Starting your career can be daunting but starting it during a pandemic... what does that mean for this generation of school levers and graduates?
There's not a one-fits-all approach but Samantha O'Neill, Senior Manager of our Future Talent team, spoke with some recent graduates and school levers who joined their companies remotely this year about what's working for them.
Q. What’s been your experience of starting your career during Covid-19?
Phoebe - "It’s definitely been a unique experience, and not at all what I was expecting for the start of my career, but...
"I think it’s already taught me so many useful skills (like flexibility and self-motivation!) that will come in handy in the future."
Millie - "I found starting a new job during the pandemic a bit more daunting than starting a new job without Covid-19 would be! However, I’m really grateful that I’m able to work in an office 4 days a week as it has meant that I have retained a sense of ‘normality in work’!"
Ian - "Now more than ever, I am extremely appreciative to have landed a job.
"It was very difficult to find genuine opportunities in a time where both applicants and employers are facing such unprecedented circumstances. As a result, it is even more competitive than usual trying to find a job in the current climate.
"However, opportunities did come along, and it has been great to start applying myself to my new role as a Biddable Account Executive.
"After coming very close to securing a fantastic job back at the beginning of March, which was stopped in its tracks by Covid-19, I feel a real sense of accomplishment now that I am finally starting a job that is aligned with my career goals."
George - "I've been lucky enough to join an industry, and company, where working digitally is the norm, and therefore internal work processes remain largely the same.
"Whilst the mandatory 'welcome drinks' were muted, we've been able to work within the office and benefit from the buzz of a company that has excelled throughout Covid-19."
Q. If you started your job working remotely, what’s your experience of this been?
Phoebe - "It’s been very strange having never met most of the people I’m working with in person, but technology has been amazing at keeping everyone connected during this time!"
Millie - "I have been in the office 4 days a week and working from home 1 day a week."
Ian - "It felt unusual, to begin with, but it has taken me less time to adjust than I expected!
"It’s quite impressive how well a company can function with the use of video chats such as Zoom and Skype. I have been having regular video calls with my immediate managers and they have been sharing their screens during our training sessions which have been very effective."
"Despite being so new to the job, the work has been very autonomous. I find that this approach has actually motivated me to work harder than I may have if I was constantly being checked up on because I want to show that I am being productive and can be a good asset to the company. I also appreciate the level of confidence and trust that my new employers have in my ability at this early stage.
"I think the biggest hurdle for me has been the inability to constantly fire away questions whilst I’m learning to carry out new tasks as I would in an office environment if the person was sitting next to me. This is still possible however, I just have to make sure I don’t hesitate to ask as it is a natural part of the learning process, despite feeling a little less natural when working from home."
George - "I've largely been able to work from the office, only being required to work from home once or twice a week.
"Due to the digital nature of our work, this has been an easy change to adjust to. Slack, Google and other online tools have made this a breeze."
Q. What measures have your new employer put in place to ensure you have great onboarding during these trickier times?
Jerry - "All the onboarding sessions were done online, with introductions to many different people and departments just like I would have at the office. It's great getting to know many faces before actually being at the office.
"I've also had plenty of check-ins with my team just to make sure that I'm okay, and my colleagues were more than happy and always there to answer any questions I had."
Phoebe - "My manager has made sure to always be available whenever I have a question via our online messaging platform, and we have weekly calls to make sure I know what I’m up to and ask any further questions I might have."
Millie - "My new team has been really supportive and attentive to make sure that I understand all aspects of my new job role.
"I have received full training and they are always there if I need to ask any follow-up questions.
"Being in the office has definitely been a plus for me as it has been really great to meet my new team in person and get to know them that way! Also, they’re extremely conscious of our health and well-being during this pandemic that we are inevitably a part of, and are doing the most to accommodate any of our needs and requests!"
Ian - "As my employer is a small company, they have not had a particularly accommodating onboarding process. However, I feel that I should adjust my expectations a little and have to be patient as I understand that the company is also reacting to Covid-19, and bringing new employees into the company in these conditions is new to them also. The experience has improved as time has progressed, it’s just a little more drawn out than it would be in a normal office scenario."
George - "Virtual social events, and constant help from HR have enabled a great onboarding process.
"It's been a smooth transition from student life to work."
Q. What measures have your new employer put in place to ensure you are welcomed into the business?
Jerry - "Constantly providing me with support and understanding of the situation and always being there when I needed something.
"My questions were always answered; my company provides me the comfort to be myself and also lets me figure out how to do things my way."
Phoebe - "My manager helped me to organise meetings with all the key members of the company that I’ll be working with so we can get to know each other and see how we could work together in the future.
"We also have daily meetings with the whole UK office so everyone knows what everyone else is up to and we can boost each other’s morale during the mid-week slump."
Millie - "My new employer has been extremely welcoming and made starting a new job as easy and exciting as it could be.
"I was invited to a lunch with the team before my official start date; this made the whole ‘first-day’ experience a lot less daunting as I had already met my team and visited the office!"
Ian - "I had a video chat introduction to the people I will be working closely with on my first day. I have also had lots of contact with one individual that has been taking care of most of my training which has been very positive.
"In the current circumstances, I feel that the social aspect of working is really missing, which is understandable. So, it’s good that I still feel that I am starting to get to know some colleagues and their personalities, despite the distance."
George - "Team events, a company-wide social (social distanced of course) and introduction presentations have made embedding into the company culture relaxed and stress-free.
"I was lucky enough to onboard alongside several other new graduates; we've been able to train alongside each other and this has created a more sociable environment."
Q. What would your advice be to a graduate or school-lever starting out in a new job now?
Jerry - "Find a company that treats you well, and constantly look for opportunities to learn and present those learnings. It's important for your own sake to get better at the job you do, but also to show it.
"Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for support."
"And most importantly, don't be afraid of making mistakes, just make sure you learn from them!"
Phoebe - "It’s going to be a tricky journey, but make sure you reach out to other people in your job because I guarantee they’re having a similar experience to you – even if they’ve been at the company for years, this experience is still pretty new to everyone!"
Millie - "I would say to a graduate starting a new job during this time that it is so important to keep the positives in perspective and remember all the hard work that you have put in to get the career you are starting at the moment!
"Don’t let this pandemic dampen all your efforts and hard work."
Jack - "Don't put yourself above a role; I have a marketing degree and now work in a trainee marketing role where such a degree wasn't required yet the experience I'm getting is still super relevant."
Ian - "Be proud that you have managed to successfully secure a great new job, that’s a great achievement.
"I would also say don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions, employers will see this as a good thing and a demonstration of your keenness to learn and interest in the new role.
"Finally, I would suggest managing your time carefully, especially if you are new to remote working. It can take time to get used to working in a home environment such as a bedroom."
"I find it very useful to use google calendar, for example. This helps me to complete all the tasks I set myself for the day and not lose track of my time."
George - "Congrats, it's a tough time to get a job!
"Don't let Covid-19 get in the way of meeting new people and your new colleagues. Throw yourself into any socials or events that are going on and don't stress about being unsure about something, always ask questions."
Q. Any other thoughts on your experience that you think would be beneficial for others to know?
Jerry - "Being kind goes a long way."
Phoebe - "Keep focusing on the positives... you’ll definitely have a unique experience to write about on your CV after this!"
Jack - "You don't need to work for or apply to a recognisable named company, the same vital experience can be gained at any level."
A big thank you to the guys who sent in their answers. We know 2020 for a lot of people hasn't been the year we expected and this is particularly prevalent for those who started their career away from education this year.
At Sphere Future Talent, we are supporting young people to get into work and are here to help!
If you have any questions about your job search (or are a client looking to hire), please do reach out to our Future Talent team who will be happy to help - email@example.com or call 0203 728 2973
Senior Manager – Sphere Future Talent Recruitment
In case you missed it:
- The essential guide to CV writing
- Building culture remotely
- Staying motivated whilst working from home
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