! Asking questions to get yourself situated might actually make you look better in your manager’s eyes. It shows that you’re engaging in your new role and taking responsibility for your development.
If you have lots of questions, try to prioritise them from most important to least. You can then keep a running list of non-essential questions to ask when the time is appropriate.
9. Remind people who you are
When starting a new job, you’d usually run into people in the corridor, or whilst making a cup of tea in the kitchen. However, when starting a new job remotely, it may be good to try and reintroduce yourself in meetings or at the start of emails, just to remind your colleagues of your name and role. You could also have a search for colleagues on LinkedIn and send them a connection request, and begin reposting some interesting company news and updates.
10. Set boundaries
When working from home, it can be easy to merge work life with your home life, especially if you have lots of work to catch up on and new tools to learn. However, try to think of your workspace as the office and set a routine. If your working hours are 8 hours a day, try to stick to this and make sure once you’ve finished for the day, you switch off your laptop or mute communications until the next day.
11. Take breaks and go on a daily walk
Make sure you don’t spend your first few weeks of the job glued to your computer. Yes, you want to impress your managers and colleagues, but it’s important to take regular breaks, stretch your legs and get some fresh air. If you were in the office, you wouldn’t be expected to sit at your desk for the whole day, whole day, so it’s okay to have a walk about and take coffee breaks from time to time.
12. Be confident!
Lastly, be confident in yourself! Your first day in a new job can be a bit nerve-racking but as long as you remember why the company hired you, you’ve nothing to fear. Believe in yourself and remember it’s your first day – no one is expecting you to know everything from the get-go!
Don’t forget, working remotely is new for most people, so don’t worry if it takes you a while to get into the swing of things. Give yourself time to build relationships with your colleagues, it may take a little longer than if you were in the office. Most importantly, be patient – both with yourself and with your co-workers. Remote work is new for many people, and it takes time to adjust.
Enjoy this blog? Check out our piece focused on women in STEM statistics.