On the 12th of March, just the day before the suspension of face to face teaching at the University, I received a job offer for the position of Student Assistant at the Careers and Employability Service. Initially, I expected a primarily reception-based job. My CV, cover letter and later my interview highlighted a skill set that was necessary to perform this role. Like many others, I felt disoriented by the unexpected change and the thought of starting a new job without meeting my colleagues or going into the office.
However, as office working was no longer possible, my position was adapted to the context of remote working, and I adapted with it. The first thing I immediately realized was the importance of being flexible and confident in your potential. Do not to underestimate what you can offer and bear in mind that you can adapt your skills to diverse contexts, even if they are not familiar. For instance, one of the skills that was frequently mentioned during my interview and in the application process was multitasking in the context of a reception-based job. Despite the unusual circumstance, this skill is still essential for my role in remote working.
Throughout these months, I have had the chance to perform various tasks. I have worked on different research-based projects on behalf of the Career Advisers, been involved with social media and marketing, tested new resources for students and organized job vacancies and employers on CareerConnect. This variety of projects has helped me gain a broader understanding of different work areas and put my skills to the test. As remote working has allowed me to delve into different work areas, I have enhanced a broader range of skills than I was initially expecting. For example I have been able to learn about social media and marketing, which is an aspect I have always wanted to become familiar with.
At the beginning of my experience, I found it challenging to reconcile some traits of my personality with remote working. I believe in-person workplace interactions play a key role in encouraging you to be more productive and efficient, as well as making you feel part of the team. Therefore, I was unsure about how remote working could replace in-person experiences and how I could bond with my colleagues across a screen. Online meetings are a good alternative, but it is not as straightforward as communicating in the office. Despite these concerns, I felt it was crucial for me to embrace a positive attitude and make the best of the situation. I knew it was normal to feel a bit like an outsider at first, but I was lucky to receive all the possible support and guidance to integrate quickly and effectively into the team.
My advice to anyone who will be starting a job completely online is, even if virtual scenarios are less familiar to you than face-to-face communication, try to get involved as much as you can and make sure you ask questions to fully understand your online role. Brainstorming sessions or even brief informal chats at the end of a meeting are good ways to connect with your colleagues online.
In terms of staying productive, establishing a routine is crucial to be organized and focused when working online. During my first month, my schedule was quite hectic as I also had to complete my final exams. I have tried different options to establish a routine that made me more productive, introducing changes gradually rather than altering my habits completely from one day to the next. Despite the pressure, I think it was important to take time in adjusting to this new context and not to expect too much from myself. Make sure you set up a schedule and define your work hours to organize your day. Also, be careful about the amount of time you spend in front of a screen and try to take some breaks throughout the day!
I took remote working as an opportunity to enhance my skills and push myself out of my comfort zone into something I had never experienced before. I do believe that being positive, assertive and proactive are the key things you should bear in mind when you start a job online. I would also recommend reading some articles about time management, resilience and virtual first impressions to get familiar with this new circumstance. However, remember to not put too much pressure on yourself and take your time to adapt to your new routine!
The most useful and comprehensive resource I would recommend is the Work Ready Virtual Experience by Rate My Placement. It consists of three modules focusing on wellbeing and resilience, virtual first impressions and remote networking. It stresses the importance of nailing online interactions to get the best out of your remote working experience and it shows you examples on how to adopt a positive mindset. You also gain a certificate you can share on LinkedIn or put on your CV at the end.
It’s important to organize your schedule to reduce the time you spend in front of a screen. This blog post by Timely provides you with strategies on how to stay mindful of screen time when you work remotely, in order to avoid feeling physically and psychologically exhausted.
Lastly, resilience is essential to deal with challenging or unfamiliar situations. This Mini Career Course helped me to build up my resilience to deal with the pressure of starting a new job online and to ensure I didn’t feel overwhelmed by this new context.