As the W’s editor Sara Moonves said, reported by Jacob Bernstein with the New York Times on W Media, ‘We did it all over zoom.’ ‘None of us even met in person.
Ditto, Sara! In June, I joined the Water & Wall team and kicked off my new role virtually. My first interview, first day, and first new business pitch with my new New York City-based colleagues were done from my small South Carolina hometown. My perfected handshake and first day outfit were thrown out the window. Instead, I focused on my opening Slack message.
The initial plan was that I’d spend my first month working from home and then when the agency headquarters reopened, I’d join my new colleagues in person. Being in the same workspace would allow us to form a more personal connection. Here we are, three months later, and the pandemic hasn’t let that happen. Pre-COVID, I’d know the go-to office music and the typical Friday afternoon chatter, and my coworkers would know a thing or two about me. Like how I write most ideas on paper first or how I have soup for lunch no matter if its 19 or 90 degrees outside.
So how do we shift our work “firsts” expectations to fit the times?
Ask, ask, and explain
A traditional first day suggestion, ask any and all questions. However, many questions you’d think you’d ask when you’re starting a new job, double it. A key part of learning is that you have to self advocate. Be thorough and follow up with whomever you’re asking to be sure they have as much detail as they need to get you what you need. Take nothing for granted when your interactions with a new colleague are mostly text-based. What’s unclear to you, may be clear to someone else and vice versa.
Maybe this is more of a shoutout to a new colleague than it is a pro tip, but I’ve now learned that it’s important to have that “best tech friend.” I’d handcraft our Chief Technology Officer a friendship bracelet if it would even amount to how helpful he has been during my onboarding. Thank you, Conrad.
When they can’t see you at your desk or you can’t bump into each other grabbing coffee, there officially isn’t any room to be reserved or timid as the newest member of the group. Be assertive and schedule meetings with your co-workers even if it’s just to get to know each other. Book ad hoc or recurring check-ins with your teammates to chat all things work. Discuss how you can best support your team and succeed with client work or projects assigned to you. Pro tip: bring ideas to your calls.
Accept the status quo
But only for things beyond your control. There’s comfort in blaming a mistake or weakness on starting remotely, but is that beneficial to your overall success? Nope. Instead, find solace in the fact that everyone is living this same new 9-to-5 reality.
What’s your jam?
On the 9-to-5 note – integrate your typical work preferences into your new position. If you’re like me, you listen to Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 as you drink your morning coffee each day. If someone is asking your preference on how you like to receive feedback, when you’d like a meeting, or phone vs. Zoom, share your thoughts! Remember, if you’re being asked it’s because your preferences are valued.
To note, my boss isn’t out to get me, I just really love Dolly’s classic.
I’m extremely fortunate to have started a new job during this global pandemic and to do so safely from my home. Remember to be thankful for the work you get to do each day. Starting a new position before meeting the company’s leadership team or any of your coworkers takes a leap of faith for everyone involved. Perhaps the trick was that we got on the same page before we were in the same room.