I don’t think this year went quite how anyone expected. For those graduating this year this is especially true. No spectacular ending to university, no parties, no graduation. But also, one of the most unusual job searches any generation has faced.
My original plan this year was to do a master’s degree, but COVID-19 decided this was not going to happen for me. It was June when it became clear that I had to come up with a plan B. I didn’t have a lot of choices, so it became evident very quickly that I would need to find a job. Many of my peers had been thinking about jobs all year, some had already secured roles. I felt I had been thrown in at the deep end. I already felt unsure of my job prospects after university, without the added stress of a spiralling global pandemic and the worst recession in decades. I set my expectations low. I knew I could be waiting a while to find something.
But much to my delight, the job search went surprisingly well. I got interviews far quicker than I had anticipated. And by my third interview, I was offered the job. I had a few weeks to let this sink in and prepare for my new role.
If I had got this job a year ago it would have been a 9-5 in the office type of situation. But instead it was going to be a 9-5 in my bedroom type of situation. I was okay with this. With a degree that only had 4 hours of contact time, much of my university work was done from home. I thought this wouldn’t be too much different. But there was a weirdness to it that I wasn’t quite expecting.
On my first day I got all dressed up for a packed schedule of video calls. I couldn’t have been more lucky with this job, I was made to feel welcome and part of the team despite having only met my colleagues virtually. But I can’t say this was how I imagined my first job after university to be.
I was sat at a desk in the same bedroom where I had been playing with Bratz dolls 15 years ago, where my friends and I used to play The Sims 2 together, and where I did my homework during secondary school.
I think many of us had this vision of ourselves when we were younger that by the time we got our first ‘proper’ job we would be living in our own house. Quite a while ago I realised that was unrealistic and I would probably still be living with my parents. But up until a few months ago I thought I would at least be in an office. That little bit of separation from the fact that I’m living in my childhood home might’ve helped me feel a bit more ‘adult’. It doesn’t help that my dad walked into my bedroom during my first meeting with my new manager (he shouted my name during the interview too!).
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind working from home. I love being able to walk around my local area on my lunch break, and the fact that my commute takes zero minutes. But it just wasn’t quite what I imagined. There’s just a weirdness to it all. You finish a video call and you realise you’re just in your bedroom, but you’re also at work. I still don’t think I’ve quite got my head around the fact that I’m being paid whilst sitting in my bedroom.
All of the paid work I’ve done has been in food or retail, so I associated work with being somewhere that isn’t home. For those of us who are in that position, it’s almost as if we’re experiencing two transitions. The transition from customer facing roles to office roles and the transition from working away from home to working in our bedrooms.
It’s a big change, but in a way working from home takes some of the pressure off starting a new job. It’s quite an overwhelming experience but being surrounded by your home comforts makes it just a little easier.
In a way, those of us who are graduates this year and starting new jobs are lucky. We don’t know any different. I’ve had a lot of introductory video calls where colleagues have said “Wow it must be so weird having a work induction all online.” And on the one hand, yes, it is weird, but on the other hand, I don’t know any different.
Those who are several years into their career and starting a new job this year are likely feeling a lot more of this weirdness. They know what an induction to a new company is normally like, I don’t.
Nevertheless, this is a strange experience for all of us. It looks like working from home is going to be the norm for at least a little bit longer, and some companies are even considering making it more permanent. So, this weirdness is something a lot more of us are going to experience over the next few months.
I do worry about certain elements of working from home. It can be quite lonely integrating into a new team without actually meeting anyone face-to-face. You miss out on those little non-work related conversations you have when you’re in an office with people. When working at home, you get on a video call when you have to discuss something work related, missing the chance for that spontaneous conversation that really helps you bond with your new colleagues. Working from home means you definitely have to put in more effort to maintain a social life, something that can happen much more effortlessly when you’re surrounded by others from 9-5 every day.
There’s a lot of unusual stuff going on at the moment and this is just another one of those things. Despite the odd nature of my induction, I feel like I’ve still been able to learn the parts of my new job pretty well. And in a time where so many around the world are struggling to find a job, I feel very grateful that I am in employment.