Tips for Starting a New Job in Covid WFH Times?
January 18, 2022 3:38 AM   Subscribe

Next month I'm starting a new job (yay!) in which I'll be managing a team of about 5 people in a specific technical area. I've managed small teams before, but not in the job I've had for the last 6-7 years, where I was on a team but worked pretty much on my own, without even much direct supervision. Oh and I'm painfully introverted by nature and feel like I've become practically a hermit working from a cave in the past two years...

In this new job my team will be supporting multiple divisions based in the US, as well as projects scattered around the world. This company is one of the biggest in this field and has a reputation for being fairly competitive and aggressive, which I'm not. I've never even met most of the people I'll be working with, and it seems like it will be a slow transition back to being in an office. I'm noting this previous question for things to read, but I'd appreciate your suggestions for the best ways under the current circumstances to get to know and win the respect of the people I'll be supervising and bring them together to build up the actual technical practice, how to do the dreaded "networking" around the company, and perhaps most of all to manage my own emotions, fears, insecurities and "imposter-syndrome-ness" that I fear will come with a transition to a new and scary job.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Work & Money (4 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I will also soon be starting a new job that sounds a bit like yours, working with teams around the world. So I don't have tons of advice from experience but I will be following with interest! Having WFH with different teams for a while now, here are some of the things I plan to do myself:

- Directly ask my manager how socialising works at this company and what is the best way to get to know people so we can work together better.
- Add as many new colleagues as I can on LinkedIn once I vaguely know who they are or have seen them in CC, message them to say hi and introduce myself as I do so. Engage with their content.
- Ask people for "immersion calls". It's a professional-sounding way of saying "let's both have a hot drink on Teams and you tell me all about what you do and how it interacts with what I do. I learn about your work and about you." I think if you kick things off by showing genuine interest in what someone does and how you might be able to help them, then they are often a lot more understanding when you later need help or make mistakes. It is also a quick way of figuring out who to try to avoid.

Hope that helps a little. All the best for your new job!
posted by guessthis at 3:53 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Can you clarify whether you will be WFH, whether the people on your team will be WFH, whether they’re located in your city and whether there’s an eventual plan to return to the office? My advice depends a lot on the WFH situation.

I started a new job last March when everyone was full WFH, and I’m not gonna lie, it was tough. The best thing my boss did for me was arranging 1:1 meetings between me and about a dozen people at the company outside our team — the kind of people who it’s good to know, and I would’ve run into around the office in normal times. It really helped integrate me with the rest of the company, because otherwise it would’ve been months before I met any of those people. So that’s my advice — be proactive about setting up little “get to know you” meetings with people you should know at the company. Ask your boss who you should get to know.
posted by mekily at 3:53 AM on January 18

Best answer: I would recommend asking your boss for a list of people you should get to know, and some help in setting up 1:1 calls with those folks to find out what they do, intro yourself, and generally get to know each other. As a manager, I did this for all my incoming team members to help facilitate their development of relationships across the org and to help them build a more well-rounded view of the company/work/etc, and it is a pretty normal practice. If your manager isn't going to set them up for you, at the very least have them help you make a list of the people they recommend. Then you can reach out directly with something like, "Hello, I am new here and would love a chance to learn more about what you do/what your team does/how we will work together." If you're feeling especially nervous about the ask, you can always say, "My manager suggested I chat with you as a part of my onboarding..." My experience is that most people are excited to be included in acclimating someone new and will make time for a chat.

Before those calls, put together a list of a few questions that you can ask, as well as some bullet points that you want to share about yourself/your work. They know that you don't know that much yet, so they are likely to talk more in these calls, and that's totally okay. Your questions will look pretty much the same for each person in the first few calls, but as you glean more info in your conversations, you'll be able to start asking more detailed q's about how things fit together. And you can always ask the people that you're talking to to connect you with more people or give advice about who else might be a great contact for you in the org. And then you repeat as above. As you're doing all this -- take notes! Then when you reconnect with people, you'll remember what you talked about and be able to differentiate between different perspectives.

As for the team that reports to you, I'd suggest doing a blend of 1:1s and group meetings. You can call it your info-gathering tour, and like above, put together a list of questions that you ask every person so that you can build a baseline understanding of everyone. Make yourself a spreadsheet to keep track. (Good q's: Tell me about your work here, what are our biggest challenges, what are our strengths as a team, how can I help you on your day to day, what are your goals long-term, how can I help you with your career growth?) And then let the conversations grow and evolve based on the individuals. When you get together as a group, acknowledge that you're the odd one out in that you are lacking the same shared knowledge they have, and ask them to bear with you as you acclimate, and then try to make it engaging/fun where they are learning about each other and you, not just sitting there in the group saying things they all know already about each other. This will take time, but getting into a habit of asking an open-ended question each time you gather together (and rotating that responsibility around) is a practice I've enjoyed. (You can get weird/fun with these: what's someplace you'd love to travel, what's something you've read/watched recently and enjoyed, what's your definition of the perfect ripeness for a banana...) And most importantly, follow up on these conversations in future 1:1s, in future group meetings. Show them that they weren't just sharing for you to get something out of it, but that they get something out of it, too -- namely that you are helping them in those areas they mentioned, that you remember what's important to them, that you can be trusted to listen and that you care.

Based on what you've said about being introverted and anxious about this, accept that your first few weeks are going to be uncomfortable before you even get started. Schedule your meetings with breaks in between so you can take a deep breath, process info, and take care of yourself to not get overwhelmed. Set up your home workspace to be soothing. Block out parts of your day for solo onboarding activities like reading stuff quietly on your own/learning software/reviewing data so that you can recharge comfortbaly vs. being engaged with (and/or interrupted by) others for the whole dang day. Also, let yourself get up from your desk whenever you need to and go for a walk/get a snack/do something that calms you. This is another work from home benefit -- you can take care of your own needs much more easily in the ways that feel good for you, and you should allow yourself to take advantage of that.

And when it's time to get on the social calls, try your best to beat those nerves by preparing in advance -- this is one incredible benefit of work from home. You can always have a cheat sheet! You can always take copious notes! No one will know that you are looking at a doc on your screen that has a script to help you get through this. (I do really recommend a script! It will give you comfort and something to fall back on if anxiety makes your mind go blank in the moment. At times, I have hidden the screen with a person's face staring at me BEHIND my script, so I am not feeling so much pressure and can just read and take notes. It is totally fine not to see people's faces 100% of the time, and just because the default is video calls now doesn't mean you have to look at the video. On this point: definitely hide your own face from the video call so that you're not just staring in a digital mirror all day wondering if you look like a person who knows what they're doing. You do know what you're doing and watching your own face is just a distraction in these types of marathons of people-meetings.)

Finally, you can always say at the beginning of a call -- "I'm an introvert so it's a bit unnatural for me to be hopping on all these calls and getting to know so many people at once. I appreciate your taking the time and helping me get off to a good start even if it's a bit awkward." Most people will be able to hear this and be supportive. If they hired you, they want you there, and it benefits everybody to get you started successfully. Good luck!
posted by luzdeluna at 6:54 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @Mekily: We're in the same city. Everyone is WFH for now, the future is TBD, but I think it should be possible to do some one-on-one meetings and even groups either outdoors or with appropriate precautions.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 8:03 AM on January 18

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