Before the novel coronavirus set about ruining everyone’s year, we at Studio Something had decided to expand our team and hire a Project Manager to manage some projects (job description level: 100). We were delighted to get Julie Fazzini on board, no stranger to the Edinburgh agency world and with great experience to help us kick on in 2020. Job accepted in early March with a start date in early April, this is Julie’s view of starting a brand new job without actually getting to work alongside her colleagues, and the getting-to-know-yous being restricted to internet video calls. This is starting a new job in lockdown.
Some of the things Zoom or Google Hangouts haven’t quite mastered:
Starting a new job and getting to know people is tough at any time.
Will they like me?
Will I like them?
Am I good enough? (uh oh, here comes imposter syndrome — hello old friend)
But starting a new job in lockdown is a whole different level.
Add in the extra hurdle of it being in a different field ( hell — why not — let’s make it really fun) and you have a situation that could break even the toughest old timer.
Luckily, that hasn’t happened so far.
Lockdown has been hard on all of us, there’s no denying it. Everything we had to look forward to, everything we had planned, everything we took for granted, everything we routinely enjoyed, yanked out from under our feet like the proverbial rug. And there was a hard, cold, concrete floor waiting beneath the rug for more than a few of us, of that there is no doubt.
Working at Studio Something had been on my mind for a while. I missed the buzz of advertising, I missed the crazy deadlines and the high of hitting them, I missed media plans… not really.
Being offered the job was a high point, and it happened just as the murmurings of the C word were turning into actual conversation and it started to sink in with us all that we might actually have to ‘worry’ about this. It might affect us, IRL.
Lockdown kicked in the week before the start date. So, the new job was started whilst working from home, and continues this way now.
Having only ever met the SS team from the shoulders up on a screen, I have no idea what they like to wear (shoes are important) how they take their tea, what playlist they like to work to, what they drink in the pub, if they’re funny (to be fair they seem to be), if they roll their eyes (a favourite, and an expression which can instantly determine how successful a working relationship is likely to be).
All very small things, but things that are so important for getting to know people. Project-based meetings and conversations are obviously very important, and by nature need to be process-based and functional, but they can be very lacking in humanity. At a time when we need human interaction the most — we can get it the least.
Work drinks on zoom. Well, they’re awkward.
And then there are client relationships.
You know what their houses look like inside (and vice versa), you know that some people wear ‘cutting aboot the hoose’ clothes to work now. But nothing has existed IRL.
The project manager’s job is very much a relationship based position. Create and nurture good relationships with colleagues, clients and suppliers, and you’re pretty much there. It’s difficult to do this over video calls, there’s no two ways about it.
There’s a lot of talk about ‘officeless’ workplaces, new working day times, and ‘the new working normal’. Whilst this is all something to absolutely be embraced for the right reasons and at the appropriate times, we need to also acknowledge, and keep very much to the forefront of our minds that we can’t replace face to face contact and relationships, and neither should if we possibly can. Or it all risks becoming a wee bit Black Mirror. A bit like watching the concert you’re at through your phone screen. It’s real, but it’s not really real.
Dark, but, overall this is meant as a positive article. It shows (so far) that although life is tough right now, there can still be progress made, and positive new experiences, you can meet and like new people, and start new relationships that will hopefully just have a better base upon which to grow.
You might not know what shoes people have on their feet, but you know their taste in wallpaper and that must count for something.
(A big massive shout out to the SS team and clients, you’ve made what could have been hellish into a series of only slightly awkward (and funny) zoom calls — so thank you for that. The first IRL drinks are happening on Friday. It’s terrifying. Drinks, without a ‘screen’, all unprotected and exposed. And — good grief — no switch camera off option.