Starting a new job remotely: highs, lows and learnings

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Meet Lizzie Nolan, our International Recruitment Officer

International Recruitment Officer Lizzie Nolan started Ravensbourne in early September 2020. Here she discusses what it's been like starting a new job remotely and what she enjoys about working for a small specialist university.

Chatting with Lizzie

Hi Lizzie, thanks for chatting with us. Firstly, what made you initially apply for a job at Ravensbourne?

I worked at UCB (Uni College Birmingham) for four years as an international officer and before joining Ravensbourne I was living in Chile for over two years working on other projects.

I really wanted to get back into the higher education environment and international recruitment. Plus, with COVID, I was ready to return to the UK. The job popped up online and I realised that Ravensbourne was a small specialist university, like my previous employer. 

I have always enjoyed working in the smaller institutes as I find it a friendlier environment, yet I saw the job as a new challenge to learn more about the creative industry (my previous uni specialised in Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts).  

How did you feel about having an online interview?

The fact that the interview was online was actually a great advantage in the sense that I could do the interview process from Chile without having to come to campus. 

I guess I was a little apprehensive that I might not be able to fully show my personality and skills via a video chat, in the same way as in person. Nonetheless, the team who interviewed me were very friendly and patient and the process was very relaxed.  

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience of starting a job remotely?

When I got the job, I decided to still move to London and to be close to the university, even though we were told we were working from home.

Even though it has been two months here, I still do not regret my decision even though I could have saved money living elsewhere. In my job I am selling the university to students and key stakeholders, so I felt it was important for me to get a feel for the surroundings and the university (I live ten minutes walking from campus). 

Plus, it is my first time living in London and something I always wanted to experience! So, for personal reasons, I was very keen to come and live in the capital.  

The team has all been extremely friendly, welcoming and attentive. My line manager, Tolani, always asks how I am doing and is very supportive. He always checks if I'm happy and comfortable (requesting the right furniture for my workspace) and organises regular 1 to 1s. I think this has made the transition to the new role a lot easier! 

Fortunately, I was able to meet the majority of my team in my second week as our Head of Student Recruitment and Engagement, Jo Hughes, arranged for us all to have a day in the building. This was great as I got to know the team better and got to see the facilities on campus.  We also had a drink (or few) together after, which was nice to have a bit of normality! 

We also arrange team activities and games over zoom on a Friday afternoon, or someone’s birthday. This lightens the mood and is a good team-building activity. I think it’s important to spend time with your team socially as it enhances how you work together professionally.  

Can you tell us a bit about what your average day is like?

I try and really structure my day by doing exercise before work, get to my desk for 9am and take regular breaks. I also try to chat to my colleagues about their weekends and make the effort to have the types of conversations that you would usually have in the office. 

After work, I usually make sure anything work-related is out of sight. I am conscious that I am working and living in the same environment, so I think I can switch off better this way. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say! 

I also take lots of walks. I live on the Greenwich Peninsula, so it is a really nice place to get air. I try to get a walk in either before work, at lunch and/or after work. I find that this helps me to disconnect and clear the mind.  

What do you think you have learnt from your experiences of lockdown and working remotely?

As humans, we adapt well to new situations, even those we would never have imagined being in. Although maybe challenging at times, I think it pushes you to become more creative. 

All of my exhibitions and recruitment activities are now online. In normal circumstances, I usually would be at a busy student recruitment fair in Thailand or India or somewhere else in the world. I'd be meeting, not only students, but mingling with other reps from other universities. But this year has taught me a lot about how to be creative in the digital world. This could be the new normality, so we should try to get a head start! 

I also have learnt not to be shy to ask for help. I've found that people are so supportive at Ravensbourne and have a lot of empathy - everyone is happy to help and support you.  

Do you have any advice to anyone in a new remote working role?

Don’t panic if tech is not on your side! Everyone understands! We have all had a bit of a meltdown during a presentation because it hasn’t gone how we would have wanted it to. Chances are you have been in the audience when the same has happened to the presenter.

I have learnt not to get too worked up if I have had a slight hiccup due to technology. Of course, I aim for it to go as smoothly as possible, but I have learnt to not be so hard on myself if technology isn’t on my side one day. We are all in the same boat and people are very understanding.

What are you looking forward to when normal life resumes?

Going to the building! Many people have said they have gotten comfortable working from home. I know for me, given the nature of my job (which involves a lot of networking) and my personality, I am looking forward to seeing people, meeting new colleagues and speaking face-to-face with students. 

I went to the building twice for different reasons and I really enjoyed the environment. It was great to meet some of my colleagues and meet new members of staff. Also, I got to see the campus and the great facilities; I look forward to spending more time there!