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5 Tips for Starting Your First Job in Your Living Room, From Someone Who’s Done it

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Working from home: It seems like a nice concept, but is it really as simple as it sounds? Now that we’ve hit the one year mark of lockdown, when many employers switched over to remote work, those of us who had to make the dramatic switch seem to have finally settled into a bit of a routine. If you’ve just graduated, it’s likely that you’re no stranger to completing your work and classes mainly online. But starting a new position completely at home is an entirely different thing, and while it seems to have become the new normal for a lot of jobs, it’s still a brand new experience for new employees. There’s no need to panic, though. Here are five tips for success, from someone who was in your shoes just a few short months ago.

Establish a good workspace

If you’ve already had to adjust to completing work remotely, hopefully this piece of advice is something you’ve previously put into practice in your home. It’s hard to recreate that feeling of accomplishment you receive day in and day out from going to the office in a power suit when you’re at home in comfy clothes and haven’t set foot outside all day. And when you pictured your first day in a full time position, I’m sure you imagined going into a nice office building and meeting your coworkers who would eventually become your friends — not sitting down to a laptop on your kitchen table and waving at faces through a screen. 

That day will eventually arrive for you, but until then, you need to do your best to make your workstation feel as professional as possible. Invest in a monitor (I love this 27″ from HP) so that you aren’t staring at a laptop screen all day long, because I promise it will take a toll on your body – but you can still take your laptop around when you need that change of scenery.

If you’re worried about cost, ask your employer if they have a budget for helping their workers expand their work from home set-up. Arrange your desk in an aesthetically pleasing way that makes you feel good when you look at it— you want your desk to reflect productivity and organization, not chaos. There are a number of ways to personalize your workspace to make it your own, so get creative!

Organization is key

Although organizing your workstation is an important step to becoming productive, it’s not enough to get you all the way there. In order to become truly productive in your remote work routine, every part of your daily work flow should have a level of organization to it. For instance, it helps to have a planner or notebook to jot down your schedule in the morning. (My personal favorite store to shop notebooks and planners is Erin Condren, but there are tons of options out there). 

Although random tasks and deadlines may pop up at various times, planning out what your day should look like will help you stay more on top of things, since you won’t have a boss standing over you all day requesting a status report on each project or task you touch. Maybe you can come up with a color coding system, or write out a checklist of items in order of importance, or perhaps all it takes for you to feel organized is to dress up and look the part. No matter what you decide, it’s all about making sure you find a system that’s right for you.

Create a good schedule for yourself and minimize distractions

Part of staying organized is establishing a schedule for yourself so that you aren’t tempted to dive into the distractions that exist within your space. If you’re the type of person who has always needed a boss looking over your shoulder in order to be motivated to get your work done, try recording yourself while working on something. It can help recreate that feeling of being observed that will ultimately lead to you achieving more goals in a day. 

Lulu Amirault, a social media coordinator, advises everyone to timeblock (a productivity technique for personal time management where a period of time — typically a day or week — is divided into smaller segments or blocks for specific tasks or to-dos). “Because you’re not in an office, your time might seem to be muddled,” Lulu says. “Creating a good schedule, including meetings, mealtimes, or breaks you may want to take, will let you feel like you’re in a structured space and will also give you that boundary between work and relaxation time.” 

Lulu utilizes a career coach to assist her in blocking out her day-to-day activities, which is something to look into if you struggle with time management.

Don’t be afraid to communicate and ask questions

It can be hard to reach out to your boss or peers when you aren’t seeing them every day, but don’t let that deter you from asking questions when you don’t understand something! Raising questions about something you don’t know how to do is a large part of  learning how to do your job better and helps your bosses and co-workers learn how to interact with you. 

When I first started my job last June, my boss was extremely worried that I would be left wandering around in the dark if something wasn’t explained well enough to me, and that I would be unable to ask her a question since I wasn’t sitting right next to her. We started doing check-ins on Teams each day, and I would make sure to have questions ready so that we could discuss anything that was still unclear with me. When I had my year-end evaluation, my boss told me that her and the other manager I work with explicitly say to one another how much they enjoy that I am unafraid to ask them a question if something is unclear. If you truly have a good employer, they value your efforts and want to make sure they are doing the best they can to have you learn as much as possible in your new role.

Praise yourself

And last but not least, remember to praise yourself and show some self-love. You are accomplishing so much by managing to secure your first full time job, especially when facing such difficult and unusual circumstances. It is certainly not an easy feat to have secured a job in this fragile market, and you did that right out of college! Go you! Give yourself a pat on the back every once in a while, because you deserve nothing less. 

Working remotely isn’t for everyone, but the good news is that if it’s not for you, you won’t have to do it forever. In the meantime, find a way to better yourself professionally and continue to adapt to whatever you need to in order to make your work, work.

Corinne Gorda

Virginia Tech '20

Proud Hokie alum and HC writer since 2017 here! I "graduated" from Tech in 2020 (Thanks COVID) with a degree in Public Relations, and I'm now a junior account executive for a PR agency. When I'm not working or writing, you can catch me spending time with my man, reading teen romance novels, or obsessing over my corgi.