Illustration by Marian Blair
There are quite a few boxes to check when you start a new job. You’ll be expected to get to know your colleagues, familiarize yourself with organizational systems, and make a good impression, all while doing work that may be completely new to you. That’s already a lot, but having to juggle all of these challenges in a remote work environment may introduce additional hurdles.
We’ve talked to social-impact professionals who made it through this very situation, and we picked up a few tips to help you along your way. Read on to see how you can ensure a successful remote onboarding experience.
Put together a plan for your first 100 days
Every journey is easier when you have a map. As you embark on your new role, it’s important to have a clear idea of what’s expected of you and what you hope to achieve. A comprehensive plan for your first 100 days on the job can help to eliminate the guesswork and clarify measurable goals to make sure you’re progressing and moving in the right direction.
Some organizations offer planning templates as part of their onboarding process, but if they don’t, create your own using our First 100 Days guide. While tailoring your plan to suit your specific needs, keep these basics in mind:
- Split your plan into three sections, roughly a month each.
- Identify clear areas of focus, and add specific goals with metrics to track and measure your progress. Also, make sure these points align with any quarterly or annual goals your employer asks you to work toward.
- Ask yourself questions to help you identify milestones, such as “What are my primary responsibilities? What are my long-term project goals? What does success look like in this role, and how can I measure it?”
After you prepare your plan, make sure to get your manager’s feedback. After all, a map is only useful if it’s getting you where you need to go. Your manager will have a firm handle on where your organization’s goals and aspirations lie, and can serve as a valuable resource . Sharing your plan will also make a lasting impression, fostering a sense of camaraderie about your mutual ambitions for the organization and showing that you’re committed to flourishing in your new position.
Make your first day easier by prepping and checking in beforehand
Most of us have had that dreaded first-day-of-school experience, where we’re new, we’re lost, and we have no clue what to do. It’s easy to forget that a lot of the time we can get what we’re looking for if we just ask. There are even ways to get the jump on certain things before you begin working. Here are a few ideas for getting yourself set up and ahead of the game.
Request materials and documents in advance of your start date. See if there is anything your new employer can offer to let you in on your team’s process before your first day. Most organizations send onboarding documents in advance, but you can also request reports, outlines of previous projects—anything to help you get acclimated to and prepared for your specific role. The more information you have beforehand, the easier it’ll be when you show up for your first day.
See if there are other ways to dip a toe before diving in. Depending on your situation, you could ask to listen in on important meetings or be CC’d on emails in advance of your start date. There may be a few reasons your employer wouldn’t be open to this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask! If you’re unsure how to word such a request, try something like this:
I’m really looking forward to getting started! If you would be willing, I’d love to listen in on meetings that may be relevant to my work, or be CC’d on emails that come up between now and when I start. This way I can get a feel for our workflow and team interactions, as well as projects coming down the pipeline that I should learn more about.
You might find this an odd or tricky ask, but if you frame your message as coming from a place of enthusiasm and conscientiousness, your new employer will likely see it as evidence of your work ethic rather than an intrusion. On your side of things, it’s important to remember that this isn’t meant to get you working before you actually start working. Instead, think of it as a way for you to match your pace with your teammates before being passed the baton.
Make an extra effort to get to know co-workers
Perhaps the most important aspect of starting a new role is building relationships with colleagues. This can be more difficult in our new virtual paradigm, where we lack the benefits of casual conversation struck up in the halls or kitchen of a shared office. Here are some things you can do to get things rolling.
Do some research. Most organizations have a staff page on their website with photos and short employee bios. Review what’s available—especially about your own team—and try matching names to faces. Commit a few tidbits to memory that you can reference when you finally meet. Don’t think of it as homework, but rather an act of discovery. The goal is to get to know your colleagues and maybe even make some new friends, so keep the focus on what piques your interest. This will help break the ice when you meet and can foster some of that human connection that may be missing when interacting via computer screens.
Have one-on-one or small group introductory meetings. Holding more intimate meetings will give you a better opportunity for meaningful connections. If your organization doesn’t already include this in the onboarding process, reach out to your supervisor and ask about setting them up. Try to keep your agenda relatively loose, and remember that the goal of these conversations is to try and connect with the people in the room (or on the screen). If you need more structure, prepare a short personal introduction and use your research to come up with questions for your colleagues.
Lastly, be sure to spread your meetings out over your first few weeks. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and give you time to internalize what you learn.
As you work through onboarding remotely, keep in mind that most of us are new at this—your organization included. Cut yourself some slack, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Before you know it you’ll be all settled in, and you might even end up showing another new recruit the ropes.
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