For most people, starting a new job can be both exciting and a little daunting and often there is a steep learning curve. Now that so many people are working from home and starting their first ever job in this way, there are extra things to consider and new ways we may need to do our work to achieve the same results as before.
It is likely that you will need to be proactive more than ever before whilst working from home ; Whilst formal training can relatively easily be replicated online much of the informal learning that happens in a job is harder to replace. In the short term, the opportunities to learn through say sharing an office with an experienced colleague, through watching how someone completes a task or simply through having lunch with another new starter are not available at the moment.
It is likely that you will be joining an established organisation which may have existed for many years and where the existing staff know each other well. Chance encounters to introduce yourself as the new starter in corridors and offices or at coffee machines or social events will not happen so it will be down to you to make sure you introduce yourself at appropriate times and in appropriate ways. Being proactive in this way will help you to build up your working network – you will become visible to your new colleagues. This will be invaluable both initially when you may need to ask for their help or support but also as your career develops and you may want to build your experiences and take on more responsibility.
As a student you may have become very used to using email, texts, WhatsApp messages and so on as your main means of communication with your friends, tutors and even with your future employer. Whilst email is still one of the main methods of communication in the professional world, you will find that phone and video calls are prevalent and sometimes these are the very best ways to get things done in the working world. Now that so many employees are working at home, it is also very affirming to actually see and hear your colleagues on a regular basis. Of course, for anyone who isn’t able to use these channels of communication, please do read our advice on working with your employer on the technology that you will need for you to meet your potential in your new role.
Make sure that you have requested any equipment that you may need to work from home effectively. This could cover technology requirements, but it may also cover things like a suitable chair or desk. Make sure that you complete all necessary assessments, and that you know how to get tech support if you need it!
Starting remotely: tips from graduates
Here are some thoughts from two trainee solicitors at Clyde & Co, both Oxford Alumni who started their first jobs after graduating (training contracts) from home.
“Starting any job can be daunting, especially when starting remotely. Making a good impression, building work relationships and learning from senior members of your department are made that much harder. Initially, the main challenge of remote working was not having someone to turn to when I had a question (and as a new trainee, there are a lot of questions!). The sooner you have the confidence to pick up the phone or send a message, the quicker you will be able to clarify tasks and properly engage with the work. I would say, don’t worry about being seen as pestering. If a team member does not have the time to answer all of your questions, they will tell you. From my experience at Clyde & Co so far though, I have found that people are more than happy to talk and discuss; they take an active interest in your development and training and recognise the difficulties of starting work from home. I would also suggest taking part in the pro bono, social network and graduate recruitment activities the firm has to offer. For example, I have really enjoyed being part of the Climate Change Group at Clyde & Co. The Group has a great team spirit and it’s a way to meet and work with people across the firm for a good cause”.
Alysha Patel, Matric 2015, BA History – Clyde & Co Trainee
“I found during the beginning of lockdown that working from home broke down some of the boundaries between work and relaxation. This made it incredibly hard to focus in the morning and even harder to unwind in the evening. I often found it hard to get to sleep in the same room that I had been working in all day.
It is really important to detach an area of your home to use specifically for your work/ studying. Even if you do not have a dedicated office space, make sure that you have a desk which is clear of distractions where you can work comfortably. Making sure you keep work time and relaxation time distinct will also help to avoid the two blending together. Take a lunch break away from the desk to avoid bringing distractions back to your work space.”
“Working from home can certainly be isolating, especially as a new start. I found that lockdown has highlighted the importance of a large and sociable trainee intake who help to keep work fun. At Clyde & Co we benefit from having incredibly approachable partners who continue to make all levels of employees feel valued within each team.”
Ewan Fraser, Matric 2016, BA Jurisprudence – Clyde & Co Trainee
Starting remotely: tips from recruiters
Here is some practical advice from a recruiter’s perspective. These are kindly provided by the law firm Clifford Chance, but they can be applied to any situation where working from home will be expected at the moment.
Getting started: Ahead of your first day think about what working virtually will mean for you. Has your future employer been in touch to request deliver details for your new IT equipment? Do you know what is expected from you on your first day and during your first few weeks? Make sure that you respond to all queries from the onboarding team promptly and completely. If you are not sure how to answer a request, always ask! Pay close attention to all new starter information so you’re well prepared to hit the ground running (on time!) on your first day.
Settling in: The first few weeks in any new role can be tough but starting your job in the middle of a pandemic can be exceptionally difficult! Firstly, try not to panic. It’s likely your new employer is excellent at welcoming new joiners so take advantage of every opportunity they offer you. Participate fully in all induction session, including appearing on video where possible. Ask lots of questions to show how engaged you are. Reach out to any fellow new joiners for support because although you may not be able to socialize in person, there are plenty of ways to get in touch! Take advantage of all of the technology available to start developing excellent working relationships with your new team and allow people to get to know you.
Health & Well-being: It is always important to have a healthy work life balance but that can be difficult to achieve in a virtual environment. Try and make sure you have cleared space for your home office and make it as comfortable as you can. Lots of our trainees really recommend building yourself a daily “commute” including a short walk each morning and evening to clear your head and set yourself up for a day at your desk. And take a break away from your desk for lunch – every day.
Ask questions – more than ever before
- pick up the phone, sometimes email just won’t do
- always make sure you have a pen and paper handy to make notes
- ask yourself “what’s next” and suggest ways you can action your ideas to your team
- when you have finished for the day, stop!