How To Become Essential When Starting A New Job Remotely

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Woman using laptop at home, girl (8-9) doing homework in background



If you recently started a new role, you may find yourself working remotely, even if that wasn’t the original plan. While it may not have been what you expected, more roles are increasingly becoming fully virtual, so your experience may not be as novel as it seems.

That said, these ARE novel times since we’re dealing with a pandemic causing workplace disruption unlike we’ve seen in our professional lives. So, if you’re starting a new job virtually and want to make a great first impression, these strategies will help you to assimilate and become an essential member of the team:

1) Show your soft skills. With how quickly market needs shift, organizations are increasingly making hiring decisions based on skills like critical thinking, problem solving, adaptability and collaboration. And while these traits will serve you well throughout your career, during an economy-transforming pandemic, these abilities are crucial to success in a new role.

  • Be flexible. Even with the best intentions, priorities may have shifted due to the impact of the pandemic. If you’re primary responsibilities have been redirected temporarily, use this as an opportunity to show your agility. Chances are, your role will morph again in the future and those who can adapt will be the most successful.
  • Show you’re a problem-solver. Even in non-pandemic times, companies value team members who are able to anticipate and create resourceful solutions to challenges. You have a unique opportunity to demonstrate this skillset right now, so don’t hang quietly in the background waiting to be called upon.
  • Attitude is everything. Like many, you may be feeling anxious, uncertain and overwhelmed. It’s important not to ignore these emotions and to seek support from loved ones or a qualified health professional. However, be careful about venting to your new team or engaging them as confidantes for personal challenges, even if others seem to be doing this. Remember, this is still a trial period and your first impression.
  • Be proactive. Your colleagues may be more preoccupied than usual learning how to do their roles virtually or troubleshooting new challenges. Also, as a newbie, you may not yet be top of mind and normal orientation procedures may be on hold. Don’t wait for others to reach out, but rather demonstrate that you’re self-sufficient. Learn the programs, set up meetings to get to know colleagues and educate yourself on the culture, protocols and policies as much as possible.

2) Create your workspace. While the occasional virtual worker can likely get away with setting up shop at the kitchen table, now that the shelter-in-place requirements are long-term, it’s important to carve out a workspace that sets you up for success. Here’s how:

  • Optimize your digital quality. If you weren’t expecting to be working at home (potentially along with your spouse and children), you may need to upgrade your internet services. While you can certainly ask your employer if this is something that might be covered, if it isn’t, consider moving forward on the upgrade for a short-term period so that you can make the best first impression.
  • Set the stage. Noise, disruptions, and poor lighting are just a few things that may get in the way when working from home. Many who live in cities will have a challenging time shutting out the sirens, honking horns or even noisy neighbors. Do the best you can and test different options (e.g., headphones), while learning the tools available on the technology platform you’re using (e.g., filters, etc.). Use video conferencing when available and show up on screen as you would appear in the office.
  • Be available. One of the top challenges when working from home is setting boundaries, but as a new employee who is proving themselves, you may be conflicted between going the extra mile and officially closing down shop at the end of the workday. Fortunately, you can do both. Strive to be available during regular working hours via phone, email, text or whatever communication methods are regularly used in your workplace, but let your team know if you need to be offline (e.g., to attend a brief virtual meeting with your child’s teacher). If regular hours usually end at 6pm, let your team know how to reach you after hours in an emergency (e.g., via text) so you don’t need to be tied to your email or laptop. You’ll both earn respect and protect your sanity.
  • Banish your pets and children. While this may vary per office culture, in general, it’s unprofessional to have others “zoombombing” your work meetings. You may think your toddler or pet turtle are the absolute cutest things ever, but not everyone will share your sentiments. It’s best to err on the side of professional unless specifically invited to show and tell.

3) Be visible. While great work is critical, it’s not enough unless decision-makers know about it. When working in an office, it’s easier to see who attends meetings, burns the midnight oil or fights with the copier. Although these physical indicators aren’t necessarily representative of hard work, they’re more than you have as a remote employee, especially when you’re trying to prove yourself. While working at home, be sure to:

  • Get to know your colleagues. As a new employee, you’ll build a lot of good will and new relationships by driving the process. Set up Zoom meetings with your coworkers to get to know them and learn how you can best support them in your role.
  • Seek out opportunities. Although you were likely hired for a specific reason, if you find yourself not as busy as you anticipated, don’t stress. It’s likely in part because everyone is figuring out how to function remotely and prioritize what needs to be done. Don’t complain, but rather identify problems you can solve, or reach out periodically to individual colleagues to remind them of your willingness to help.
  • Learn something new. If you have extra time, check out an online course on Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning or other platforms where you can build your skills. Observe what challenges the organization is facing (e.g., customer communication, engaging new webinar tools, managing remote meetings), and use these as a guide of where to spend your time. Then, summarize and share the key points that will be of most use to your team.
  • Schedule check-ins. Your boss may be knee-deep in crisis management, so although you’re new to the team, this isn’t the best time to demand additional time or complain about the lack of interaction. Ask your boss if a weekly check-in is feasible, and take the lead on creating an agenda in advance, sending a bullet point checklist of what you’re working on, and including clear questions that will help you move forward.

Remote workforces were on the rise prior to the global pandemic. The current circumstances of sheltering-in-place have forced businesses to learn that they can not only survive working virtually, but that they can create new solutions to serve their customers. So whether you find yourself temporarily working from home or starting a new job virtually, it’s likely that you’ll experience this again in your professional future.

Happy hunting!

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