Starting to work for a new company can be both exciting and anxiety-provoking, especially if the new job is your first out of college. The current coronavirus pandemic adds an extra challenge to this often-stressful time. Many new hires have seen their roles and expectations shift as organizations have moved to a remote workforce, and many have new concerns about how they might succeed as an employee during these unusual circumstances.
To find out how new college graduates and other newly hired employees can excel in their positions even through the pandemic, we talked to Intoo career coach John, who has more than 10 years of experience helping people find new jobs and careers. In this Q and A, John shares his best tips for succeeding in a new job during these unprecedented times.
How can people who are starting new jobs now, during the coronavirus crisis, best set themselves up for success? What should they be paying attention to?
Many people who are starting jobs now will be working virtually, so they should focus on social distancing collaboration tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and the entire Google suite of products—tools that lets you virtually collaborate, have meetings with one another, and be productive.
For video meetings, you want to make sure that your technology is up and running, and that the lighting is good, and everything looks fine behind you. You also want to make sure you know the features of the tools that you’re using. For example, know how to use the “share screen” function, as well as how to text chat within the video meeting. This way, if you want to share any links or any documents, you can easily do so.
In addition, assess your comfort level with public speaking and communication as well. Your communication skills are going to be very important, especially your written communication. As much as people post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter today, professional writing is very different, and knowing how to compose a professional email is a very valuable skill.
How can people who are not yet up to speed on social distancing collaboration tools brush up on those skills?
LinkedIn learning is a great place to go to. They offer many free tools. If you’re a recent college graduate, many alumni services will connect you with the career services office at your university. They may offer free or discounted tools for alumni. In addition, some libraries also offer virtual workshops virtually. Lastly, if you go to the website for the manufacturers of those online tools, those companies may offer some discounted or even free workshops.
How is starting a new job different now, during the coronavirus crisis, than it was before?
A lot of the training that we’re used to is person to person training, where we’re learning from someone in the same room. Even in the college environment, we’re used to sitting in a classroom, and we’re used to working on group projects together in a small room in the library or dorm. But now, you have to learn to be comfortable learning and working remotely for a while.
So we have new questions to consider. For example, how comfortable are you on a web cam, on camera? Do you have a nice, professional background for video conferencing? Is your home environment work-friendly, and how do you plan to separate work from the rest of your life? These are important things to figure out, because even when we come out of this epidemic, the work environment will look different.
New hires often feel pressure to demonstrate they’re taking the job seriously—and may feel especially anxious to prove themselves during the coronavirus crisis. What are your tips to new employees who want to show their commitment—but also prevent burnout?
Be sure to set your own boundaries. Make sure to have a calendar of when you are going to work. If you are going to work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., set your alarm every day and make sure you get up stick to a routine as though you are going to work. If that routine also means getting up and going to Starbucks to get your morning cup of coffee, get up and go to Starbucks, get your cup of coffee and then come back home and go to your office. Yes, sometimes there are deadlines that have to be met, and yes, sometimes you may have to work beyond 5 p.m. There will be those days, but while working remotely, try to have some separation between work hours and personal hours.
Relatedly, have a designated workspace. If your couch in front of your TV is your evening relaxing space, that may not be the best place for you to work remotely. Have a separate space where you know that is only your workspace and that you can step away from it. When your workday is done, close the computer, turn off the work phone, be done with it.
The same goes for technology. If you are given the chance to be afforded a computer from your employer, take that opportunity as opposed to using your own. If they can give you a work phone, I would say go with that so you have a separate work number from your personal cell phone number. This way, you can have some separation through technology. If you keep your work on your personal computer, that could mean that you’ll let work leak into your personal time, which can lead to overworking and burnout.
What about people who share homes with others—and as a result have challenges finding uninterrupted time to work regular business hours? Many new college graduates live with their parents and siblings; others have roommates or partners and children. Any tips for them?
Keep the lines of communication open with your employer. Many managers are being very understanding and more flexible with hours and work environments because they know the circumstances are what they are during this crisis. I’ve had a cat walk across my desk during a video meeting, and most people have been responding positively to that type of thing.
But you also have to know your audience. if you’re going to be on a sales call to try to recruit a very important client, you may want to find a time and place where you’re alone. If you’re able to get a spouse to watch your kids in such times, or put yourself in a room where you won’t be interrupted during those very important meetings, that would be ideal.
Some new hires are going into the workplace, either because state and local laws allow them to, or because they are essential workers. Do you have advice specific to them at this time?
First and foremost, please follow any precautions that are outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as well as any precautions that are required by your state. If your state requires a face covering or gloves, please take those necessary precautions.
Social distancing is absolutely important, even if that means working with an office door closed. Don’t be afraid to be vocal if someone is making you uncomfortable by standing too close to you. Feel free to back away, or ask them to back away. Your health and your safety should be priority number one.
Any additional advice for people—especially new college graduates—who are starting new jobs at this time?
Businesses are going to start rebuilding themselves, some faster than others, and the work environment is going to change. Keep your confidence up. Go into your new job as though you are starting this new adventure, and have that professional confidence that you had in your interview. That’s why they hired you. Keep doing the work that you know you can do.
By offering unlimited, on-demand personal coaching from highly-experienced career transition coaches, Intoo’s outplacement solution helps companies retain positive relationships with departing employees and protect employer brand during a layoff or workforce change. Experience our advanced outplacement program firsthand by requesting a demo today, and learn how we can support your workforce’s unique needs.
INTOO staff writers come from diverse backgrounds and have extensive experience writing about topics that matter to the HR and business communities, including outplacement, layoffs, career development, internal mobility, candidate experience, succession planning, talent acquisition, and more.