This week, Helen Kosterman of Park Bank shares the challenges of starting a new job at the beginning of the pandemic. Instead of interacting with her new co-workers at the office, she’s getting to know them through virtual meetings. We’re also featuring insights from Nick Myers of RedFox AI, who offers some tips for getting the most out of these disruptive times and embracing technology.
Helen Kosterman, Marketing Administrator, Park Bank
Starting a new job during COVID-19
On the morning of March 11, I was offered a fantastic job opportunity. I was over the moon! It was an amazing moment in my life. I hadn’t officially accepted, but I knew I was going to. That afternoon, I put my notice in at my current position and thought about my next steps for the new role.
That afternoon, life changed.
The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. The NBA season was stopped in its tracks…my kids’ school was canceled until further notice…and I had just quit my job. To say the future was uncertain was an understatement of epic proportions.
And so began my adventure of starting a new job during the coronavirus pandemic.
My first official day at Park Bank was March 26. A large majority of the staff was already working from home, and they were deep in the transition phase to remote work. I knew I’d be starting my new job from the confines of my home office. Remote work wasn’t new to me—I had been doing it for the better part of five years—but it was new to the marketing department at Park Bank. Full disclosure: I had been working with them as a client for a few years, but only in the strategy and social media world.
First day marathon
That Thursday, when I walked into the building, I was greeted by HR and IT. Together, we crammed a week’s worth of signing papers, listening to rules, and learning how to access every program I was going to be using into a single day. It was hard. It was really hard. I made it until about 2:30 p.m. before hitting a wall and hoping that everything I needed to do the rest of the day wasn’t too critical.
As the day ended, I was sent on my way with a laptop, monitor, wireless keyboard and mouse, a bunch of paperwork, and my Park Bank swag. It felt surreal.
The next morning I woke up and was geeked to start the day. Then I tried to figure out how to access the right platform to check my email. As you can imagine, there are many security measures in place when you work for a bank, so checking your email isn’t as simple as it sounds. Fortunately, I got a hold of IT, and they helped me via Zoom. I was in!
I spent the rest of the day trying to learn systems, processes, and brands that are the way of life. That’s no simple task without co-workers around. My saving grace was our IM system. I didn’t want to feel like a bother all day, every day, so when I needed something, I would just IM someone on my team and they were happy to oblige.
Connecting through check-ins
As the days have gone by—and I’ve celebrated my one-month anniversary—it’s gotten easier. Learning everything is still a slow process while confined to my computer without the luxury of in-person conversations, but our team is incredibly efficient. We have a daily check-in meeting that serves as an excellent opportunity for me to ask ALL the questions.
One of the hardest parts of starting a new job during this time is the social aspect. I miss forming new work relationships as you’re walking down the hallway, meeting people by happenstance, and the overall learning you receive during meetings and chit-chats. I have worked in marketing, but never in banking, so trying to learn the lingo and ins-and-outs of the business isn’t easy via video conferencing.
Overall, the precautions Park Bank has taken to protect its employees against COVID-19 are very satisfying. The executive team releases weekly video webinars that keep us all up-to-date on what’s going on at the bank. Our Connections and You Matter committees have been keeping spirits up with fun and engaging contests and motivational content. And HR has been sending out tips on how to deal with the stresses we may encounter during our current lives.
Depending on when we’re allowed back in the office, I’ll still feel like the “new girl in marketing.” But we’re all getting to next, together.
Nick Myers, Owner, RedFox AI
5 things you can do to thrive and survive during the COVID-19 pandemic
There is no denying that we are currently living in unprecedented times. The past two months are both a testament to how quickly our lives can change and how swiftly our “normal” can be disrupted. For almost all of us, this is the first time in our lives we have experienced a true global crisis that is simultaneously affecting every human being around the world.
It is scary. It is stressful. It is full of uncertainty about what lies ahead.
However, even as doom and gloom as things may seem to be right now, we all can rest easy knowing that this too shall pass. I am a firm believer that we will ultimately become stronger both individually and as a collective group of people when we come out the other end.
In a world where there is so much going on that we cannot control, there is still A LOT that we can control to help guide ourselves through these uncharted waters and exit the ship unscathed when we finally hit dry land.
Here are five things (from personal experience) that you can do today to help you thrive and survive during the COVID-19 pandemic:
#1: Limit your access to news and social media
Right now, I know exactly what you are thinking: “How could I possibly avoid the news and social media when I am trapped at home every day living in a world full of uncertainty?”
How did I know this (or something similar) is what you were thinking?
When the pandemic started to hit countries around the world one-by-one and all that I once knew started to crumble down around me, all I could do to control the situation (or so I thought) was to spend every waking minute watching the news and scrolling through social media. It was my control. I would continuously watch or scroll, hoping for one piece of news telling me that the pandemic was over (fun fact, the pandemic is still happening). However, I learned very quickly that all I was doing was generating unneeded stress and anxiety for myself over a global situation I personally could not control.
Now, I limit my news intake to 30 minutes per day (or less) and try to spend no more than one hour per day on social media. The results have been amazing and have given me more clarity to focus on my business, my health, and my friends and family, which are the things that I can control.
Give it a shot. Trust me.
#2: Focus on what you can control
For many of us, the thought of losing control can be more terrifying than anything else. We saw a perfect example of this when people started to panic-buy at supermarkets, hoarding food, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper. The fact of the matter is that no one can control what is currently happening to us.
So, what do you do? You focus instead on what YOU can control, and YOUR response to this situation. I recommend sitting down and making a brief list of the things you know you can control in your life. Then circle the most important ones that you know you can start acting on immediately.
For me, focusing on my business, my health, and keeping in touch with friends and family has allowed me to develop a daily routine and concentrate on what I know I can control in my life. I strongly suggest that you try to do the same.
#3: Learn a new skill
For many of us who are either currently stuck working from home or who have unfortunately been laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic, we now have a lot more time on our hands. Trust me, Netflix, board games, video games, and taking intermittent walks outside can only stave off boredom for so long.
My point is that now is a great time to learn something new. Anything. As the years go by, you may be proud of the fact that you took advantage of this unusual period to learn something you always wanted to learn.
#4: Get creative!
If there was any point in time to start thinking outside of the box and get creative, now is the time. Many businesses, small to enterprise, are now being forced to adapt to a “new normal.” As customer preferences changed overnight, many products and services that once served a need for people have become outdated or now serve a different purpose.
Be creative, think outside the box, and ask yourself, “How can I change my product or service to help support my customers and their problems right now?”
#5: Embrace technology
Out of every tip I have provided so far in this article, this one is by far the most important. If you or your organization has been refusing to step into the digital age and embrace technology, now is the time to do so. All the change we have been experiencing since the start of the pandemic was going to happen regardless—it would have just taken roughly 10-15 years to do so. All the pandemic did was shorten that timeline down to two months.
The people and companies that are going to survive this pandemic are the ones that have already embraced technology, or who are doing everything they can to pivot towards technology and remove outdated systems that no longer apply.
If there is a piece of technology you think could benefit your organization and your customers during this crisis, I recommend that you research it, experiment with it, and present it to your company leadership as a potential option. You may be looked at as the hero when all is said and done.
Embrace technology. Period.
Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic have an unfortunate habit of revealing our weaknesses. However, they also reveal our strengths and give us a golden opportunity to fix some of these new (and old) problems we have been dealing with for decades. Just remember that together we will get through this, and the light is at the end of the tunnel.
Stay hungry. Stay foolish. Stay healthy.