Before Covid 19 came into the world to rip us off from our freedom, physical communication with work colleagues wasn’t that complex. Connecting with peers at work was much easier for most people. Interns and new hires usually get the opportunity to be introduced or taken around by their company supervisor or manager. However, this is not the case in this virtual working era we find ourselves in, all introductions are done online. This era, in my opinion, has made work-life more complex in most aspects especially, in connecting with peers. It has become pretty weird these days! It has gotten to the point that sending small messages or chats to your long known colleagues aren’t that simple anymore. You cannot freely or easily send a chat to a colleague without thinking too much about the tone of your message, their interpretations of your message, how best to address them and so on and so forth. And in the case of interns or new employees, it is even trickier, much complex and at times awkward for them to connect with colleagues they haven’t physically met before.
However, it is not impossible to connect with colleagues you haven’t physically met. In the next 4 paragraphs, I will be sharing 4 effective useful ways interns and new employees can apply to connect virtually with their colleagues.
- Take the initiative to message colleagues.
Apart from general emails that your supervisor or manager would ask you to send to colleagues to introduce yourself, take time to send private messages through your company online platforms e.g. zoom, MS Team or whatever platform they have. Send private messages to colleagues you’ll be working closely with within your department. It may be difficult to connect with everyone in your company or department especially if it’s a big firm and so I recommend you start with people you’ll be working closely together with. In your message, introduce yourself and invite the person for a chat over a subject that is related to your thesis or internship. People are busy working from home and may not have time for just chit-chat, so let the purpose of you wanting to meet them be productive and meaningful in a way that will benefit both of you. Also, mention in your message how long your meeting is going to take so they know beforehand that they don’t have to spend half of their entire day with you. During the meeting, try to give an honest and genuine compliment, appreciate their time and let them know how their help would be useful in your internship or career. If you like, you can even mention this in your message as part of the reason why you want to meet with them. Be curious to know more about their career success, ask good open-ended questions that allow them to do the talking while you be a good listener. And always check their schedule if you can to know their availability before you send your message or meeting request.
- Be present at online social gatherings.
As an intern or a new employee in this virtual era, it is very helpful if you make time to be present at online social gatherings if not all, most of them. You can’t be all busy all the time! I know it can be hard juggling between your internship, thesis proposal, outstanding courses you need to pass plus the demand from your new company and so, you may not be able to be present in most of the online social gatherings and even when you do attend; the tendency and the temptation to appear online but then off your cameras to focus on other things during the event or meeting can be very high. However, this is one of the best moments to meet and know your colleagues especially, when there are breakout room sessions. It’s the right time to learn or know their names (how they are pronounced, how they prefer to be called – by first name or last name, with title or without), their functions, see their faces and get to know a bit about their attitude or background: whether they’re friendly or uptight, traditional or relaxed, appreciate directness or indirect. All these characteristics can easily be known through their interactions and how they respond to questions during the meeting. So take advantage of such meetings to know more about your colleagues.
- Preferably call colleagues rather than emailing.
I know that not everyone finds it easy to call people without pre-informing them. Maybe because of the sales part in me but, I do call my colleagues without pre-appointment and it works just fine for me! A salesperson doing cold calling goal is to be able to grab her prospects attention in the first few minutes of calling so that, she can proceed to make them interested in whatever she’s got to sell to them. And so she calls already prepared with a purpose. If a prospect answers, good news for her; if they don’t, she doesn’t give up but tries again next time. That is the vibe I’m trying to send across to you as you start your new role as an intern or new employee. Don’t always be sending emails when you can easily call your colleague, especially if your company have an internal communication system you can use. Personally, I do not really like emailing my colleagues unless it is very necessary. This is because I find emailing quite complex, it gives me a lot of trouble thinking about what to say, how to construct my sentence in a way that doesn’t portray me as rude, commanding or dumb and so I always prefer to call. There are some people who may not appreciate you calling them first without checking in their schedule whether they are available or not but, I haven’t encountered that yet in my company and it may probably be because of – the kind of energy I use in speaking to people i.e. positive energy or, the kind of colleagues I have i.e. very open-minded people. Therefore, I dare you to be a little bit of a salesperson and call your colleagues to speak to them rather than sending a long formal emailing approach. If the culture of your company is very traditional and you sense that people are quite uptight and not too open-minded, then I will recommend you check their schedule first before you call them so as not to piss people off!
- opt to work on location if possible.
If working from the company office is allowed in your firm once or twice a week, take advantage of that possibility to ask your supervisor or manager to work from office location. That is also a good way to see and talk to some of your colleagues at a 1.5metre distance while enjoying their physical presence.
Connecting with all your colleagues will not happen within a week or month especially if you’re working in a big firm. However, it is always possible to connect even in a virtual setting. Therefore don’t use a virtual working environment as an excuse to not connect or socialize. Take the initiative to get to know people because everyone is knowable only if, you want to know them!