COVID-19 has impacted countless facets of our lives. For me, the start of the pandemic coincided with my first job hunt out of college. At the time, if you asked me, I wasn’t even considering the remote job market – that was for computer programmers and startups with unrealistic mission statements.
However, when I landed the job at SoundRocket, a social science research company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was told (like many in March 2020) to prepare to work from home ‘for a bit’.
While my interview was held at the main office, it turned out to be the final official day the whole company used that office. Onboarding was completely remote. I met the staff screen-to-screen, coordinated pick up for my IT needs, and did all job training virtually, that is, on Zoom call after Zoom call.
Now, one year later, I have learned a lot about remote work and the remote job market. Here are some of my biggest surprises (and tips) for those considering or starting a new remote job.
- If it’s your first job out of school, think about your experience with online classes, as it can guide how you approach remote work.
I only had a few months of online class experience, just before graduation. However, I quickly learned that the skills I used in those classes, self-motivation, self-direction and time management, are crucial to successfully contributing as a remote employee. For those who have experience with remote classwork, use that experience. If you’re someone who needs more structure, maybe remote work is not the best choice for you, and it’s important to be honest with yourself. If you’re unsure, don’t forget that new skills can be developed. Even though you just graduated, it wouldn’t hurt to find an online course to take to see what the experience is like and give you a reference point to raise during interviews.
- Be open to new experiences.
Onboarding and remote work was totally different than what I imagined my working life would be. I had to keep an open mind, and try new techniques until I found what task management and communication styles worked for me. If you stumble, try something new or ask a coworker – mine always have all sorts of shortcuts and helpful tips to share. It turns out everyone was learning at the same time, so nobody judged me.
- Ask your prospective employer how they socially on-board new employees.
There’s no doubt, starting a job remotely can feel isolating. As the first fully remote new employee, I was intimidated to join a team that already knew each other and who had been working in an office space together before the pandemic hit. To simulate grabbing coffee with a coworker, we started to use Donut, a Slack integration tool that connects you one-on-one with a different staff member each week. It has helped immensely to get to know my new colleagues.
- The internet is your greatest ally.
If you have started in a remote job, you aren’t just a chair-swivel away from asking someone a question anymore. I have learned to always look questions up on the internet (if possible) before asking someone else. Especially if the question is related to software use – odds are someone else has had the same problem and has asked a forum somewhere.
I’ve been at SoundRocket for over a year now. In that time, we decided to become a 100% fully remote company (even post-COVID), and I’m no longer the new person – we’ve made some other virtual hires. I am already adding significant accomplishments to my experience, after months of trying, I finally won our monthly virtual trivia challenge – twice!