It is hard to fathom that we have been amid a global pandemic for over a year now. What is more unbelievable is all my fellow college graduates and I were thrust into professional careers at the start of a period of this major change with little time to change our plans. The business world took a wallop when COVID-19 struck and many were forced into a new work atmosphere that required learning to efficiently work from home. The purpose of this blog is to share five things I've learned coming into the workforce during a global pandemic. There is a bit of advice sprinkled throughout but your solutions and/or takeaways should cater to your individual needs.
1. Readjusting expectations of yourself and your current life. The first time I heard there was a new sickness spreading rapidly across the world, I was covered in glitter at a music festival over 1,000 miles from the university that I was attending at the time. I was not expecting my life to change so suddenly and was terribly (and I mean terribly) surprised when the university emailed me telling me to quickly get my things and go home to my parent's house. We were told not to expect a graduation ceremony and our in-person classes would be finished online, diminishing our chances of saying our final goodbyes to our professors. I learned quickly that I needed to readjust my expectations about what my life was going to be like or I was going to be disappointed with the new life I had to work with. A great place to start is to reach out to your boss and align their work expectations with your own! If you feel that you are outputting great work chances are your personal life will also begin to fall into place with greater ease.
2. Lean on team members. If you are the "New Kid" and you have not yet made a strong work relationship, I strongly encourage you to reach out and create a connection. Having a friend at work is the equivalent of exchanging numbers with the person sitting next to you during the first week of college classes. It is someone to rely on when you have a question or if you miss a meeting, they can bring you up to speed and aid in your success. Please note that they should know they can lean on you too. ???? Even if you feel you cannot contribute and provide a symbiotic relationship to a coworker, everybody has something valuable to bring to the workplace. You are not excluded.
3. Make your workspace feel like a workspace. Most of us are working from home, especially us less experienced workers who joined our professions when everything was first switching to working online. Besides the traditional jobs offered to high school and college students, this is the first professional job many of us have experienced. Again, reminiscing back to school, imagine your workspace like your college dorm or house. You most likely set up a work area that suited your needs or you may have gone to the library. The probability that you have a library in your house is slim so create an atmosphere with the aspects of what you enjoyed about the library (the smell of books, total quiet/white noise of students talking, etc.). Luckily for me, my boss covered the expenses for me to buy a new desk, chair, and office supplies. I encourage you to ask your boss what the company is willing to pay for to give you a more comfortable work environment. Once I had a legitimate desk and work area, my performance increased. It feels more like I am going to the office every day instead of completing a task in my bedroom.
4. Keep up with current trends in technology. New professionals, most of the time, are the youngest in a new setting. It is expected more often than not that we have above-average computer skills because we grew up in the generation when computers were popularized. Companies usually expect you to have learned professional computer skills while at university. Use the tools you learned in school (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc.) and add to your growing knowledge base. Be the power tool they expect you to be!
5. Take breaks when you need them. This may seem like a "duh" statement to some. It seems simple and slightly pointless to bring up, however, I realized it is hard for me to justify breaks when I sit all day at home in my pajamas. If you feel the same way, remember this- work is work and regardless of where you do it you are using up energy. We need to listen to our mind and your body. Trust that if you can't keep your eyes open or your mind sharp, it may be time to take a break. Your boss wouldn't want you to hand in a proposal that was written while you were half-dreaming. Do your work when you feel you can put in your best effort. Set up specific times each day that you take a break. It is more organized for you to get into a routine and your coworkers will learn not to bother you during those periods. During your well-deserved breaks choose to do something that relaxes you or gives you energy. This activity is unique for you: it may be household chores, a quick walk, or a healthy snack.
My first year in my post-graduate role has been challenging in many ways, but I'm proud of myself for being flexible and resourceful. Make sure you take time to reflect on what you've accomplished and then if you're like me, get busy making this new year even better.