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Kevin Mack
Kevin Mack

Posted on • Originally published at on

How to start a New Job in a Pandemic

So if you find me on LinkedIn, you know that I recently changed job at my current company. And changing roles is something that many of us have had to deal with several times in our careers. Even if you’ve been able to work at the same place for most of your career, it’s more than likely that you’ve had to change roles, or even teams at one point.

Now this time was a little different, mainly because it was in a pandemic. In previous roles, I would say I was a “mobile worker” and then a mix of “remote and mobile” (probably a blog post on the differences coming). But in all cases, I would go to an office for the initial transition, and at least meet people face to face. But thanks to COVID-19, that became impossible.

So this was the first time I’ve had to transition jobs in a completely remote position. And more than that I’ve noticed I’m not alone, having friends who are going through the exact same thing. Now through this experience, there were somethings I was able to do to help myself, and other things I learned for next time. And in this post I hope to capture both. So here are some tips and tricks to starting a new job in a 100% remote capacity.

Tip #1 – Make sure you fully transitioned

This is the first thing I will point out, and may not apply to everyone. If you are changing roles at your current company though, this can definitely be important. As you gear up to transition from one role to another, it’s especially important that you make sure you are able to close out your current responsibilities to prepare for your new roles responsibilities. This sounds like common sense, but I have seen in the past how this can go horribly wrong.

Because you are a remote worker, its easy for some manager or team mates to think that because you aren’t physically moving, or are still working for the same organization that you can be available after your start date at your new position. This is a slippery slope in my experience that should be avoided. The simple fact is this, its not fair to you, your previous team, or your new team for your attention to be divided. Now I’m not saying you should be a jerk about this, and it’s a scorched earth policy when you leave your old team. But I am seeing be cautious about taking on responsibilities after you start your new position.

Like it’s one thing, for some one your old team to reach out with questions or asking you for context on something. It’s another entirely for you to be working on key deliverables or attending meetings for your old team after you start date at the new position. Remember to be respectful of all sides, and I will say that for this to work, you need to respect this tip as well.

More than likely you gave a certain amount of notice, and I’ve seen way too many people take those 2 weeks as a “I’m just going to coast out and then pick up my new position.” This is absolutely the wrong behavior. You have a responsibility to your old team to do as much as you can in the two weeks to set them up for success in the transition. For example, doing the following actions:

  • Document everything you can about your current projects, things like:
    • State they are in
    • Why certain decisions were made
    • Key team members who were part of the conversations
    • where to find certain things
    • key concepts and processes
  • Setup meetings with your backfills early, and make sure they have time to consume everything and understand what is going on.
  • Communicate with team members and others as much as you can to make sure nothing gets dropped.
  • Document any processes you do to help them pick them up.

Tip #2 – Make sure you have a meeting with your new manager day 1

This one feels kind of obvious, but again, some people miss it. You really need to make sure you have a meeting with your new manager as soon as possible. This is going to be to set the foundation of your relationship with them.

You need to make sure you have this meeting as this is the time to make sure you focus on the following key areas:

  • Expectations on communication
  • Expectations on delivery and focus
  • Key objectives and things you can help with
  • How to engage with the team
  • What is their preference means of communication?
  • What are their working hours?
  • What is a reasonable response time?
  • What kind of regular cadence should you set up? And who defines the agenda?

Tip #3 – Make sure you talk about team culture

The above meeting with your manager is a great time to have this conversation. And this is one of those things everyone over looks, but is probably the most important. In a pre-COVID world, you would discover the nature of the team naturally. You would talk to your team mates, and find out how they work. And let’s be honest, some of these things could be taken for granted. But with the advent of remote work, all of the old assumptions are out of the window. So you need to take the time to figure out what the culture of Thea team is, and by that I. Mean things like this:

  • Are there regular cadence calls?
  • Do people prefer phone or face to face?
  • Is there a preference for camera use?

Tip #4 – Ask for an “onboarding buddy”

This is extremely important, Onboarding in a vacuum is completely impossible. And even the best manager in the world isn’t going to be able to talk about everything. And to be honest, even if they want to, team dynamics are always going to be different.

Let’s face it, people behave differently for their managers than they do for their other team members. Plus, most managers I’ve known are very busy people, and the demands of onboarding someone can be problematic.

So a good solution is to ask your manager for an “onboarding buddy,” and the idea is this is someone who you can check in with on a daily basis. The goal being that you can check in with on a daily basis to make sure things are going well and that you are aligning properly.

Tip #5 – Make sure you have explicit direction

I find too often, and I’m including myself in this, I am afraid to step back and say, I’m not entirely clear on what you are looking for. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you don’t have an understanding of your direction and next steps. Make sure you get explicit instructions from your new manager on what you’re priorities should be and what you are going to be working on.

Tip #6 – Make sure you are able to contribute early

Look for ways to dive in, I hate to say this, but most onboarding is fairly generic, and the best way to get to know the team is to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Find ways that you can help them with what they are working on right now.

Don’t be pushy about it but just ask “How can I help?” Or look for things you feel comfortable taking on early. The best way to get to know a team is by getting in a foxhole with them and showing value.

Tip #7 – Start in listening mode

One of the biggest mistakes, I see over and over again is that people show up to a team and start saying “we should do this differently?” It is pretty presumptuous to walk in to a team that has been working together and start with a “You’re doing it wrong.” It also causes you to miss out on a lot of learning and would recommend you take the time to really make sure you understand how the team works, and the “Why?” before you start throwing out ideas for changes.

So there are some of my initial thoughts on how to join a team remotely.

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