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Organised fun, asking for training & tech fails: Starting a new job in a pandemic

Having joined the agency at the end of 2020, Holly Ryan, Account Executive at Citizen Relations offers a few of her learnings about starting a new job in the midst of a global pandemic.

Holly Ryan, Citizen Relations

Account Executive

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On 7th December 2020 I opened a new laptop, a new notebook and began a new chapter in my career. As an Account Executive, I virtually joined the team at Citizen Relations, setting myself up for a fresh start that, after the dare I say, ‘unprecedented’ year behind us, I desperately needed.

I felt those ‘good nerves’ on the morning of my first day. But I wasn’t worried about getting lost on my way to a new office and being late, and I wasn’t worried about tripping over my words when introducing myself for the first time. I was worried about technology failing, the awkwardness of speaking at the same time as someone else on video calls, and whether I’d remembered anything I’d read when I Googled ‘how to make a good first impression over Zoom’.

I’m now just three months in and even though I haven’t yet met any of my colleagues in person, I feel as though I’ve been a part of the team forever. Without events, coffee meetings with press, and big brainstorms in stuffy meeting rooms, the most sociable industry just isn’t the same. But as the world changed, so did we. And now, it seems, we’re capable of anything.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about starting a new job in the midst of a global pandemic:

The best way to approach these virtual interactions? Head on, with a big smile.

Holly Ryan

Relish the small talk and dive into organised fun

No matter what your WFH situation is, everyone is craving interaction outside of their ‘bubble’. It’s natural. But joining video calls with new people is a daunting experience. What do you talk about for those few minutes that you spend waiting for the rest of the team to join? Let’s not forget that as PRs, we’re natural networkers and experts in building relationships, even virtually.

Having ‘normal’ conversation and bonding over the shared difficulties of the pandemic has been crucial for getting to know colleagues. Citizen has gone above and beyond at keeping the team connected and engaged with a virtual Christmas party, coffee catchups with senior leaders, regular companywide meetings, and more. The more informal meetings are a great way to see how the team interacts with each other.

The best way to approach these virtual interactions? Head on, with a big smile. As a naturally reserved person, it’s easy to sink into the corner and just listen, but I was determined to use video calls to my advantage. Afterall, my virtual interviews were a success so why should I doubt myself on presenting the best me through a screen? Having the chance to be the only one talking is an overwhelming thought but it’s a great opportunity to let your personality, and skills, shine! 

Your mental health is a priority

We’re constantly striving to deliver the best possible work and sometimes we forget about ourselves, especially at home where it can be more difficult to maintain a good work/life balance. If routines work for you, try to find one that will help you decompress after a long day, and find comfort in your home in the same way you would after returning from the office.

We’re living through extraordinary times and everyone’s experience of the pandemic is different, so being open about how you’re coping with lockdown and what your ‘home office’ environment is like is so important. Your new colleagues want to help make your virtual onboarding as smooth and as stress free as possible, so reach out for help if you need it and ask plenty of questions. Support is always just a phone call, WhatsApp or email away. 

To help feel more engaged and connected with your new colleagues, try to keep your video on during calls as much as you feel comfortable to do so. This should help to fight off the loneliness of working from home and make the feeling of being part of a team more real.

It’s crucial to be kind to yourself. Take your lunch break in another room, or outside, away from where you work. Be realistic with deadlines and workloads, don’t take too much on just because it’s easy to defer tasks a few hours after the working day ends.

Your career is not on pause

Particularly for more junior roles, trying to progress and learn while working from home can be challenging. In the office, surrounded by more experienced colleagues, it’s easy to absorb information through osmosis. But at home, you’re no longer naturally involved in conversations happening around you.

Within just a few weeks of joining Citizen, I had been invited to training webinars and was asked to block out time in my diary for more. Don’t be afraid to ask for training if you’re eager to learn!

Here are some tips to overcome the feeling of missing out on learning from peers:

●      Ask to sit in on calls. Absorb how colleagues and clients interact and solve problems

●      Find useful online resources. LinkedIn courses, industry publications, podcasts and networking groups

●      Set tangible goals with your line manager

●      Make the most of training sessions and take plenty of notes

Starting a new job during a pandemic, you have no choice but to jump straight in at the deep end. Processes may take longer to grasp, and internet connections may get lost, but you get out of it what you put in so, give it your all and be yourself. 

Guest Author

Holly Ryan, Citizen Relations

Account Executive,

About

Holly Ryan is a fast tracking Account Executive at Citizen Relations. A trained journalist, Holly uses her flair for story telling day-to-day, sourcing creative opportunities for clients, helping them achieve their objectives and build their profiles through media relations and influencer marketing. So far in her career she has worked with big name clients such as P&G, Business Finland, Russian Standard Vodka, and William Grant & Sons.