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How I Made Remote Onboarding Work for Me

To many folks in my circle, I am the quintessential job hopping millennial. After only a few years of using my undergrad degree and a nasty case of burnout, I completely shifted careers. I joined the non-profit sector and landed in the development department, where statistically fundraisers barely last more than a year in a position. I was one of them. Whether it was personal relocation, a poor fit, or organizational restructuring, I have had multiple development jobs within my short tenure. This has lent me a variety of onboarding experiences! Since the onset of COVID, I have been remotely onboarded twice and part of the onboarding process for my successor. Here’s a few lessons learned from my own experience of remote onboarding.

Schedule for Self-Reflection

One of my mentors, Tiffany Chan, introduced me to the practice of reflection specifically within the professional setting. It forced me to stop just “producing” and critically look at my work and experience. The month leading up to my departure from that role, I blocked an hour every Friday. At the end of the hour, I would create an action step, like schedule a goodbye Zoom lunch date with a teammate or update my resume. I was able to pause and process my completed work, my relationship with the organization, and honor those who were a part of my journey. Make self-reflection a priority and schedule out some time to reflect on this season. 

Set Yourself Up for Success

During my reflection I tried to identify patterns and aspects that led to my success. I would ask myself “what were factors that helped me be successful at my work?” Occasionally I found it helpful, to flip the question and determine what impeded it. I then started a dialogue with my new supervisor about the needs that I identified and created a workflow that incorporated their feedback and my needs. Now, I commonly bring up my need for very open communication even as early as the interview process. It helps start an ongoing conversation about my needs as an employee to my supervisor and starts our relationship from a place of shared understanding.

Ask the Question

“You don’t know what you don’t know” is a phrase I live by. When starting a new job, there’s an expectation of a learning curve, so take ownership of the process. Because of remote work, you don’t have the luxury of incidental learning — ask all the questions! I prefer a lot of context before jumping into anything so when I started my new role, I had a list of questions about what had previously occurred. This led the current staff to realize that better documentation processes needed to be established to insure that information was not lost over time. Asking questions can reveal more than you expect!

More Meetings are Okay

In a previous role, part of my first month was to have 30 minute meetings, typically one on ones, with the director of each department. Planning meetings with the directors’ schedules wasn’t easy, however those conversations allowed me — an entry level employee and new to the field — to learn about the organization on a macro-level. Not only did it provide the opportunity to meet and connect with coworkers I probably wouldn’t interact with daily, but it also helped me understand how my role intersected with their departments. Depending on your organization, this may happen organically, however intentionally prioritizing time to build these connections, especially in a remote work environment, goes a long way.

Find Your People

This next tip is one I found specifically helpful when at a PWI (predominantly white institution). Take time to find allies within the organization. Find your go-to people! Make sure you’ve got folks in your corner who can talk you down from a fight or call you in when you need to speak up. Finding allies can feel as challenging as casting a Patronus or as easy as joining an established affinity group. The people who recognize and champion you and your work, those are your people. I have found it helpful for my own mental health as well as my professional career to know I have folks who support me.

Even after finding my stride in my new work environment, I still refer to these tips. When I second guess if I should ask that question or sense the need to realign working styles, I reassure myself that the boldness I had as a new hire is still within me.

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