You’re probably familiar with tools like Zoom and Gmail, but how you use them is more consequential at work. Your teachers weren’t responsible for how much money you could make, and they won’t be around as you progress through your work. Even in the hottest job market for entry-level workers in years, mistakes here can have repercussions.
Communication demands in many areas are greater than ever now that some workers are home more often. And these requirements weigh the heaviest on those who are just starting their jobs or careers.
Having landed a new job during the pandemic, I can understand. Getting to know co-workers or making your work visible to upper management is difficult when working from your kitchen table. So here’s a getting started guide to emailing, messaging, and video chatting in the modern remote workplace.
make an impression
You have demonstrated your mastery of all the skills required to get the job, which is great. To develop your career and grow within a company, you need to be seen and heard, said Gorick Ng, career counselor for undergraduates at Harvard University and author of a self-help book. successful assistance for early career professionals. To start, he says, you should:
Write down preferred modes of communication. On the first day, ask: What’s the best way to get in touch? E-mail? Call? Soft? (Don’t text your bosses unless they text you first.) “Each manager will have a different preference and will just ask for signals that you’re eager to contribute,” Mr. Ng.
There seems to be a common predilection among managers, which Mr Ng calls “bundling and escalating”. Don’t ask 10 questions in 10 separate releases – group them together before approaching your manager.
On video calls, come early and stay late. “There is always that awkward moment before the most important person shows up, where everyone is desperately waiting for someone to break the ice,” Mr Ng said. It can be a good time to socialize. Dwelling on the end can also pay off. Someone in the group may want to stay on the call to chat.
Study the internal directory. Don’t just watch your team, Mr Ng said. Go through offices and teams, jot down names and titles, and research LinkedIn. “Dig for commonalities,” he said. “Do you have a mutual friend, school or hobby?”
For those who can work in person and whose organization uses unassigned seating, i.e. shared desks, he suggests choosing seating near common areas. “Stay close to the action,” he advised.
Virtual meeting virtuoso
Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Webex and Bluejeans are some of the most used video conferencing platforms. Find out which ones are deployed by your company and download the apps for your desktop and mobile device in advance, then try a test meeting before you have to join a real one.
Peggy Hsu, head of college recruiting at video game platform Roblox, suggests that new recruits turn on their cameras by default during meetings to bond with colleagues. And don’t forget to dress for the role, at least from the waist down.
You’ll want to make sure you look and sound good. A little height for your webcam and light on your face goes a long way. Logitech’s $60 Litra Glow Clamp Lamp produces soft, flattering illumination, but any nearby lamp or window helps. Just make sure it’s not behind you. In Zoom’s video settings, enable the editing feature and enable “Always show video preview when joining a meeting”.
When you share your screen, present only the active window, not your entire screen. Try not to multitask during meetings, especially when giving a presentation, of course. Make sure notifications are turned off by turning on Do Not Disturb.
The whole world knows it, but it bears repeating anyway: be quiet when you’re not speaking. And don’t forget to unmute when you are. (Use a keyboard shortcut, like the push-to-talk spacebar in Zoom.)
Watch out for the chat app
Don’t type anything that you wouldn’t want your employer to see on Slack or any other company communication tool. Any message you send, whether it’s to a public group or a private direct message, is likely to be viewable by an admin. This even applies to your email, shared cloud storage system, and video call chat channel.
If your company uses Slack, you can go to Workplace settings in the app to see the organization’s policies for retaining chat history and exporting messages. If your company uses different software, consult your employee handbook.
My favorite Slack feature is its third-party integration with calendars like Google Calendar and Outlook. When enabled, you can sync your schedule with your Slack status. So when you’re in a meeting, your availability will be set to Away with a calendar emoji. When it’s time to join a meeting, you’ll receive a Slack direct message with a link to join the call.
Channels and groups can quickly become overwhelming. Organizing your sidebar into sections can help: right-click on a channel and select “Create new section”. You can disable notifications section by section. Quickly find a group or person using the search function at the top (or by typing Command-K).
Set reminders to review messages. Hover over a message, click the three dots next to it, then go to “Remind me”.
There are many notification customizations. Go to Preferences and set a custom schedule for receiving notifications, so you don’t get pinged in the middle of the night. Also set notifications on your mobile devices to “whenever I’m inactive” on your desktop.
And don’t forget to add context to your posts. Don’t just say “Hey” and bounce back.
Email like a pro
Emails that are too long are a common pitfall for new grads, according to Renate Norman, general manager of global college recruiting at Microsoft. “Get to the point quickly,” she said. She recommends starting with a summary and your main point or request at the top. You can add more details later, but if it gets too complicated, pick up the phone.
The unsend feature is a lifesaver for emails. This will give you a grace period, also known as a “phew moment”, before your email reaches the recipients. In Gmail settings, you can set this cancellation period up to 30 seconds. In Outlook settings, go to Mail, click Compose and Reply and scroll down to Undo Send, where you can set a period of up to 10 seconds.
If you work late or have co-workers in different time zones, you can also delay delivery in Outlook by clicking More Options, then Delivery Options, or use scheduled sending in Gmail by clicking the down arrow next to Send.
Byod? be careful
Bring your own device is a policy more and more companies are adopting. While this means you can use your favorite phone or laptop with work apps, it often comes with a trade-off: some activity on your personal device may be monitored by your employer.
Many companies require their employees to download a management profile to their personal mobile devices. Before installing, check its permissions. Common access includes the ability to erase all data and settings, as well as remove apps and data if your phone is stolen. Still on your family plan? Make sure your name is on the caller ID.
When you need to work on your personal computer, an easy way to keep things separate is to use two different browsers, for example, Chrome for work, Safari for personal data.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, that’s because it is. Even the most experienced among us forget to unmute and accidentally send an email with a typo. Breathe. You have this. Whatever you do, don’t zoom in from your bed.