Starting your new job or an internship is usually stressful, but it’s even more challenging when you’re starting in a virtual environment. Many students and recent graduates worry about how they can make a good first impression and maintain an outstanding performance without ever meeting their employer and fellow co-workers in-person. As a way to help you navigate through your virtual onboarding and starting your new job in a virtual environment, we spoke with some of our staff members who started working at the Center for Career Development during the pandemic. They gave us a few tips and words of advice on what the onboarding process looked like for them and how they’re handling the virtual work environment:
Ask about what the onboarding process will look like ahead of time to give yourself an opportunity to prepare. Request any office supplies that you need to be sent over if they haven’t been already so that you can be ready to go on the first day. The onboarding process has to be very organized if you want to be successful. You will either have your events and meetings already built into your calendar or will have to schedule them yourself, but usually onboarding activities are planned out ahead of time. You will have at least one point person who will guide you through the onboarding process, but depending on the role, you may interact with several people during the onboarding process before you meet the rest of your team.
You will usually be given tasks to complete, like watching training videos or reading through guides and instructions, so pace yourself accordingly, take notes on the content, and make sure to follow up with questions. No question is too basic, so always ask, even if it’s for something simple. It’s better to ask when something comes up rather than get stuck and risk falling behind. Make PDFs, scan physical documents, or type up your documents on your computer and create virtual folders to keep your documents organized for easy access in the future.
Before you get started, make sure you set up a space in your home that is designated just for work, even if it’s one corner of your room. Try to avoid doing your work in your bed or in another space that you usually use for something else. Test all technologies ahead of time to minimize technical issues on the first day/week, but also know who to contact if technical issues arise.
Try to keep the line of communication open as much as you can and be alert so you don’t miss any important messages from your co-workers and supervisors. Familiarize yourself with the communication tools you’ll be using, whether it’s email, video chat, phone calls, voice chat, messaging, and which platforms you are expected to operate during work hours. Ask each member of your team which medium they prefer to use for communication – some prefer email or messaging, some are fine with impromptu calls and conversations, while others prefer a notice and a scheduled meeting ahead of time. This is also a great way to make a good first impression because you’re being considerate of other people’s preferences.
Try to make a schedule for yourself that you can maintain as if you were going to work in-person. Wake up early and eat breakfast, dress professionally, take a lunch break. Your lunch will also give you a break from looking at your computer screen; try to take computer breaks every so often to give your eyes a chance to rest. Taking breaks from one project to focus on another one is also a good idea, so try to have at least one ongoing project that you can work on while taking a break from your daily tasks.
It’s also important to keep yourself and others accountable for each other’s work. Try to check in periodically to see how a project is coming along and if there is anything you can help with or provide clarification on. Try to block out time where you can meet together and check your progress as a group, but also have some free time available to schedule one-on-one conversations. Share documents between all members so they can see in real-time what you and others are working on. This is an easy way to check-in without having to reach out to someone.
Working remotely can seem tough at first, but if you keep these tips in mind, the process should hopefully go a little smoother for you. As you continue to adjust to working remotely, remember to give yourself and others some patience and try to be flexible because it’s a learning experience for everybody. If you want more insight on how to prepare yourself for virtual onboarding and working remotely, feel free to schedule an appointment with a Career Coach at the UConn Center for Career Development so you can stay on top of your game before you even begin.
Contact information for staff who began working at the Center for Career Development during the pandemic, if you’d like to reach out to them directly:
Aaliyah Castleberry, Career Consultant: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Buller, Career Consultant: email@example.com
Wiley Dawson, Career Consultant: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Kligerman, Career Consultant: email@example.com
Mary Malerba, Assistant Director, Corporate Partner Relations: firstname.lastname@example.org