Starting a new job always comes with a steep learning curve. Starting a new job when you’re a new parent brings even bigger – and messier! – challenges. (More on that topic here). And starting a new job, as a new parent, in a global pandemic…well, I have no words for that combination.
For as hard-hit as the economy has been over the past few months, there are indeed organizations that are hiring. Which means there are plenty of people trying to figure out how to onboard remotely these days. Fortunately, I’m joined today by Jessica Weinberg, a new mama and Mindful Return alum, who started a new job this summer. Here are her 7 practical tips for kicking things off on the right foot.
I’m wearing a crisp, white top, black blazer, full makeup, and comfy yoga pants. This became my new “normal” interview attire: business up top, yoga class on the bottom. Job searching during the pandemic was definitely unusual. From the strange attire, to making sure my son didn’t barge in on an interview, it was a whole different world.
After a year of job searching and several interviews, I finally accepted the job I was looking for. After all of that searching, it would seem like the hard part was over.
Of course, as soon as the search was over, the reality set in that I was about to start a new job from home while watching my son.
I was nervous to make this leap during the pandemic, so I employed several strategies to help myself transition in to a whole new culture.
7 Strategies for Starting a New Job as a Working Parent During the Pandemic
I’ve been working remotely at my new job for a few months now. And these are the strategies that really helped me:
- Have a frank conversation with your new supervisor about your home situation. After receiving the offer, and before accepting, talk with your manager about your childcare situation. If you’re currently in a job that’s flexible with your situation, it would be hard to make the leap to someplace that’s less accepting.
- Get to know your new colleagues virtually. Make a goal to spend at least 1 hour every week getting to know your new colleagues informally. Set up virtual lunches and coffees. Also just reach out and say simply, “hello, I’m new and I’d like to get to know you a little bit.” If possible, work with your partner to try and make sure you have some child-free time set aside for this.
- Figure out your new boss’s communication style. Normally you’d get to know your new boss informally, in those casual morning hellos and conversations. You’d figure this out naturally. But in this new environment, you have to be more purposeful about asking how they want to communicate. Then you need to carve out time for these communications. Consider setting up a recurring virtual one-on-one if they have time, or reaching out periodically via email, IM, or text to ask questions and make sure your new boss knows how you’re contributing.
- Seek out a formal mentor. Many companies have formal mentorship programs. Seek out a mentorship program or ask your boss about how to go about finding a mentor. This person can help you navigate the culture. Your mentor can also answer things that you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking your supervisor. Better yet, seek out a mentor who is a fellow mom if you can. This person can then help you navigate all of the work/life/parenting craziness that is our current reality.
- Continue to network! I know it’s hard to find time for this, given that many of us are juggling work with childcare responsibilities. If you feel like you have no time to network, make it a priority to get to know your immediate office first. Once you’ve done that, see if you can carve out 1 hour a week to get to know someone outside your office.
- Search for resources on how to start a job during the pandemic. There are lots of people going through the job search right now too. You are definitely not alone! A quick Google search for “how to start a new job during the pandemic” yields loads of articles with helpful advice. Lori Mihalich-Levin’s webinar entitled “Managing Your Career During COVID-19: An Open Coaching Dialog” (recording here) also provides some helpful tips on how to balance kids and starting a new job now.
- Give yourself time to adjust. My rule of thumb in the past has been to give myself 1 month to start to feel comfortable. 3 to feel vaguely competent. And 1 year to feel like I know what I’m doing. I’d advise you to double that time during the pandemic, and be patient with yourself. You are doing something superhuman right now, juggling work and parenting at the same time. You deserve a little leeway to adjust to a new job. Hopefully your supervisor and colleagues will give you the same.
Life, 3 Months Into My New Job
I’m not going to say it’s all been super easy, but there have been some silver linings. For example, whenever I start a new job, I tend to experience imposter syndrome. Now, working from home, when I’ve had thoughts of self-doubt, I’ve been able to have a private conversation with someone who can pep me up. Normally I’d be in a cubicle or sharing an office.
I’ve also been able to meditate, journal, and exercise (or at least step outside briefly) when feeling overwhelmed at my new job. This would not have been possible if I wasn’t working fully remotely.
Overall, I’m so glad I made the leap. This new position has been a better fit for me all around. And I’m happy I didn’t let my hesitation about starting during the pandemic get in the way of a good career move.
With no clear answer as to when the pandemic will end, we need to embrace the fact that our careers aren’t taking a break during this time. We need to allow ourselves to keep pursuing our career goals.
I’m happy to report that 3 months in to my new job, I’m feeling more confident, comfortable, and even friendly with my new colleagues! One day I hope I’ll be able to see them back in the office. But for now, I’m enjoying having more time in the mornings and evenings with my son. Spending less money and time on my commute, dry cleaning, and makeup. And I’m really enjoying the fulfillment of a new, exciting, and meaningful job.
Jessica Weinberg is a social science analyst who has a decade of experience conducting healthcare research. She had dedicated her career to increasing healthcare access and information for others, and her personal life to helping others get the mental health help they need. She’s passionate about helping others in need and volunteers as a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Text Line. She has also become passionate about helping other working moms balance work and life since she became a mother to her one-year-old son. Ms. Weinberg has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology and a Master’s of Public Policy with a focus in health policy from the University of Maryland.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave