I just celebrated my first anniversary with CiteRight! Exciting, enlightening, and at times, exhausting, this year has been filled with so much personal and professional growth.
The theme of the past year has been making connections. Whether you’re in sales or you manage a team, being able to connect with people is key. The pandemic has created some unique opportunities to do that; I’ve had coast to coast virtual lunches and engaged with prospective clients in different cities, all from the comfort of my own couch.
This is my first time working for a startup and the first time I’ve worked remotely. It’s been an abnormal year for many reasons, but also one that has reminded me about the importance of reflection. As such, I want to share some of the key lessons I've learned in my new role over the past year.
Working remotely requires you to put a lot of trust in things you can’t see
The pandemic has posed some unexpected challenges, the biggest of which being that I’ve never been able to have the traditional office experience with my team. Ensuring people are using their time effectively is one aspect, but I’m more concerned with ensuring the wellbeing of my employees. It’s much harder to tell whether someone is feeling satisfied and fulfilled in their job when you can’t sit down and talk with them face to face or rely on their body language. You have to trust that people will be honest about what they need from you in order to succeed.
I’ve learned that it’s important to check in with people regularly, but it’s more important to set out clear expectations of what you need from them. Spending all day checking up on your employees over Slack isn’t the best use of time, but if your expectations are clear from the outset, you can give them a bit more leeway to complete their tasks. This helps to build trust and self-efficacy among your employees.
Connections can take shape in many different ways
Without an office to bring people together, how are you supposed to establish connections among your employees? We all know that it’s better working with someone when you have a friendly rapport. Our team has a ton of moving parts that need to function together seamlessly, so we’ve had to find different ways to help people build those relationships. We do monthly virtual game nights, and a bi-weekly demo day where any employee can showcase the projects they’re currently working on. This gives people a chance to see what’s going on with people they don’t normally work with. It’s all about finding ways to recreate the workplace experience from home.
The same goes for sales relationships. Before CiteRight I worked for a large rental car company, so I have a lot of experience dealing with customers face to face. In a pandemic, if you want to make a sale, you have to find a different way to connect with prospective customers. I learned early on that you can still provide the same level of customer care over the phone or online as you would in person; you just have to adapt your style a little bit. Listen more, talk less, and be honest about whether the client’s problem is one you can solve.
You can’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone
My mother is a lawyer, so I’ve been surrounded by lawyers my entire life. I knew a thing or two about the legal profession when I started this job, but I had never heard of the McGill Guide, so I was definitely out of my comfort zone. It was strange at first, trying to sell a product I didn’t fully understand, but I caught on pretty quickly. One year later, I feel like I’m an expert in litigation workflow and I'm continuing to learn new things. In fact, I can now say that I feel comfortable sharing my expertise on how to best adapt in this ever-changing digital environment.
A lot of cool opportunities have arisen out of this job already, and I never would have been able to take advantage of them if I hadn’t pushed my boundaries. You just have to remember: be as knowledgeable as possible about the things you know, and honest about the things you don’t. An employer who cares about your development will give you the chance to bring yourself up to speed.