By Lauren Beam, M.S., NCC (’07), Associate Director for Mentoring and Alumni Personal & Career Development at Wake Forest University
In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale designed to help individuals identify and score themselves on a list of 43 major life events, with each life event holding a particular value/score based on severity. If you look at the 43 major life events included on this stress scale, many of us have experienced several of the highest-scoring events over the past 6-12 months. From the COVID-19 pandemic (death, illness, injury, change in habits/relationships) to racial tensions and civil unrest (death, injury, fear/uncertainty) to an economic recession (job loss, change in work hours, new job), we all have good reasons for feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
But what if in the midst of all this, you are starting a new job? Perhaps you’re a recent graduate from college or graduate school and are starting your very first professional job. Maybe you were laid off or recently furloughed and have now landed a position with a new organization. Additionally, you likely find yourself thrust into a new job role and company while also working remotely. Those are big changes and are tricky to navigate! Below, I offer some practical tips for adjusting to a new role while keeping in mind the stressors and challenges at play in the world today.
Set-up video meetings or calls with your new colleagues.
As you start your new job, the best thing you can do to learn about the organization, company, and team culture, and how your duties align with others, is to set-up individual meetings with your colleagues. Reach out to your new colleagues and request a brief phone or video call. Frame the meeting as an opportunity to get to know them individually, to ask questions, and to learn. Then, do exactly that! Come prepared to each meeting with questions to ask, such as:
- Tell me about your role and responsibilities.
- What are your current priorities and how might my work align with yours?
- How would you describe the team/company culture?
- What tips or best practices can you share about communication, current team goals, (fill in the blank), to help me navigate the first few months in this new role?
By approaching your first few weeks on the job as an opportunity to actively and intentionally absorb as much information as you can from your new colleagues, you will build rapport and establish yourself as a solid team member.
Solicit feedback from your manager and colleagues.
It’s never too early to start the practice of soliciting feedback from your manager and colleagues. Don’t passively wait until six months into the job, or until your performance review time. You should be intentionally asking for feedback now! Here’s an easy way to begin incorporating this practice into your new job role. After you finish your first project or assignment, no matter how big or small, ask your manager or teammates these two questions:
What did I do well?
What could I do differently next time?
Use their answers as data to inform your work on future projects. And take some time to reflect on their responses and how you want to change moving forward. Ask yourself, how will I incorporate this feedback and make changes on future projects or assignments?
Create a work routine.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but as you begin a new job where you’re working remotely, it’s vital that you set a work schedule and establish a dedicated work space in your home. Not only does this help you maintain some work-life balance, but can help you transition into the start and end of your workday. You may even want to use your work calendar (Google Calendar, for example does this) to indicate your availability for work meetings, phone calls, events, etc. Particularly if you are in your first professional job post-college, establishing a 8-5 work routine may feel very different from the college class schedule that you’re used to. As you have those initial “get-to-know-you” conversations with your manager and new colleagues, ask them about their routines and best practices for establishing a remote work schedule.
At the end of the (work) day, you are a human being. You can’t (and should not) pretend as if everything that’s happening in the world isn’t going on while you’re at work. Find and identify opportunities to practice self-care and relieve stress in your daily work-from-home routine. Take breaks to incorporate wellness practices into your day. This could include exercising, prayer or meditation, taking a walk around the block, stepping away from your computer to eat lunch or have a snack, going to your scheduled doctor appointments, chat with a friend or family member, and seeing your therapist regularly. Set boundaries, as you are able (please note that it’s not okay to neglect your work responsibilities and go for a 2hr bike ride in the middle of the work day!), and find ways to prioritize your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health, especially as a remote worker.
Even as we’re living in stressful and uncertain times – plus adding a new (remote) job into the mix – you can take steps to ensure both a successful and positive transition into a new workplace and role. Want to read more about starting a new job during a pandemic? Check out this great piece from The Muse, plus similar articles on remote work here.