When Covid-19 hit last year, the world of work experienced massive disruption resulting in far-reaching changes for businesses and organizations in almost every sector of society.
While teleworking was already on the increase before the pandemic, the arrival of Covid-19 has greatly accelerated this trend. The education sector and non-essential businesses had to close their doors to the public within weeks as society was forced to adapt quickly to new ways of working and communicating.
This transition presented significant challenges in the world of work, especially for graduates who in many cases had to familiarize themselves with starting a new job while being isolated from the rest of the workforce.
It meant the end of valuable networking opportunities. It was no longer possible to connect with colleagues face to face. Neither can chats or cold drinks after work. Instead, like so many other office workers, graduates typically traded in the open plan office for a makeshift desk at home.
So how did they cope with the new mixed working arrangements?
To get a broader perspective on what it was like to transition from student to professional life under these unusual circumstances, we spoke with three graduates who each began their internship during the pandemic.
Together, they shared their own individual experiences of how to make friends, learn on the job, and strive for a work-life balance.
While remote working allows for greater flexibility and can contribute to greater productivity, it also comes at the expense of social contact with colleagues.
This can be difficult at times, but can be more pronounced for young workers and graduates, especially when the downsides can include disconnection in the workplace, less one-on-one time with a manager or managers. colleagues and the dangers associated with overwork.
Ciara Folan, who works for Deloitte in the financial services audit department, already knew some of her colleagues before starting her graduate program. His company held 15-minute coffee breaks on a Friday morning and used breakout rooms on the Zoom video conferencing platform during its onboarding.
“It was really good to get to know people and better understand the different roles of everyone within the company,” she said.
Prior to taking office, Kendall Rice, who works for An Post as a quality management project manager, didn’t have the same community base to call upon. Originally from Texas, Kendall felt the effects of not being able to meet people in an office environment. She said that although she is quite introverted, it would be great to get to know coworkers.
“Coming from the United States, you don’t necessarily have this huge network of people. Therefore, it would be nice to build more relationships and meet more new people. “
However, Kendall has also been very fortunate that her company offers graduates the ability to connect virtually, with leadership training that is provided frequently.
She says, “These sessions teach different skills that would be beneficial in a managerial position. It could be something like teamwork, change management, project management, negotiation skills, and business acumen. Skills that will help us to be managers who are also leaders.
Eamonn Brosnan, who has secured an internship at a leading telecommunications company in its business operations department, hopes the future will be different for graduates. “It’s hard to develop a one-on-one relationship with your team members individually and try to develop a relationship outside of work as well.”
Learn on the job
In pre-Covid times, starting a graduate program meant taking the first step into the world of work and showcasing the skills and knowledge acquired in college. Doing this virtually, especially when it’s your first job, can seem daunting. The question is how to overcome this?
“Your approach makes a huge difference,” says Eamonn. He admits that there is a lot of learning that needs to be done on your own, but everyone he has worked with has been very supportive and it is a testament to the culture of the company and the people. that they hire.
It was the same for Kendall: “There are a lot of virtual calls and people sharing their screens. But generally you are able to do what the other person is teaching you in tandem with your own screen.
To learn on the job, Kendall’s advice is to always let someone know if you need help. “Your managers are always ready to help you and answer your questions.
When asked about the pros and cons of working remotely, the graduates were mostly positive.
While there are obvious advantages to working remotely, everyone agreed on their preference for working in the office. But until that became a reality, many introduced rules for themselves in order to get the most out of remote working. and make sure they take breaks and can disconnect from work.
“The most important thing you can do for your work and your health is to take breaks, go for walks and clear your head,” Ciara explains. When asked what advice she would give to anyone starting a program remotely, she replied “Get out in any weather, even when it’s raining.” After a long day at work, it really helps create a healthy work-life balance.
Eamonn also strongly believes in going out when possible and disconnecting from the workday.
“Try to leave your house before you start your day. It is stimulating to get up and leave your desk. For him, checking his professional emails after a day’s work is prohibited.
“Nobody expects you to do this and we all have different ways of working. No one will expect you to respond to emails after the job is done. Be determined to stick to your normal workday, as you’ll burn yourself out if you don’t log out when you’re done.
Kendall agreed, “Make sure you take frequent breaks because it’s pretty exhausting sitting at your desk all day. It is important to go out for a walk and especially in the morning. It is also good to take your mind out of the space where you work and live. Especially if you work in your own bedroom, you can end up spending a lot of time in one place.
Advice for graduates in 2021
“Don’t be afraid to hang out with people,” says Eamonn. “Everyone was new once and everyone understands the difficulty of not being able to go to someone’s office and say something as simple as, ‘do you have five minutes to help me with something “.
Ciara has a similar tip: “Contact everyone you can who works with the company, before you even start work”
She also suggested a quiz, coffee breaks on Fridays, it was a chance to discuss weekend plans and just have a little fun. Again, getting to know people in a different context.
For international students like Kendall, she says it’s important to connect with other people in your company and with other international graduates.
Graduates, like most, look forward to a return to some sort of normalcy as society opens up.
“Now that the offices are reopening, I can’t wait to go back so that I can get to know my fellow graduates and gain that hands-on experience that would have been difficult to get through Zoom,” Ciara says.
“In an ideal world, a three-day week in the office would be fantastic. “