My New Normal: Starting a New Job During the Pandemic

By Shirley Lakpa

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How I Found My New Normal

No one could have imagined that this far into 2020 we would still be adapting to a new normal version of the world. Even though the pandemic has altered the world as we know it, we must move forward. It’s about finding “my new normal” for each of us. Jobs have been lost, people have been furloughed or even taken the time to retire. With the realization that stay at home orders would remain in many places we have had to adjust our employment expectations. Maryland, like many states, is going through phased reopening to ensure that we can safely continue life without putting others or ourselves at risk. Workplaces have had to accommodate their need for staff and their staff’s needs as well. 

 

I was fortunate enough to start as a Legal Assistant here at Z Family Law in the beginning of September. The job search process was no different than before: network, inquire about job postings, apply. I’d done many virtual/video interviews in the past and felt prepared for that aspect. 

How to Find a New Job During the Pandemic

A few pro-tips I’ve gathered over the last few years:  

  • Pro-tip #1: Dress from head to ankle for interviews, you never know when you may stand up to grab something
  • Pro-tip #2: Pick your outfit, makeup, tie, hairstyle, etc. ahead of time! You don’t want to feel like you’re rushing to get dressed and worried about the little details of your appearance right before. 
  • Pro-tip #3: Set up where you’ll be sitting for the interview (in your home) at least 30 minutes in advance. At this point you should be dressed, take the time to tidy up your room or office. Record a video of yourself on the device you’ll be using so you can see what’s visible behind you, what you look like and if anything needs to be put out of camera sight. 
  • Pro-tip #4: Practice interview questions you anticipate you’ll be asked, jot down questions you have for the interviewers. Have this information readily available during the interview. 

Following these tips will make you feel more confident and comfortable because you’ll be better mentally and physically prepared. Additionally, in my opinion virtual interviews are much less stressful than in-person interviews. When I’m at home I can control the environment and my level of comfort. I don’t have to worry about transportation or getting lost in the building or feeling nervous simply because I’m unfamiliar with the location. With virtual interviews this is all in your control. 

Accepting My New Normal Job

 

So now that you’ve gotten over the hurdle of interviewing, what do you do after you’ve accepted an offer? First, congratulations! Despite any obstacles the coronavirus threw your way you did it and landed a job. When I received the offer from Z Family Law I was ecstatic and ready to start the onboarding process. As with pre-pandemic, most of this can be done online; it’s my new normal to do what we can virtually. There are a few secure online signing applications that allow you to review documentation and send back signed copies. In my experience typically the employer sends the document through one of these applications and you sign. You’ll want to be briefed on the company COVID policies, what to expect if there is another full shutdown, what did their workplace look like before and what does the workplace look like now? 

One piece of information to gauge is technology requirements and whether your new employer will be providing equipment for you. This is especially important because if, for instance, your position requires special software that your personal laptop doesn’t have, you’ll want to make sure that is accessible to you at home. This may be in the form of a work laptop provided by your employer or a VPN to access employer servers. 

 

After you get the lowdown on how you’ll be working, now you’re ready to actually start. Mentally prepare yourself for the process of getting up and into work. On a typical day I wake up around 6:30 AM, even on the weekends. This has worked well for me to maintain some sort of normalcy over the last few months, but these were days when I was waking up and keeping myself busy. Working out, cooking, essentially giving myself a schedule so I wouldn’t get lost in the sameness of each day. But, waking up at 6:30 AM to stay at home all day or work from home at 9:00 AM is MUCH different than having to be at work and working at 9:00 AM. I had to shift my schedule, factor in travel time and shorten some of my morning leisure time I usually spent working out, reading and cooking breakfast each morning. 

 

I read somewhere that when starting a new endeavor it’s best not to test your willpower in other areas. So, if it’s going to take a lot of energy to get up and out at your designated time, don’t force yourself to also maintain everything else. Focus on getting used to the new position and slowly factor in new aspects. I’ve been switching between riding the metro and driving to work. The roads are still not very busy and the metro is usually pretty empty. Z Family Law is a short commute for me. However, be prepared for reopening at some point traffic will come back and trains will be full. We’ll need to leave home earlier, but for now we can enjoy the easy commutes. 

 

Now, for the actual work experience. Remember when I suggested getting briefed on the company COVID procedures and how work would be during this time? You’ll want to also get familiar with learning company culture. If training or onboarding fully from home you’ll need to know who to contact for questions and who you’ll be training with. At Z Family Law, we’ve been socially distancing within the office but this doesn’t mean we’ve been immune from the virtual requirements of the pandemic. In ordinary circumstances, when you start a new job you are encouraged to take your time getting acclimated to the work. The last few months have been a little different. If working from home you’ll need to collaborate with others online. In contrast to pre-pandemic where you could spend days shadowing colleagues, sitting in close proximity training, we now have to wait for meeting invites and Zoom links. It is a lot more work to train and get to know your coworkers when you can’t be near them. 

 

My advice is schedule one on one time with your team to get to know each other better. If your coworkers aren’t reaching out go ahead and send the invites yourself. Feeling connected to the people you work with will help you adjust. You can also reach out and ask if anyone needs assistance while you are training. I find this is best done via a phone call, new colleagues can get used to the sound of your voice and even if no assistance is needed you can request virtually shadow while the task is completed. 

Just like you should be checking in with your co-workers and supervisors you should also check in with yourself. We may be at a standstill with the coronavirus but the world has been changing so much over the last few months. How is my new normal going? Overall, starting a new position during the pandemic has helped me get back to a sense of normal. Being able to wake up and physically go to an office was more beneficial for me than working from home everyday. The change of environment broke apart the mundane sameness of waking up and going to work in my apartment. But change can be hard. I’ve made a note to check in with myself on a regular basis so I know how I’m doing physically and mentally. Being stuck at home took a hard toll on many of us, not just financially but emotionally as well. Your mental health is imperative to your success and adjusting to the new normal.