There’s no shortage of content on how to work from home, so if you’re here, you hopefully appealed to my message to recent grads — probably because you’ve read some of that content, but it seems tailored for seasoned professionals… and you may or may not really feel like a professional (yet). That’s okay!
New hires who are recent college grads fulfill a niche part of this messaging, but are perhaps in the biggest lurch. With everything to gain (but most likely, in your opinion, everything to lose) from having a clean slate and just entering your industry in a junior role, it can feel like your professional learning has been put on a major pause.
Without in-person mentoring, office culture, events, and everyday body language to guide you, it’s much harder to establish a good working rapport with your new colleagues and pick up on subtle cues you can use to advance your communication skills. While you might be worried about your hard skills, it’s more than likely your soft skills that are really troubling you — I know, no one wants to come back to the office acting “too young” after months of quarantine.
Rest assured, your head is in the right place, but don’t stress! I’ve been told that it comes as a slight surprise to many, but I too am actually a recent graduate! I made this same adjustment long before COVID, as my first full time experience was entirely remote. Read on for the tips I used to continue advancing my career onward and upward while finding success in my role, from the most popular questions I’ve received myself.
Don’t worry, as one myself, I know that focusing in 50 directions is a Gen Z personality trait. And if I can hazard a guess, it’s probably that you may not need overtime, it’s your stress over feeling behind making it hard to focus, or feeling like you are socially obliged to work longer hours.
It may be the most common advice to date, but if you see your friends #grinding because they're "the newbie”, don’t compare your work experience to theirs. Glorifying overwork as a junior hire or intern can lead to toxic work habits over time.
If you can, log off several hours before you plan to wind down for the evening. Instead of feeling like you're restricting your time, practice thinking of it as compacting your time. Try giving yourself the mindset that you can, in fact, accomplish one day’s work in 8 hours.
Remember, no logically sound human expects you to conjure experience you don’t have. That said, I know that first roles can be dicy. If a colleague outside your immediate team challenges you for a small mistake, find a polite way to both apologize and remind them that you’re still learning. You don’t have to feel bad for not knowing something, but instead, make it clear that you want to improve. Which leads me to….
Begin and dedicate a physical, running list (outside your own head) of what trips you up in the week. This can be everything as small as how to plan a meeting to bigger concepts for your projects. Include interactions with peers that you found challenging.
Putting these issues into a list means they’re not floating around as worries, because it’s now a to-do list, and all you have to do is… do it. Write down your concerns as bullet points and keep on working, so you don’t have to stress about them.
See what issues recur from week to week, prioritize them, and bring the list with you to any regular onboarding or check in meetings with a trusted person. If you can, ask them how to handle interactions with colleagues who aren’t as aware of your circumstances, and remember — part of standing up for your own experience is part of creating a successful career.
Anyone who has been working long enough to give you advice knows this too — and if they’re rooting for you (which they probably are), they want you to learn this and be successful because of it.
It may be hard to swallow, but you really can trust your senses — so you may already know who you look up to at work. This is a good thing! Who do you like talking to the most, and why?
There’s a saying I like to use which says “Don’t compare yourself to someone you wouldn’t trade lives with” — this is true for work as well. When you find a few people whose work you appreciate, email them and say honestly that you’ve been wanting to improve navigating work from home as a new joiner, and that you’d like feedback on how you’re doing. Spend a few minutes getting to know them.
Some might decline, which is fine too. But if and when you find one or a few people who give you feedback and you enjoy talking to, stick with it. Taking advice from someone you have fun talking with will make you feel so much better about learning and growing with your new role. And now, you can feel like you have office friends.
Remember, you’re making the most of a less than ideal scenario. Don’t be too hard on yourself if solutions come slowly, or you have a few missteps. It can feel amplified without coworkers physically around to talk to, but it can be incredibly helpful to virtually talk things out on a regular basis — if not with someone from work, then with a friend in your field.
More often than not — you’re doing a great job with the experience you have. It can be easy to gloss over when you don’t have nods and smiles to see in person, but it’s the most important thing to keep in mind.