Survival tips for starting a new job in quarantine

Inspired-Talent | 8 May 2020

By: Eni van Bree

“Congratulations, you’ve got the job!” is what you hope to hear a few days after you’ve spent three hours deciding on what to wear to your job interview. On April 1st (and luckily, this is not a joke), I also got to hear these words. My first ‘real’ company assignment had just become a fact, I was over the moon. And I didn’t even have to go through an outfit crisis. During my job interview, I was wearing my favorite fuzzy slippers, comfy sports leggings, and a business casual shirt. Skype’s video doesn’t reach below your shoulders anyways.

Now, more than a month later, I have realized that starting a new job in quarantine hasn’t been as challenging or weird as I expected it to be. Therefore, I decided to see which lessons I can draw from these past 4 weeks. So, for those of you who fear onboarding in a company you have never been to, with colleagues you have never met: Behold here my 3 survival tips for starting a new job in quarantine.

1. Ask for an organizational chart – if needed ask a million times

The hardest part of onboarding in a new organization from home, is the fact that you can’t physically see whose desk is next to who, or who walks to which manager to give updates on situations. In other words: The organizational structure and hierarchy is a lot more difficult to figure out when everyone belongs to the same Skype or Microsoft Teams interface. Therefore, try to get hold of an organizational chart, preferably already before the initial start of this new step in your career.  It will literally save you hours trying to understand who reports to whom, or who you should (ánd shouldn’t) ask particular questions to.

2. Get over the awkwardness and wave at each other in a video call

I’ve been working as a component planner for a month now, still mostly wearing comfy sports leggings as I sit behind my home office desk a.k.a. kitchen table. The first few days, I met many of my colleagues through Microsoft Teams calls. Instead of shaking hands, we waved to our cameras or merely stared at each other’s profile pics. Despite the initial awkwardness, I was surprised by the fact that I did still feel like we could connect, like I did really get to know them. I think that people will start to give you more context to their stories and behaviors than in a regular introductory conversation to make up for the fact that you can’t meet in real life. If you pay good attention, this will help you to figure out the unofficial relations and hierarchies within the organization just as fast as you would whilst walking around on the work floor.

3. Screen sharing as a lifesaver

With regard to learning the job-related tasks and responsibilities, the screen-sharing option is a lifesaver. Its inventors deserve a big applause. It is simply amazing. Whenever I get stuck, I can just ‘ping’ a colleague, share my screen and ask my questions. I feel like learning how to do your job in this way gives exponential rise to your learning effectiveness. Not only because you really have to do all the clicks yourself from the start, the explanations have to be more precise too and are thus easier to remember. For example, my colleagues can’t literally point to a button on my screen to explain what a certain system functionality does. For me to find that functionality in the first place, they have to describe “the button with the red and blue circle right next to the looks-like-a-mountain-but-is-not-a-mountain button”. Although this may sound like a time-consuming process, it makes sure that I immediately remember where to click the next time.

All in all, starting a new job in quarantine actually works just fine. Yes, I am working for a company that I’ve never been to, with many colleagues that I’ve never met. And no, it is not always easy or the most fun. However, with these survival tips I have managed to completely fulfil my role as component planner within two weeks. Both from a personal development and professional contribution perspective, I have surprised, myself, my peers and my managers with the opportunities of onboarding from right behind a kitchen table.

By: Eni van Bree