Starting a career in lockdown


1st July, 2020

What it’s like to start a career just before lockdown

Get an insider’s perspective on getting your career off the ground during lockdown with three new starters from MYOB.

As it does every year, MYOB hired a number of University graduates at the beginning of 2020. But neither the online accounting company nor its new hires could have foreseen how quickly the working environment would change.

To find out how this new generation of employee have fared during this turbulent time, we recently interviewed protégé developer Keddy Shen, marketing campaign specialist Chanel Mehrotra and helpdesk analyst Chanya Ussaneerungrueng to hear their thoughts.

Managing the sudden shift to working from home

MYOB’s new hires, Keddy, Chanel and Chanya, all had some inkling of what working for MYOB would be like in normal conditions, having started with the company in the months before lockdown.

Some of them, like Keddy, had even interned with the business before.

“I started a month before lockdowns came into force. Fortunately, I had interned with MYOB in Auckland over the summer of 2018-19, making for an easier onboarding and acclimatisation to the business as a graduate,” said Keddy.

“My new job was based in Melbourne, so I’d just had time to settle in and lease an apartment, buy basic amenities, and so on.

“If I’d started any later, I’d have been struggling with living arrangements, let alone being set up to work from home.”

For Chanel, the sudden shift represented an additional hurdle to starting her new role.

“Starting a new role always involves a huge learning stage and you are out of your comfort zone, with new people, new process and a completely new working environment,” said Chanel. “Not to mention a completely new industry with new products and technology to understand.

“Luckily, as MYOB is a business that operates across NZ and Australia, which means there was already a lot of virtual connections formed with teams who we worked with in Australia prior to lockdown.”

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Flexible working and remote work tech make lockdowns easier

Chanya found the switch to working from home came very suddenly as the government responded to the threat of COVID-19, but MYOB made it simple for her to get set up from home.

She’d only just begun her new job in Christchurch in April, just as the lockdown restrictions were ramping up.

“I was originally asked to report at the office on my first day, but after the announcement we had to re-organise,” said Chanya. “The team delivered some equipment at my place and most of the setup was done remotely.”

Due to the combined ability of getting necessary work tech to the homes of employees, as well as MYOB’s ability to manage most IT concerns remotely, Chanya found getting set up relatively painless.

“MYOB has been good in communicating and transitioning me despite the sudden conditions. My team have been very understanding and are realistic about the situation and pace of training someone remotely.”

Getting set up for remote work is all good and well, but as Chanel pointed out, that doesn’t mean working in this fashion comes without a unique set of challenges.

“As much as technology is great at connecting us, nothing can replace face to face interaction,” said Chanel.

“I am gutted that I never got to make it down to Christchurch to meet the rest of the NZ marketing team as I haven’t had the chance to meet them in real life!

“Also, some days working from home are harder than others. So, managing my time and ensuring I am organised for each week and scheduling time for tasks is key to being able to successfully deliver.”

Wise words: Tips for new starters in unforeseen circumstances

Having lived through the experience, MYOB’s new hires have a unique perspective to share with others who find themselves in similar circumstances.

While lockdown restrictions have eased, many businesses are continuing to transition to place a heavy focus on working from home, so the advice of these employees will continue to be salient for some time to come.

For Keddy, being productive while working from home means developing healthy rituals around work and not-work times.

“Keep a good routine. It’s easy to slide into the comfort of home and become complacent,” said Keddy.

“If you find yourself slipping into bad habits, try do some of the things you would normally do outside of the lockdown: do your hair up, dress in ‘outside’ clothes, or even just put shoes on before starting your work day.”

For Chanya, a work routine also means examining the negative space in and around the work day – that means structuring your breaks for optimal mental wellbeing.

“I find this experience is similar to when I was studying. Make sure to take breaks, both physically and mentally.

“It’s easy to always be thinking about working, study or job hunting, especially in situations like this where you’re stuck at home and feel like there is nothing else to do. Try to stick to a schedule and put time aside for other activities.”

For those graduates or employees new to the workforce who are currently seeking opportunities, Chanel had some more advice: get ready for lots of online interviews.

“Be proactive in searching for jobs and don’t be afraid to get rejected; the more applications you make, the more experience you have in the online screening phase means that you can really work on refining and learning as you go,” she said. “As the saying goes: practice makes perfect.

“If you do find yourself working remotely in a new role, remember, you’re not alone. Just because we are distanced, doesn’t mean you cannot connect online.

“Another handy tip is to never be afraid to ask for help. Regardless of if you are new or not, if you are unsure, need feedback or want help – simply ask. People are always willing to help, but you must make sure you aren’t afraid to ask in the first place.”