Picture your first day in the office. You’re dressed to impress. You were excited this morning, but now your nerves kick in as you approach the door. There are lots of awkward handshakes. Lots of names. You’re given a guided tour and shown where you’ll be sitting, the fire assembly point and most importantly, where you can make a brew. Then, you’re forced to think of yet another password to remember.
We haven’t been virtually introduced. I’m Lucy. And I recently started as a junior copywriter just as lockdown came in. It’s been a world of weird.
The workplace is very topsy-turvy right now. For many, all sense of work life balance has gone out the window. And ‘new ways of working’ is a poignant phrase. It’s a time when companies can show how well they work from home. Or show they’ve got a lot to learn. But it’s also a chance to open some unexpected doors. Indoors of course. See our guide on What to do when what you usually do can't be done. At DirectionGroup, there’s been so much enthusiasm and drive to pull together, support each other and come out from this lockdown stronger.
So, enjoy reading my guided tour of starting as a copywriter in isolation.
To scream or to laugh?
Yes, I’ve worked from home before. But I’ve never started a job from home. I never expected my cat to interrupt a meeting with the creative director. Or a co-worker to drop off my laptop (from a social distance, of course). Or to simulate after-work drinks with colleagues on a Friday afternoon. Every induction has been via video. New colleagues have seen more of my house than some of my long-term friends. And ‘Hope you’re well’ has a whole new meaning.
But I’ve enjoyed my one-to-one sessions. And in some ways, that’s been better than a ‘stand in front of the classroom and present yourself’ moment. Or a ten second introduction with someone as they rush to a meeting. On the spot greetings can be really intimidating. But organised video chats are great. And people have been very creative in the quest to stay social.
The kitchen or the conservatory?
The kitchen wins. Because I won’t lie, my biggest surprise is the amount of banana milkshake I consume. But second to that is how much training depends on social interaction (normally). It’s more difficult asking for help when you’re working remotely. Do I video call? Do I IM? Or email? And how long will it take for them to read my message and reply? My co-workers found a way. They put a welcome folder on my desktop before I started. It’s got examples of work, writing exercises, a welcome presentation and guidelines. I call it the folder of knowledge. And that’s because I’m finding it invaluable. And my team checks in with me daily.
Induction training is one of those things. You have to do it. It can be tedious but it’s necessary. Like unclogging a drain (how did that coin get down there?). And it’s much easier if HR has told you exactly which courses to complete, how and by when. Having everything ‘admin’ laid out in front of you, like I did, makes it a lot easier. Because when you’re new, you’re not always sure who’s the best person to speak with. Oh, and just as a side note, it really helped that all the IT worked too.
Is this the deep end or the shallow?
I was very excited for my first assignment. Eager to crack on and break some eggs. But when I received the brief, I felt a bit ‘flappy’. Is this a straightforward, run-of-the-mill job? Without seeing your colleagues, you can’t really tell what their typical day is like. There’s simply a lack of context. One thing about an office is you can speak to the person sitting next to you. And that’s how we want to write too, isn’t it? As if we’re having a conversation.
I was so worried my first draft would be total rubbish. And in a way, I was right to think that. Your first draft is never going to be your best. Or even good. It will probably be bad. But I was wrong to think that’s different from any other copywriter. Even the most experienced. So, I’m learning to just get it down on (virtual) paper. I spent much of my first day reading through tone of voice and copy guidelines including this blog. It’s a little bit like re-training your brain. And you can’t do it alone. You need to share your work because feedback is the greatest teacher. Copywriting is a process and a craft, first. With some creativity sprinkled on top.
Starting as a copywriter in lockdown has been a real challenge. I’ve got so much to learn in this role. Which is true of any new starter. But there’s been a number of things that have made it easier. Firstly, positive messages. Secondly, preparation. Thirdly, continued communication. That’s why the right support is so important when you start. Especially when you’re working remotely. In lockdown.
Anyway. Back to business as (un)usual.