Congratulations on landing your first full-time position! In a normal year, transitioning into an in-person full-time role is a challenging, immersive, hands-on experience that often serves as the center of gravity for life as a working adult. This step is made even more challenging in a socially distant world. This guide will help you think about how to best position yourself for a successful transition to a remote full-time position after graduation.
Before you start work
First, schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss the logistics of your position as well as mutual expectations and goals for you and for the work to be completed.
Topics for discussion include:
- your start date
- daily hours and method for tracking those hours
- technical equipment needed and offered
- identification needed and forms to complete for tax documentation
Follow up on your conversation with an email summarizing your discussion and conveying your enthusiasm for the position. Let your supervisor know how to contact you prior to your start date.
Working remotely will likely require you to be highly motivated and a self-starter. But you should still expect some level of instruction, support, supervision, and mentorship as a virtual new employee, just as you would in an office environment. Employers should plan to share work examples and templates, discuss communication preferences, and establish project timelines and due dates. Decide on a weekly check-in day and time with your supervisor to provide updates on your work, ask questions, and get regular feedback on your work or project.
Deliver on what your manager asks for before seeking new or additional work. Think back to your first year at Harvard—you had to learn how to be a Harvard student, before you could be your best Harvard self. The same will be true in your first post-grad position. You will need to “build your toolkit” and prove that you can handle the core functions of your new role before you take on “stretch roles” that can set you apart.
Here are some specific tips to position you to deliver impact while working remotely*:
- Establish your work from home (WFH) space: Find a well-lit area in your home or apartment with an inviting background for virtual meetings. Position your camera slightly above face level, which may require placing your laptop on a raised surface.
- Test your tech: Try out your work laptop, phone, and VPN connection (if required by your employer). See if you have enough broadband speed, a strong Wi-Fi connection, and working login information.
- Clarify expectations: Inquire about protocols. For example, are emails best for formal communications and online chat functions better for informal discussions? Find out what decisions your manager needs to be involved in and those you can make on your own.
- Structure your day: Even before you have your official work schedule of virtual meetings, phone calls, and deadlines, it is important to create your own daily framework. If you start your mornings with a walk, jog, or yoga, then schedule that in. Be sure to include scheduled breaks during your day to maintain your well-being and keep yourself alert and productive.
- Connect with coworkers: Be proactive about getting to know your new teammates. Research your peers by reading their LinkedIn profiles and ask them about their work history, education, and interests. Find out from your supervisors if there are “virtual coffees” you should grab with co-workers you need to introduce yourself to and whether there are social activities happening that you could participate in. Ask if there are employee resource groups hosting regular talks or Slack channels focused on things you enjoy.
- Balance work and life: If you’re feeling lonely, reach out to good friends or family members to connect. Choose people who are good at emotionally supporting you and can give you a pep talk. Checking in with someone at the end of the workday is a great way to transition from work back into personal time.
Congratulations as you graduate from Harvard and launch into your professional career!
*Adapted from the May 2020 Wall Street Journal article: “How to Ace Your First Job After College. Remotely.”