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Starting A New Job During COVID-19

Posted by James Wright

Joining GradConnection on the 23rd March 2020 was quite possibly the most unusual start to a new role I have ever had. There is an irony in that I am now working for the biggest organisation I have ever worked for in my life (GradConnection is part of SEEK which operates in many countries employing thousands of people) but I started work at my dining table at home, alone.

The new shoes, shirt and totally fabulous fake fur coat that I bought to don in week one are still unworn.

Thankfully I’d been into the office a couple of weeks earlier to meet some of the team for lunch and had picked up my laptop on the same day.

At 9am on Monday morning I logged in and was welcomed by some friendly messages on Slack before a team meeting on Zoom an hour or so later. I was starting work from home in physical isolation and the business had just announced that all workspaces were now closed until further notice.

James

I basically spent the first week Zoom bombing the organisation - jumping on meetings without much context or preparation and just listening intently. It was astounding how quickly my diary filled up, as the parts of the business I needed to understand immediately volunteered to share what they do. By the end of week two the pile of post-it notes with thoughts, observations and ideas had grown to the point where it needed organising. I spent an hour cross-referencing each one to my job description and very quickly my scope of work for the next few months had developed.

There are three key take-outs from my first month at GradConnection in a work from home setting.

Firstly I have had a few wobbles and am not afraid to admit it… I am doing enough, learning fast enough, achieving anything? Isolation definitely makes all the normal newbie feelings of anxiety more pronounced. I have attempted to overcome this by sharing my ‘list of everything’ with my direct reports, immediate colleagues and my boss. This felt a bit weird at first as I’m not used to sharing every blue-sky thought, project in development and work-in-progress with everyone but on reflection it actually feels really good and it’s certainly the first time it’s ever all been in one place for me. My self-organisation and transparency is definitely up in isolation. If anyone wants to know what I am doing they can go to publicly available plan, take a look and proactively contribute.

Second, I am talking less and listening more than I ever have. Anyone that has worked with me knows I can be pretty opinionated, and as a debater at University I’m not afraid to do the talking whether I am asked to or not. Working in isolation has definitely increased my self-awareness.

Whilst output for the first month may not have ended up where I had hoped, understanding and insights feel like they are exceeding my expectations.

Lastly is my work-life balance. Having had five years out of corporate living on a farm and working in a restaurant that I created in the Hunter Valley I was nervous about coming back into an office environment and falling back into old habits that had led to disengagement and burnout. I’m genuinely thrilled to have joined GradConnection, regardless of the current world health and economic uncertainty, and its an exciting time to be working in digital media and virtual services. The silver lining of the storm that we are currently in is that we are all being given a once in a lifetime opportunity to evaluate what we do and the way we do it. A simple but life changing example is that I haven’t set-up work email on my mobile phone. I have two other devices that allow me access and I intend to keep my phone free from the work diary or email, so that when I want downtime I still have a screen I use solely for me.

The big question I face every day now is which virtual background to chose for Zoom.


For all employers bringing on new starters during this time SEEK have put together this fantastic guide that provides some quick tips and ideas for virtual learning.


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