Starting a Job Virtually

Covid-19 has changed a lot of things for a lot of people, and employment has definitely changed. Just a few months ago, it would be unheard of to never have a face to face meeting before you were hired. It’s quite possible now! Starting a job virtually has some unique aspects that you’ll want to pay attention to. Listen to Jenny Rae, ex-Bain consultant, as she unpacks what to do in this situation.

Starting a Job Virtually

Starting a Job Virtually- YouTube Transcription:

Starting a job virtually. It’s something that a few months ago would’ve been unheard of. Just defer, just start later. Wait until somebody can move. Wait until they can be present in the office. But interestingly, companies have decided at this moment in time not to wait, but to bring on people, even for key positions, amidst the coronavirus crisis. And because of that, we are seeing a whole new trend in onboarding. Virtual onboarding. How do you, if you are starting a job virtually, whether a full-time job, or a full-time internship, or a part-time role, how do you set yourself up for success? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today. In our mind, there are four main things that you can do to set yourself up for success.

  1. Add more structure to your role and to your day, so that you are fully productive.
  2. Provide daily email updates and we’ll give you a structure for what should go in those emails.
  3. Intentionally give visibility into what you are doing and why, but not all the time. At very specific snapshot moments.
  4. Initiate two things. Mentorship, which is for somebody above you, and peer check-ins for people that are on your level regularly, so that you can increase the amount of feedback that you are getting. Because naturally, when you are virtual you are more isolated.

So let’s go back up to the top and talk about how each one of these works to set you up for success when you are starting a job virtually.

Tips For A Successful Start

  1. Structure Your Day

The first is that you need to set up more structure than you normally would in your day. As a standard, when you are in an office, you have the visibility of other people, maybe you’re in an open office, or you’re in a cubicle. But people would see what you are doing. When you are at home, you don’t have that opportunity. I remember the first time that I transitioned to working from home, I had been in an office environment before. And I found it really difficult to stay on task without developing a daily plan and structure for myself. The structure needs to include breaks, so it’s not just a working plan. For example, you give yourself a little recess in the morning, may be a stretch break, or a yoga plan. Make sure that you set up a time regularly, on a daily basis, when you are having lunch. And then in the afternoon, you take a time to do a stretch break, or jog in place for a couple of minutes. Or listen to a podcast or give yourself a mental break.

If you set up those standard, structured breaks throughout the day, having a structure makes it feel like you’re actually going to work. You have a plan, and you also have reprieves from the intense thought work, or the intense modeling, or the intense work that you’re doing when you are on the job. So it’s really important to make sure that you set up a structure, and the great thing about working from home is that the structure can work for you.

Sprinters vs Marathoners

In our work at Management Consulted, we’ve done some preliminary research on a core concept in business planning, which is understanding whether your people, your human resources in an organization, are sprinters or marathoners. If they are sprinters, they generally like to engage quickly and then disengage quickly from problems. Sprinters generally prefer having no longer than a two-hour period of time to work on something, and then need a mental break. But marathoners dive in, and they kind of go slowly into the process, and then they really engage in kind of an explosive way for a longer period of time. Having marathoners, usually they work for over four hours at a time, and only in hours two through four are they super engaged in the process or project.

So identifying which one of those you are, and then working toward your strengths works really well in this kind of environment.

  1. Update Emails

The second thing that you want to make sure you do is provide a daily email update. Whereas if you’re working in person and somebody has more visibility into what you are doing, they might get a good sense of how long you worked, what you spent your time on, what you found challenging, and there’s more of a natural back-and-forth. But because that has to be more prescribed in a virtual environment, you’ll want to set yourself up to make sure that other people know what you’re doing, and you’re getting the maximum help.

Email Structure

So this is the email that we would recommend you write every day.

First of all, start at the top by explaining the breakdown of the time that you spent. Today I spent three hours on X, four hours on X, and one hour on X. That gives good accountability into what you spent your time on. And if somebody looks at it and says oh, you spent one hour on this and four hours on this, I’d rather have that be the reverse. They can give insight in how to manage you, or maybe speed up the four hour process and deepen the one hour process. Then you’ll walk through the major things that you accomplished for the day. I completed this. And put numbers in. So let’s say you’re doing fact-finding. I researched seven different publications, and I identified all of the key facts that I was looking for. So you go through each one of those, and usually you’ll put about three bullet points together for each of the core tasks that you did in that day.

Then at the end of the email, you’ll talk about two things. The next steps that you have for the next day. What you are planning to do in a vacuum, and an invitation for input or feedback, specifically if you have escalation issues. Something that you need help with, or something that you need authority added to. For example, you’re trying to get data from somebody, and you aren’t getting a response, then you put that at the end of the email. And then finally you sign off. If you build this email every day, for the first week your organization is going to love it. They’re going to get a great sense of what you’re doing, and they’re going to be able to more actively manage you. If you hide, they are less likely to find you valuable over the course of the summer, even if you’re adding a lot of value secretly inside your work. So providing visibility through daily email updates is really critical when onboarding virtually.

  1. Regular Check-Ins

The third thing is to set up regular check ins to give visibility into what you are doing and why. What does this mean? Well, when you are joining meetings, come with your own perspective and point of view. This is the concept that we call the pyramid principle, and we used it really regularly at Bain, McKinsey and BCG for our core team. It was one of the main training tactics that they had. And they said hey, meetings are meetings if people come and work together. Meetings are meetings when you come with your own point of view, when you have a belief about something, a hypothesis about what’s the right thing to do, and you either have a plan to test it, or you are developing a plan to test it. What this does is it creates high-powered organizations where somebody who is very young and quite inexperienced has to take a stand for what they believe, and then prove it. And you’re not great at it for the first couple of months when you start, but if you begin by taking a point of view, people can see what you’re doing, and they can see why.

And understanding the two of those gives them access to manage you. So any time you’re coming to a group meeting, or a prescheduled one-on-one with anyone on your team, come with a point of view. One of the ways that we recommend doing this is actually to put a slide together that identifies what you think about the topic of the meeting. i.e., I think that we should go this direction. I think that we should invest this much. I think that we should do X, Y, or Z. And then build as much data as you can behind that.

  1. One-On-One Meetings

The fourth thing that you need to do is to initiate one-on-one meetings in two different ways. First, you want to initiate one-on-one meetings with people who are supervisors. Somebody who is over you. The people that are likely to give you your feedback at the end of the summer. One of the common mistakes that I saw made at Bain, and that I made in my first six months, was an attempt hide away from my supervisor because I was always worried that I would not be doing exactly the right thing, what they wanted, or doing it fast enough. And it was counterproductive because at the end of the process, the supervisor said I really didn’t feel like I had access to what you did. I didn’t feel like I had the ability to help. And that I think stunted your growth. And it was true.

So you want to make sure that you are initiating those mentorship meetings. Some people will be willing to do them once a week. Some people will only have the bandwidth once a month. But set them up on a regular basis at the beginning of your project duration for your new job so that you have those in the calendar ready to go. In addition, peer check-ins are and often underutilized resource. If you set up a time with somebody who you designate a top performer in the environment, and you ask them for one-on-one times so that you can understand what it is that they do and why, and you give them some insight what you’re working on and get ideas and tips for how you can make it more relevant and work faster, that’s probably the best use of your one-on-one time in your first three months on the job. So peer check-ins, ideally on a weekly basis if you’re able to do that, with at least one peer, but mis it around if somebody doesn’t have enough bandwidth to meet with you that regularly.

Wrap Up

Set those up, put them in your calendar, and make sure that they are ready to go. All four of these things work together to create a great sense of camaraderie, of opportunity and of skill building that’s accelerated. And if you start a job with that much communication, structure, point of view and visibility, you’re going to have great success in your virtual roles this summer and beyond.

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