What was it was like to start a Training Contract in a global pandemic? & Top Tips for New Trainees.

Having been awarded a Training Contract, I was overjoyed and a little apprehensive about beginning at Woodfines, like all people starting a new job. The global pandemic was not abating and, unsurprisingly, my start date was postponed; I was delighted when I received a new start date ahead of my expectations. I learned that Woodfines, as other businesses, had adapted and developed their working routines and methodologies to accommodate a blend of office-based and remote working.

Despite not knowing Woodfines’ pre-pandemic work habits, and therefore unable to make any comparisons, I found myself worrying about things that may not have occurred to me in ‘normal’ circumstances. For example, how would I get to know people and how would they get to know me? How would I be able to become part of the Woodfines family? What technical equipment did I need, what stationery, what happens if…?

Now that I am at the end of my first seat of my training contract, I can share my realities. Initially, the technical issues were challenging, but the IT support team were very helpful and, once I had set up my home-office and the necessary software had been remotely installed, I was soon good to go.

The induction sessions were excellent, and I felt that everyone I met was super-supportive and encouraging, which made settling-in so much easier than anticipated. It was great to meet my team and have a tour around the office, which was bizarrely empty! I was also sensitive to the fact that everyone has had to adapt to these new working conditions and not just the new trainees. I was concerned that remote working would make it more difficult to learn company culture, but am now confident that, with time, I am learning more about it.

Being in the office for part of the week has helped me to put names to faces and I have enjoyed conversations getting to know my new colleagues and catching up with my team. It is easier to put names to faces in person, rather than hear voices with no faces, and I am looking forward to meeting more people, in person, across the Firm.

I quickly learned to always ask for help when needed and that no question is too trivial, whether in the office or working from home. However, I also learned that I can be more daunted making a phone call for help from home than I should be. When telephoning a colleague, without eye-contact or being in the same environment, there are no hints or clues about convenience, their availability, whether they are particularly busy, have time for my call etc. The reality is that I feel very privileged to be working with such a lovely team and sincerely appreciate the tolerance, guidance, and time, given to me, as a trainee.

Personally, I think that I am more productive working from home; however, since time flies, I am also having to learn to set work/home boundaries and leave my desk at a sensible time and remember to take lunch! Plus, it is nice not to have to dress formally when working at home and the money and time saved from not having to commute is a huge bonus! As a trainee, trying to make a good impression and demonstrate eagerness to learn and achieve, can sometimes feel difficult to do from home, however, overall a mix of office-based and home working seems to work great for me.

I would fully recommend a training contract at Woodfines to all potential trainees. The knowledge, expertise and friendliness of the staff are second to none.

My top tips for new trainees are:

  • Take notes about everything, you never know when you may need to refer back to them.
  • Read messages for what they say, do not try to analyse them for undertone or nuance, they are what they are, and people have different ways of expressing themselves.
  • Offer to help with everything, even if it appears daunting, you can gain invaluable experience by getting involved, which also helps your learning.
  • Set up a constructive space for working from home, a space that you can walk away from when the working day has finished.
  • Remember you may need to be flexible and adaptable as we all learn more about alternative working methods.
  • Be mindful about the day-to-day differences while working from home, the doorbell may ring, the dog may bark, it is okay to respond to those things, even though they would not happen at work.
  • Make the most of your supervisor meetings – raise any issues you have and plan how best to continue your development as a trainee to make sure you are gaining the most from your seat.
  • Take time to get to know your colleagues, it is great to get to know new people and learn about their interests, this also makes working as a team much easier and more relaxing.
  • Remember never to be worried to ask for help, you are all on the same team and all want a successful outcome.

-Emily Havard

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