I started my first job in April 2020 – when our roads were empty, arms tired from daily jhaadu and dalgona coffee, and work recently remote.
My quarantined spirits in the first few weeks of entering this largely uncharted territory were confused, but hopeful and high. I googled “work-from-home spaces” and made myself an organised home-office area. I showered before my first meeting every morning. I wrote an article on starting my first job remotely during the lockdown. ‘How was I supposed to enjoy the liberation of the “bhaire” when I was confined to my “ghare”?!’ I questioned in the article. ‘Make connection. Go out of your way. Be grateful,” I suggested in it.
However, as the new normal (ugh) became more normal than new, and no number of Tagore-references could make things better, it became clear that the upcoming journey of working remotely on my first job for the foreseeable future, was going to be much more complex, unfamiliar, and educational than I expected.
Here’s What Working Remotely On My First Job For A Year Has Taught Me
About The World Of Work
Today’s technology and tools have ensured that it can be easy enough to find your footing in terms of your official work, even when you’re starting your job remotely.
The challenges arise in the more intangible and informal aspects of the world of work. What can you communicate via email or text, and what is only appropriate to do on a call? What conversations do you need to schedule an official meeting for?
What is the team dynamic really like? How do you fit in?
Is that word you don’t know the meaning of in your boss’s text a typo, or simply a word you don’t know the meaning of?!
It can be hard to become a ‘working professional at home’, when you don’t have the past experience of a ‘working professional at work’ to replicate.
A lot of professional jargon, unspoken rules of workplace relationships and hierarchical expectations, are things you become aware of and learn only once you’re in the thick of things on your first job. Working remotely on your first job can make you disconnected in a way that makes this process of becoming aware, and adapting, that much harder.
Most offices will have a buddy system when you’re onboarded remotely. Make complete use of this person who is supposed to help you out for the next few weeks. Try to figure out the team dynamics and organizational structure from conversations with them. Ask them any and all doubts you have, no matter how silly.
Even if your organisation doesn’t appoint you a buddy officially, choose someone from your team that you think will be able to help you out. You may feel shy, but the comfort of learning and making mistakes from behind a screen is definitely a perk of working remotely on your first job.
About Investing And Saving
One of the first things I realised is how difficult it can be to save money – especially on your first job, when your entry-level salary is probably not as sufficient for daily expenses as you would like it to be. From travelling to work, to social outings with your colleagues, most of your salary as a fresher is bound to be spent on the “bare minimum”.
‘Your first job is to learn and get as much work experience as you can, not to make money,’ I had always heard. During most of last year however, not only was I exempt from travel, but also most other social expenses. Over the last year then, not only have I had more time than I would have had otherwise, to learn about money management, but also a larger chunk of my money to manage. I was given a chance at being enthusiastic about engaging with savings and investments that few others on their first job would have.
Ignore the people that say it isn’t important to save in your initial work years. Start saving and investing as early as possible, with as small a chunk as you can afford. Even if you can’t save much, learn about taxes, spend a few hours attending workshops on investments, and engage with your finances!
(Continue reading below.)
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About Workplace Friendships
In the article I wrote last year on starting a new job remotely, I asserted how difficult it can be to form connections with your new co-workers when working from home. ‘Turn your camera on! Set up 1:on:1 calls! Text them every day!’ I recommended.
These are all excellent tips to forming as deep a connection as virtual communication allows. But trying to form connections with people you’ve never met before through the chasm of devices and distance can require a lot of energy and enthusiasm – two things that last year didn’t shower us a lot with.
Making conversation and forming a relationship with these strangers you’ve never met and have only seen on staticky video calls, can often be the last thing on the list of tasks you need to do. However, having workplace friendships really can help make your work day infinitely better, especially during a time like this.
You don’t need to have deep, ever-lasting, hanging-out-on-zoom-calls-everyday-after-work, connections with your virtual co-workers – you just need to have connections in the first place. Someone to have your back when you make mistakes (something you’re bound to do on your first job), ask your silly questions to, joke around with every now and then, and vent to. They can make the challenges of your first job that much less daunting.
So… turn your camera on whenever you can! Set up 1:on:1 calls! Text your colleagues every now and then!
As an exercise for this article, I reflected on the person I was a year ago when I started this job.
I had always been more introverted than most, and more relaxed than assertive – traits I was worried would prove challenging at work.
However, I surprised myself by steadily but surely managing to form a work routine at home, that was productive and healthy. I put in the work, took up new challenges, talked to new people, and became more confident in myself.
I had entered the workforce armed with just my writing skills. Not only did I cultivate this skill over the last year, but I also learned new skills in completely new areas, like social media management, writing and shooting for videos, and marketing.
Turns out, even remote working can’t take away the growth and learning that your first job provides you with. I look back on who I was a year ago, and it’s heartening to see how much my (remote) work experience has helped me grow as both a person and professional.
If you’re starting a new job, first or fourth, remotely or in-person, make it an exercise to look back on who you were when you started every 6 months. It’s a great way to remind yourself of how far you’ve come, and be motivated to keep working, learning, and growing!
We often see our work, home, our selves, goals, and experiences as separate entities, divorced from each other. The last year of working from home on my first job taught me many things – most importantly, it forced me to see how intrinsically and intricately connected these aspects of our lives really are, and to treat them as such.
Working remotely on my first job is not something I would have expected to do or desired. Looking back today, however, it’s an experience that, through all it’s ups and downs, learnings and setbacks, I’ll take with me into all my future endeavors.
Did you start your first job remotely? Tell us about your experience and learnings and in the comments below!
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