In the past year, pandemic conditions have resulted in many professionals being hired and onboarded virtually. It’s not uncommon for individuals to start work without ever having stepped into the office or having met their colleagues in the flesh.
If you’ve started your career remotely, you might be struggling with managing relationships, growing your network and getting noticed by your managers in a largely virtual work environment without the benefit of prior in-person experiences.
Here are some ways to get started:
1. Make the Most of Remote Meetings
Try joining meetings a few minutes early. This increases opportunities to have casual conversations with others who might have similarly entered the meeting early. Make small talk to get to know your colleagues better. For example, if you notice something interesting in the background such as a book that you’ve been meaning to read, ask them about it.
During the meeting, you’ll need to be more attentive than others. Always remain visibly engaged. Ask intelligent questions and speak up. This is the best way to be visible. Of course, don’t overdo it. You don’t want to be known as the overly eager newbie who monopolises meetings with your incessant questions and opinions.
2. Post-meeting Engagement
Engagement doesn’t have to end when the meeting ends. Get in touch with a colleague to tell him or her that you found their ideas interesting or if you’d like more information about something they shared during the meeting. This is a great way to deepen your working relationships or even start friendships.
3. Initiate Programmes to Build Relationships
If your employer doesn’t have programmes in place to help you network internally, take the initiative to organise some yourself.
Perhaps you could be the one to organise virtual lunches once a month.
Another way to connect is to offer help. Perhaps some colleagues are struggling with certain digital tools. If you’re good at these things, offer to conduct informal virtual classes. This would make you come across as a proactive and helpful colleague. It would also give you an opportunity to connect more deeply with those you help.
4. Take on Stretch Assignments
More and more managers are seeing the merits of “stretching” their employees developmentally in order to broaden their capabilities.
If you’re offered an opportunity to work in another department for a short period of time, embrace it.
The job will undoubtedly be beyond your current knowledge or skills level, and might make you uncomfortable. However, the benefits could far outstrip the discomfort. Such assignments not only allow you to learn and grow, but also expand your network and build more robust work relationships as you meet and collaborate with colleagues in other departments.
If your manager doesn’t suggest such initiatives, you could make the first move.
Once you’ve settled into your new role and have shown your manager you can handle it well, identify skills you want to improve or learn, and your reasons for wanting to do so. Then ask your manager if there are projects in other departments you could support in order to both add value and learn.
Making meaningful connections with colleagues and making an impression on your managers in a largely virtual work environment is challenging, but certainly not impossible with a little creativity, courage and dedication.