What it is like starting your first job – from your spare room

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Harry Brooke never thought day one of his first corporate job would take place in the spare room of his home in Killarney Heights. Stuck in lockdown in Sydney’s north, Mr Brooke has had to adapt to his position as a client services officer for Infocus Advisory Australia while working remotely.

“I had a bit of breakfast, showered, changed, chucked my suit on, did my hair, put the gel in it, even though I really didn’t need to because I was sitting in front of my computer,” he said.

Harry Brooke on his first day of work. Credit:James Brickwood

Despite meeting his colleagues virtually, Mr Brooke, 21, keenly felt the lack of face-to-face interaction and social aspects of starting work in an office.

“It requires a lot of self-motivation to get from 8.30 in the morning to five at night, without that kind of camaraderie and your mates around you to kind of push you on and motivate you,” he said.

“The whole social aspect and your surroundings at work at the end of the day can sometimes be the reason you get through a busy or a stressful day.”

Mr Brooke, who has a bachelor of business degree, is one of many young people who have entered their first career job in lockdown over the past 18 months.

Rae Cooper, a professor of gender, work, and employment relations at the University of Sydney, believes it is essential for young people starting their first jobs to “reach out as much as possible and ask the questions that they need to ask”.

“It’s a really challenging time to be entering the labour force but I think the last 18 months has shown us that young people are very resilient,” Professor Cooper said.

“The fact that young people are so skilled and capable in technological aspects of working life and social life should put them in pretty good stead for their first steps in their careers.”

ANZ Bank has hired graduates in recent months. Its group executive of talent and culture, Kathryn van der Merwe, says “we recognise the importance of helping new employees during their on-boarding to feel a sense of belonging. This is especially true for our graduates who tend to be new to the corporate workforce.”

“What we hear from our graduate community, is that they value social connection over long training sessions,” she said. To provide this connection, ANZ has given access to “online learning, buddies, social and knowledge committees, employee networks such as our pride network, people-leader guidance, coaching and mentoring”.

Mr Brooke said working from home can be a little disjointed, but Zoom has been a really useful tool. “To share screens and mirror what the other person is doing and from there I can see first-hand what I need to do and my manager can correct me as I do it as well … so it’s not too bad,” he said.

Professor Cooper believes this challenging experience will benefit young people.

“I think that young people who have been working through the COVID shutdown will have built up quite a bit of resilience and the capacity to work in ambiguity which perhaps many of their older colleagues might not have had as their first forging experience in the workplace,” she said.

Despite the challenges Mr Brooke, he says his manager has helped him adjust.

“She has helped me massively, just making sure that I’m comfortable and that I was up to date with everything that was happening,” he said.

Mr Brooke’s first day ended with a virtual meeting with the rest of his team where he said he felt very welcomed.

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