Starting a new job during the coronavirus pandemic? Here's what I've learned

One of TODAY.com's newest team members shares her tips for starting a new job during the coronavirus pandemic.
I've heard each of my co-workers' voices only a handful of times.
I've heard each of my co-workers' voices only a handful of times.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

When I accepted my job as a weekend editor for TODAY.com this past spring, the idea of walking into 30 Rock every day made me giddy with pride. I worked for a few media companies before this, but none with such a storied headquarters, where I could potentially catch a glimpse of Jimmy Fallon, the "Saturday Night Live" cast or my favorites, Savannah and Hoda.

Well, so much for that.

I took the subway to pick up my laptop from the office in mid-March and haven't been back since. I can't remember where my desk is (even though I dropped off a keyboard and mouse there — I definitely should've taken those with me!). The only in-person interaction I've had with my boss was when she interviewed me, and I've heard each of my co-workers' voices only a handful of times.

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These sound like irrelevant details — and in many ways they are — but until this experience, I didn't realize how much of my confidence in job security and performance come from actually knowing the people I work with. For me, at the beginning, it was a lot.

But as I've gotten to know people virtually and tried my hardest to prove myself, I'm starting to feel like part of the team. Here's what I've learned about starting a new job during the coronavirus pandemic.

Get out of your social comfort zone.

Naturally, one of the biggest hindrances of working remotely right away is that you're IM'ing people you've never met. I get to know people through humor, and I've never quite mastered the art of the GIF.

I recommend trying to be yourself on Slack and in emails, even if it feels weird. When I decided to share my interests and bizarre areas of expertise, I had more people asking me for advice, and that led to virtually meeting new team members and learning new aspects of our workflow.

Set work-life boundaries.

At a new job, you usually want to go above and beyond to prove that your new company made a good choice. When I was going through this phase, I was inside all day because there was a pandemic outside my front door. I took basically every assignment I was given because, hey, what else was there to do?

With the coronavirus keeping us home more than usual for several more months at least, I'd advise making the most of your work hours and putting in a little extra, if you want. But know that no one is expecting you to work yourself into exhaustion just because you're new.

Seek people out one-on-one.

Group chats are great, but you learn so much more about people by messaging them one-on-one. If you have a reason to do it, all the better, but a genuine compliment on a recent assignment or a quick question about the individual's job can get the ball rolling.

Take lots of notes.

Asking the same question more than once in person is standard, but emailing or Slacking it over and over can get frustrating; both for yourself and the recipient. I started a running notes document and organized it by my different professional responsibilities.

That way, when changes to workflow happen, as they often do these days, you have somewhere to write them down, and you'll need to ask for clarifications much less frequently.

Screen-sharing is the BEST.

At TODAY, everyone was eager to teach me the minutiae of our website, but figuring out the most effective way to do so was a challenge. Enter screen-sharing.

Whenever someone is showing you how to do something, ask them to share their screen and do an audio call as well. Seeing things in action and hearing them described at the same time was a game-changer.

Ask for more feedback than usual.

I can't stress this enough: Your co-workers and superiors understand that you're learning a lot all at once with no one to hold your hand. So take advantage of it. Ask for them to tell you when you've made a mistake (it's expected!) and more generally how you're fitting into the team.

Feedback can be scary, especially when you've never met the person giving it to you, but consider feedback your work best friend. Don't worry, you'll make another soon enough!