New job, new normal, new learnings: my top tips for starting a job during lockdown

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New job

When I was offered the Community Engagement Development Worker role at Salford CVS, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was so thrilled to have been offered the position, but I was also sad to be leaving my old job and nervous about starting my new role in lockdown.

Despite it being a strange time to start a new job I feel so lucky to have joined such a friendly and welcoming team. I’m even luckier in the fact I feel I’m part of two teams: Salford CVS and Answer Cancer.

Answer Cancer is the programme that I’m working on. It’s the working name of the Greater Manchester Screening Engagement Programme and a joint partnership between Salford CVS, BHA for Equality, Unique Improvements and VSNW. Over the past 2 years the team have been working relentlessly to improve cancer awareness and increase uptake of cancer screening across Greater Manchester.

New normal

After spending the best part of a year working remotely in my previous role, I knew what I was getting into. I wouldn’t naturally bump into people by the kettle or attend a staff meeting where we’re all sat next to each other in a conference room grabbing at the biscuit tin; but still I was excited for my new (mostly virtual) chapter.

My new normal involves one day working from the office and four days working from home. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to go into the office once a week so I can meet my colleagues face to face and have some form of pre-COVID normality back.  

New Learnings

Starting a new job in lockdown has been a huge new learning experience for me - here are my five top takeaways I’ve learnt so far…

Give yourself time

Even at the best of times starting a new job is challenging but trying to understand new processes and meet new people in a virtual world is hard. There’s so much information to take on board, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. Remember you’re only human – take your time to read through documents and give yourself some space to gather your thoughts. When you’re starting a new role it’s so temping to just through yourself at everything – you want to make a good first impression, stay busy and keep organised but it’s not always the best way. I’m six weeks into my new role and I still feel like I’m experiencing information overload. I’ve had to accept that it will take a little longer to understand all the elements of my new role and that I’m working through my to-do list slower than I would have liked, but that’s OK. Taking your time to fully understand your responsibilities and familiarise yourself with the content of your work will ultimately be more helpful in the long run.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

When you’re working remotely it feels a bit strange asking for help. What was once a quick ‘do you have a minute’ in the office is now feels much more formal. But in my experience the biggest benefit of starting a new job in the middle of a global pandemic is that everyone will be more supportive than normal. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been incredibly reassuring and helpful, recognising that it’s a challenging time to start a new role. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions – everyone’s living through the same lockdown and more often than not they’ll be eager to help you however they can.

Build your network

Making connections with local organisations and community groups is an excellent way to learn more about the area you’re working in. By speaking to people who are working in a similar field you can learn from each other by discussing what’s gone well and what challenges you’ve overcome.

Lockdown has provided a wealth of networking opportunities with many organisations delivering free training workshops, webinars, and conferences. They’re a great starting point to build your connections and add key contacts to your network.

Have a routine and take breaks

Establishing a routine is an excellent way to help keep you focused and be productive when working from home. I try my best to start and finish work at the same time each day. I also find it helpful take some time to review my tasks and priorities each morning, so I’m prepared for the day ahead.

Staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day is exhausting! Scheduling regular breaks into my calendar reminds me to step away from my laptop. Even if it’s just getting up to make a brew or do a few paces up and down your kitchen, it helps. I make sure I take my lunch break away from my desk – I find it helps to clear my head and return for a productive afternoon.

Finish work on time

When we’re working from home it’s so easy to get swept up in work and continue typing away late into the evening. At the beginning of lockdown, I found it quite difficult to close my laptop and switch off. With no commute I felt I’d lost that cooling down period where I could mentally process everything that had happened that day and start to compartmentalise anything work related. Now I make the effort to finish work on time and go for a short walk around the block, this helps me to separate work and home life.

Salford CVS
Author: 
Jade Gregory-Haselden, Community Engagement Development Worker, Answer Cancer

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Salford CVS is the city-wide infrastructure organisation for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector; providing specialist information, advice, development support and opportunities for influence and collaboration.

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