June 23, 2020

Office Hours: How to Start a New Job Remotely

This post originally appeared on Medium.

Starting a new job always comes with a mixture of feelings. On one hand, you’re excited! You nailed that interview process, accepted a good offer, and you’re looking forward to whatever the new company and title will bring. On the other, you’re the new kid! You’ve only met your new manager and a handful of your future team members throughout the interview process. You told them what you can do and now you have to show and prove. All of this can drum up tons of internal questions. Will you really knock those projects out of the park? Will the team get your jokes? Will your new coworkers really like you? Will you like them?

With companies building remote teams, this angst can be magnified if you’re starting your job while working from home. No office to go into can mean no first day lunch to get to know your new team. No coworkers sitting close by to ask simple questions, and fewer opportunities to strike up casual conversations and build relationships. If your interview process was fully virtual — just phone and video interviews — that can just drive up the first day jitters even more.

While fully remote work may be new to a lot of companies, many startups have long worked this way. We’ve both remotely onboarded new members of Team VFA and coached our Fellows through a similar process. Starting a new job remotely can pose its own unique challenges but it can still be done successfully. Follow these tips to make sure you start the new job on the right foot, even if you’re not stepping foot in an office.

Ask about your onboarding.

You went through all the interviews, you impressed the team, and you got the offer. But once you accept, immediately turn your thoughts to how you can be successful in the role. After you’ve agreed upon your start date, ask your new manager or team about what you should expect from your onboarding. This will give you a better sense how your new team is thinking about bringing you into the fold.

If you get the sense that there is no planned or structured onboarding, give some thought to it yourself. Ask your new manager if you can set up intro meetings with the key teams and people you’ll be working with.

Double up on status meetings.

Startups move quickly and often your manager will have a full workload of projects of their own. In fact, it may have been that heavy workload that convinced the team that they needed to hire someone new in the first place. Every additional employee is a pretty big added expense for a growing company so startups don’t typically hire unless they really need the help.

All of this means that your manager may not have the bandwidth to spend a ton of time with you. We typically advise new hires to schedule at least a weekly standing meeting with their direct manager to discuss the status of their current projects, feedback on their work, and any other topics that may arise. If you and your manager won’t be sitting in the same office, or even the same state, you’ll need more regular touchpoints at the outset to make sure that you’re on the right path.

Right when you start, set up at least two weekly meetings to go over your work with your manager. You may even want to have a short daily check-in to make sure you’re on the right path with your work. It may sound like a lot, but when we say short, we mean no more than 15 minutes. This kind of regular touchpoint will help you and your manager build rapport and will make sure that you’re delivering the kind of work that is expected.

Be proactive about relationship building.

One thing that’s lost when working fully remotely are organic opportunities to get to know the other members of your team. There’s no office pantry or water cooler where you can chat about your latest binge-worthy TV obsession. You can’t tag along with coworkers going out to grab lunch from the local deli.

However, you can be proactive about recreating these kinds of opportunities, albeit virtually. Depending on the size of the company, set a goal to virtually meet as many of your coworkers as you can during your first few months. Send a calendar invite for a virtual coffee with the only goal of getting to know the people you’ll be working with better. If you’re joining a team of less than 50 people, you should aim to connect with each of them within your first 90 days. Don’t worry if you can’t get time on every person’s calendar, but the fact that you tried will serve you well in the future by showing that you made the effort to connect despite the physical distance between you.

Show some personality.

In the early days at a new company, you definitely want to make sure that you are projecting an impression of yourself as a competent, diligent professional. You also want to make sure that your new team gets a chance to know the real you too. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through in your interactions, even if they’re only digital.

If your team has Slack channels that aren’t work related, chime in. Tell them about the great new series you found on streaming or the YouTube channel you can’t get enough of. Leading a meeting? Feel free to start with a quick ice breaker to help you get to know your new team better and for them to get to know you.

No matter what the circumstance, starting a new job can feel daunting. Remember, if you got the job in the first place, it’s because your new team believed you were qualified and could be successful. Even if you’re starting your job remotely, find comfort and encouragement in realizing that you’re exactly where you need to be.

Posted in: Office Hours