Starting a new job amidst the pandemic?
You probably already know that it’s going to be a lot different from your previous work experiences. From that interview you had on Google Meet weeks ago to the virtual onboarding on Monday morning — which were both used to be done in formal face-to-face setup pre-pandemic — your new job will revolve around your laptop screen.
This also means you’d be meeting your bosses and colleagues for the first time through that small screen. That should be less scary than in-person interactions, right? You’re wrong. Now that you’re relying on your pixelated (and often choppy) video as you introduce yourself to strangers-cum-new workmates, you’ll have to double your effort in creating good first impressions.
The way you talk, tilt your head, move your hand, and even how you arrange that bookshelf on your background, will be taken as reflections of who you are. And because you’re also basically a stranger to those you’re talking with on your screen, those things — however seemingly trivial — will play a big role on how your new colleagues will interact with you in the future.
Here are some thoughtfully curated tips from global industry experts on how you can make a good first impression and stand out at your new job, virtually.
First and foremost, turn your camera on during a virtual meeting.
Keep your energy high and positive
Did you know that your body language subconsciously affects others? It’s all about mirror neurons — neurons in our brain that react both when we do something as well as when we witness another person doing something. Understanding that you can quite literally have the other person experience the same emotions or behavior that you’re putting out is a key insight for any communication, but particularly in the further abstracted form of a video or audio call.
So if you want a good outcome at the end of your call, focus on spreading the good vibes. Start the conversation with a huge, infectious smile and be as warm and expressive as you can. Be mindful of the energy that you’re bringing into the call, and be proactive in injecting positive energy.
Does your team prefer email, informal chats like Slack, or calls when it comes to catching up about something? Pay attention to how people interact with one another and use it as a guide. This can be different for everyone, so make note of your manager’s and individual teammates’ communication styles and adapt to what is best received. You can even ask these questions upfront when working with someone, hearing whether they would prefer emailed questions on a project or a call to check in can go a long way.
In the beginning, keep written communication as neutral as possible until you’ve got a feel for the overall culture - avoid using slang and emojis at first, for example. Also make all of your communications clear and purposeful. The upside to being remote is that you can more easily control and be prepared for how you come across to those you work with at each interaction, meaning you can ensure that you make a great impression in your first few weeks of the role.
Ask sensible questions
It’s necessary to walk the line. You don’t want to be completely silent because that might make it seem like you don’t care or aren’t interested. You also don’t want to obsessively ask questions just to seem engaged, as you could end up asking about things you should already know. So, what questions should you be asking?
The most vital queries pertain to organizational structure. Collaboration is tough when people are working remotely, and relies heavily on strong communication and awareness of core processes. So, asking about who you should report to if there’s a problem, for instance, will show that you understand this. Your goal with your questions should be to save the company time and money. If you get that across, you’ll be seen as a valuable addition before you’ve even completed any real work.
Be ambitious, but don’t rock the boat
You definitely should speak up, contribute to projects and discussions and make recommendations for improvement if you see processes, policies or bottlenecks that seem to be hindering productivity, but do so within reason. As a new hire, you may not understand the context about a policy or process, so tread lightly. Ask questions first, and then assess whether or not you should suggest alternatives.
Show that you’re listening
The comfort and trust you build is what ultimately cements your value as a team member and makes your colleagues grateful to have you on their side. Here’s another tip that can help you get there.
You can make conversation feel conversational, by focusing on something that your coworker shared during a meeting. Something like, “Hi, I was so excited by that idea you mentioned today, I would love to hear how you first came up with it,” will be received better than a standard, “Hi, how are you?” The former is more likely to make your counterpart feel engaged in the conversation and believe you are engaged in the work. When you communicate that you want to learn more, you’re showing your human side and permitting your colleague to do the same.
Don’t be so quick to try this move on everyone, though, especially if you don’t really mean what you say. You want to make sure you’re being authentic in your interactions. Authentic can feel broad, but think about what you really care about and connect with people on those values. The trust will come.