Before the election, COVID-19, canceled graduation ceremonies, racial protests, murder hornets, and a wave of sourdough bread baking, I was looking for a job.
I was updating my LinkedIn page and browsing listings, prepping for a year that would change my life. I planned to graduate college alongside my closest friends, move to a new city, and hopefully land a super-professional-full-time-grown-up role at a company I’d love. When I applied to Red Ventures, I thought my year might go as planned.
Of course, I was nervous about coming to RV for an interview. I remember fidgeting with my backpack, convinced that it screamed, “Hey, I’m still in college!” to everyone in sight. But looking back, that in-person interview seems like a luxury. I got a glimpse of day-to-day life at RV, and I was already thinking about the coffees I’d order before work, conversations I’d start near my desk, and even the walks I’d take around campus during a moment of writer’s block.
In-person RV culture is something applicants might miss in the online interviewing process, but I got a taste of it before accepting my role as an Associate Writer. It was interesting to me how everyone seemed so laid back yet confident at the same time. They were simultaneously motivated and at ease, excited to see each other and say hello, and productive — even though they weren’t wearing power suits.
Instead of going to my graduation ceremony, I found my diplomas sandwiched in a pile of junk mail left on my doorstep.
Getting that first look at RV culture was a big reason why I accepted my position. I was sure that it’d be the perfect place for someone leaving school and looking to find community in a new location. The Red Ventures Launch program was especially attractive to me because it allowed all new hires to train together, mingle at social events, and hopefully become friends. Like most college seniors, I was nervous about finding community after graduation. I knew that a program designed to ease that transition would be ideal for me.
But that soon changed, and it changed for all of us. Instead of going to my graduation ceremony, I found my diplomas sandwiched in a pile of junk mail left on my doorstep. I ate whatever dessert I could find in the freezer and called it a celebration, but I was much more disappointed when I found out that my new role at RV was going to be remote.
I expected it, after all, but the transition seemed more daunting. Moving to Charlotte and sitting in my apartment to stare at a computer screen? I didn’t even want to think about it for a while.
The thing is, my onboarding experience was much different than I anticipated during the dog days of a quarantined summer. On my first morning, I met other new hires, introducing ourselves until we started to narrow down mutual friends or similar interests, and pretty soon, we were just talking. During that week, I had the opportunity to make friends right away.
You’re going to be stretched beyond your comfort zone at RV, and that’s good.
My manager, Jess Vandesande, and my team were supportive from the start. I tried to look professional sitting with my computer on my lap — my desk hadn’t arrived yet — but I realized that one of the differences between college life and the professional world is that you aren’t being graded on the material. You aren’t supposed to know everything. My teammates showcased that aspect of RV culture, encouraging me to ask questions without looking down on me for asking them in the first place. It was refreshing, and their support is the main reason for my confidence now, just three months after my start date.
Sure, I have bouts of imposter syndrome and moments where I need to remind myself to ask questions, but RV is all about embracing change. Everyone is used to moving teams, starting new roles, and learning constantly. You’re going to be stretched beyond your comfort zone at RV, and that’s good. When you push your boundaries, you’ll get the room you need to grow.
The key to working from home is realizing you need to be intentional about your professional development. You aren’t going to work well with your teammates unless you schedule those intimidating one-on-one meetings. They’re essential for you to get familiar with one another and to feel at ease asking questions. When you have those meetings, you get to hold onto that part of RV culture that doesn’t just live within the walls of its campus.
Culture isn’t something that exists on its own; we bring it to fruition by our own initiative.
My fellow 2020 hires and I have a Slack channel to extend that culture into our work-from-home environments. We have a tool called “Donut” which randomly schedules meetings between group members, so we get to know new people every other week. Getting to hear from others who have also just started with RV has been a great way for me to join the community here, and it’s also helped me develop friendships in a new city. We’ve even planned on doing a book exchange for the holidays.
So, my word of advice to all of you looking to navigate the career world during the pandemic:
Don’t expect success unless you are willing to take initiative. Create relationships, even though you aren’t sitting next to someone. You need them, especially if your cat is your only companion during the week. Tom Hanks in the movie “Cast Away” is not your role model. Instead, look to the people you work with at RV. See how they’re coping, and take time to chat with them about movies and music in those spare moments at the end of the meeting. Culture isn’t something that exists on its own; we bring it to fruition by our initiative. It exists because of how we interact with one another.
If you’re looking to join RV, take the initiative to start that too. Don’t tell yourself it won’t work out, because who knows — you could be pursuing something great, even from your desk at home.