Changing your job during a global pandemic.
Exactly one month ago today I got onto the tube and headed into central London (for the first time in months) glasses fogging as I struggled with a mask and Metro. My destination? The Lightbox, an office building at the top of Charing Cross Road, and home to 3MonkeysZeno, where I was about to start my first day as MD.
It’s the most cliched of clichés, but I did feel like the new girl in school. Except when I arrived my classroom was empty. Well, almost empty. Four souls, seeking a whiff of pre-Covid normality had come into the office. But beyond them were a lot of people free desks. I knew, of course, that this induction was going to be different. But it was only when I saw all of that by-the-square-metre space, that I realised just how different.
One month later and we’re back in lockdown. I look respectable from the waist up, like Homer Simpson (in girth and attire) from the waist down. But the wheels are still on the bus and the smoke is starting to blow away. Starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic hasn’t been easy, but I’m so happy I took the leap.
Here are five things I’ve learned during my time as a remote new joiner.
Don’t be remote. It’s bleedin’ obvious, but you’ve got to lean-in to the tech. Without the social glue of chat by the coffee machine, in the lift or (sooo sadly missed) in the pub, you lose a thousand small moments to connect. I’m halfway through spending a one on one hour with everyone in the London office, and lots beyond, and every conversation is illuminating or a joy. Some are both.
Give yourself time. Every newbie, especially, I suspect, in our industry, wants to throw themselves in headfirst. But the first few weeks in a new role are a window. You can observe. On day two a wise woman said to me, hang back a little. She was right.
Be an idiot if you need to be. You’ll be forgiven. Now’s the time to ask every stupid question you can think of. Everything is tougher to pick up remotely, and you don’t have the benefit of being able to sidestep up to someone’s desk for advice. So be shameless and brave and ask, ask, ask away. Just not to the same person.
Revisit e-mail. A practical tip. In a new job your inbox will start to trickle, then flow, then flood. E-mail is our circulation system, it just keeps on going. In week one 80% of your e-mails will make no sense. Find time to go back and re-read them. What at first appeared as impenetrable as Elvish will, by week four, make (some) sense.
What’s your leave behind? Every interaction in the early days matters. With all of the nuances and interpretive cues of real life gone, you need to think about the impression you leave via the small screen. Every time I have a call I remember this question from Tom de Long, a brilliant and generous Harvard Business School professor I was fortunate enough to meet as part of an exec training programme. His question was this – how do people feel as a result of interacting with you? I try to make that a private agenda point on every call, every day.
If you’re thinking about something new, don’t let COVID be a brake. As the wise Mr Matt Lucas said on Bake Off this week, fortune favours the bold. Just make sure you get the two P’s right – people and place. One month in and I’m lucky enough to have found both.