I started an asset management grad scheme in the city almost 3months ago (what feels like 10x that!) navigating the world of hybrid working with all its challenges — and opportunities.
I can’t even fathom schlepping into the office 5 days a week. But pre-covid, this was the norm. Unless you were a cool tech bro, with flexible work an all that, you were commuting. Day in, day out.
My manager has been commuting for the best part of 20 years. It’s built into his DNA. And he can’t imagine it being any other way. Oh, and btw he’s in the office at 8am everyday (apart from Fridays), leaving his house at 6:30am.
We’re a gen that is no stranger to the world of remote work
For Gen Zers like me who joined firms during (or post) the pandemic have never really experienced anything other than remote work. We’ve been doing uni from our bedrooms for like 2 years. Zoom ain’t no stranger to us! We’re the digital natives, after all. Remote work is not something we’re afraid of. Quite the opposite. We’re totally embracing it!
But being in this hybrid world (part-office, part-home) means the lines start to get a lil’ blurry and as a new joiner, it’s been tricky to navigate. I’m not sure who’s who (though I’m slowly but surely wading my way through the different teams) and it’s hard to have that casual chit-chat over zoom. Most just wanna get straight down to biz. In the office, though, you get to have those cliche water cooler chats but as much as being cool they’re crucial for building rapport with folk.
Getting my head round people, and politics — kidding!
Within my department there are loads of teams and guess what, they all have their own unique mix of days in the office versus days at home. Some are in the office once a week whereas others like the dealing team (which I’m on right now) are in 4 days a week.
This means that as a newbie, it’s so much harder to get to know everyone and more importantly, the teams they’re in but it’s equally hard to get noticed.
Simply showing up — whether that’s 4 days a week or 1 — you get to show yourself.
When you’re in the office, people see you and you get noticed. And as a new joiner, that’s the best networking hack you can possibly ask for. Because, yes, networking is how you’ll get ahead! If the right people know you, and opportunities come up, you’ll come to mind.
When I started, I made sure to schedule a chat with the head of my team (as a new joiner you have a cool excuse to meet seniors) and told him a little bit about what I’m working on – and offered my help on projects. And guess what, a week a later a cool project came along that he pulled me into it. The learning curve was wacko but it taught me loads and meant I interacted with people from all sorts of different teams.
Seniors will spot you!
Another perk of being in the office is that you get to bump into people – busy with with busy schedules. But being sat near them, or on the same floor, you get to go over and say hello. Take this ex: one day in the office I bumped into the CIO who was literally sat two desk rows away from me.
I had ‘met’ him during my (virtual) internship at the firm so I decided to go straight over and we ended up having a great chat. He also put me in contact with a colleague and sent me some research papers he thought I might like.
Another serendipitous thing: I was set next to someone I’d never met before (not hard to believe) who is in a different team. Anyway, we got talking about investing (obvs) and before I knew it, he put me in contact with his previous boss who’s working on getting more of their retail customers investing. I’m meeting him next week to collab on some projects!
You’ve gotta deal with the uncomfortable stuff, too.
But being in the office (especially when you’re new) also means you’re bound to have some funny run-ins. And by funny I mean super awkard. Again, I spotted someone on my floor whom I had met during my internship so I walked over to say hello.
I started talking and mid-sentence I found my words trailing off. I literally stood there for what felt like an hour — in total silence.
After recounting that awkward moment, my line manager told me people don’t care nearly as much as you think. She reckons they forgot it around 10 seconds later and moved on with their lives. No one stews nearly as much as you will. Remember that.
Take the good with the not-so-good because both help you learn
All these experiences are healthy. They build your character (though I wish I could forget that last one!) and just by meeting new faces you get your name out there. And none of this would ever have happened had I been stuck at home! I tell this to myself every time I wanna stay in bed and be home for the day.
Though I’m home today, I had a quick catch-up with by boss to get his take on markets and hear what the team was up to. So if you happen to find yourself home for a few days in a row, don’t forget to make time for face time! Quick check-ins are great. Ask for feedback to make sure you’re on track and delivering and for a chance to have an informal convo.
Do what works for you and please prioritise your wellbeing!
Don’t get burnt out and do what works best for you. 2/3 days a week seems to be the sweet spot for me but I bet it’ll be different for everyone. We all have our work preferences and nowadays, we’re lucky enough to get to exercise them!
But being in the office can also be draining. So make sure that when you’re in — you’re seriously in. That you’re giving it you’re all and making an effort to network and get outa your comfort zone.
Small talk leads to the big talk.
You never know what an encounter might lead to.
So enjoy your office days — or day! — and don’t be afraid to strike up a convo with someone new.
Who knows, you could bump into your CEO.
Show up, give it your all and try to enjoy the messy encounters along the way. They’re all part of this wonderful journey we call our career.