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How to start a new job remotely

The first day at a new job is always a bit intimidating. But what if your first day is remote? If you’re applying for an ethical job in August 2020 – depending on which state it’s based in – there’s a high probability that your first day, week, and potentially your first few months will be worked remotely.

And with 22 per cent of new employees not making it past the first 45 days in pre-pandemic conditions, now is more crucial than ever to start on the right foot.

Here’s what you need to consider to succeed in starting a new ethical job, remotely.

Before you start, prepare for a different experience

COVID-19 has accelerated the evolution of work – remote work and distributed workforces are quickly becoming the ‘new normal’.

If you’ve secured a new position during this time, your experience will be distinctly different to starting a job in-person. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to proactively prepare for your first remote day on the job:

  • Do your research – Gather any the information you can about the team and organisation via their social media and website.
  • Triple check all resources you’ve been given – Some organisations have better onboarding processes than others, which means you may be given lots of information before you start, or none at all. No matter what, make sure you review anything you’re given and list any questions you may have for your direct manager.
  • Ensure you’re well presented – Dress professionally. After all, you’re still “at work”, even though you may be in your own lounge room. Also, ensure your background is organised and presentable for video calls.
  • Smile a lot! – A positive attitude goes a long away, particularly in virtual settings where visual cues and body language can be more ambiguous.

Reach out to new colleagues

Team culture will guide the way you interact with co-workers during the working day. Ask your direct manager to introduce you to the team and provide more insight into how everyone usually prefers to communicate. Then try reaching out to introduce yourself in all ways you can:

  • Emails – An introductory email to your immediate colleagues can help them get to know you and your role.
  • Direct messages – if your team uses platforms like Slack, Facebook Workplace or Microsoft Teams, instant messages can more closely replicate the back-and-forth of a face-to-face conversation.
  • A quick phone/video call – is probably the best way to actually start to get to know colleagues. Perhaps suggest a “virtual coffee”. Just be sure to check it’s a good time for your colleagues before launching into any in-depth questions.

Regular phone and video calls help replicate the casual exchanges you would usually have around the office, and build team rapport. Building strong working relationships at these early stages can also help you feel more included and confident in your role.

Ask for your manager’s support

In a remote setting, don’t wait to be offered help – be bold and ask for it. If there’s something you don’t understand or need clarified, ask your direct manager or another colleague for support. You can set yourself up for success by:

  • Knowing your go-to person for questions – In a remote environment, you can’t simply turn to a nearby colleague and ask a question. So, it’s important to have a clear understanding of who you can turn to, and how to ask questions. If you need more structure, ask your manager if you can be assigned a ‘work buddy’ or mentor in your team during the critical onboarding days or weeks.
  • Understanding expectations – Be sure you understand the status of projects and tasks you’re assigned. For any task or project, confirm the format and when any deliverables are due.
  • Getting familiar with your new organisation’s tools and systems – Be sure you’re across what online tools your team uses to collaborate, like client management software or productivity tools like Trello . If you haven’t used them before, don’t wait to ask for any tips or tricks that might make learning to use them easier.
  • Setting a plan for your probation period – If your boss hasn’t created one for you, ask to co-create some goals you can work towards for your first week, month and quarter.

Gather and record information   

In your first days and weeks, actively listen as much as you can – you may find answers in unexpected places. And take as many notes as possible – crucial information may come up in conversation, not on paper.

Some things it’s worth recording are:

  • An organisational chart of your team or department – This can come in handy for easy context in video and phone calls.
  • Names of stakeholders – You’ll may be overwhelmed with a lot of new names in your first few weeks. Keep a written track of them for easy reference.
  • Preferred communication and working styles – This can help you work and communicate the way your new colleagues like to as well.
  • Top-line pieces of information – Make a note of any pertinent information about the organisation or projects you’re involved in.
  • Questions or unresolved issues you need to follow-up – Doing this can help keep you accountable and show you’re pro-active when you check in with your manager or colleagues.
  • Tasks you’ve accomplished – Show your commitment from day one with a written reference of your wins.
  • Any challenges you faced – Record any hurdles you’ve experienced. You can use this to feed back to your manager as areas for discussion or additional coaching or training.

Ask for help as soon as you need it    

Don’t be afraid to ask for more information – having questions is a normal part of the onboarding process.

Depending on the size of your organisation, it can be helpful to remind people that you are new – particularly if they’re outside of your immediate team. For example, in a forum, email or online meeting, state your name and that you’re new before asking a question or making a comment.

Set regular meeting times with your manager to discuss progress and roadblocks. These meetings are a great opportunity to get on the same page about your contribution. Your manager can also address any areas of improvement or offer additional support.

As you get ready to start a new job remotely, it’s important to not be too hard on yourself, especially considering the challenging circumstances. There are plenty of steps you can take to start strong in your new role, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Anna Shvets.

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