Welcome to the Forging a New Path! Throughout this blog series, we’ll dive into the stories of individuals who’ve recently joined the emerging Buffalo Startup community, sharing any insights, tips and tricks they learned along the way. As Forge Buffalo’s newest team member, I felt it was only right to start by sharing the story of how I joined the team in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I took some time off to extend the coming holiday weekend and had just walked into Lowes to grab supplies for a few house projects when my phone rang. “Hey, Christian – I’ve got great news. We’re offering you the position!” It was great news, so great that I almost forgot the current state of the world.

Moments earlier, I had to wait in line before entering the store to ensure the capacity allowed for proper social distancing. I was also wearing a mask, which made having a phone conversation without repeating myself or shouting challenging.

How did I manage to be one of the few people who found a new job during a global pandemic? It started in the pre COVID-19 world when I met with a former boss to talk about a position over drinks.

The next day, stay-at-home orders were issued, and cities and states worldwide went into lockdown mode. As businesses began pausing budgets, laying off or furloughing employees, I was positive any movement on the position would also come to a halt until the world started spinning the right way.

“We want to keep moving forward, so if it’s okay with you, we’d like to schedule a few Zoom and phone interviews.” Moving forward sounded great, and I would soon find out how many Zoom and phone interviews constituted a “few.”

In a normal world, 43North’s process is a series of in-person group interviews. Thanks to COVID-19, it shifted to several one-on-one Zoom meetings, a team Zoom meeting and a few quick phone check-ins and updates. (Pro tip: transparency during uncertain times is never a bad thing. I’m beyond grateful for the information provided during these updates and check-ins.) After meeting with everyone on the team at least once, I joked that if I didn’t get the job, I at least expected an invitation to the next office party. 

At the time, the number of Zoom interviews felt excessive. But now, I understand. Culture is extremely important, and in a world where in-person meetings and conversations are limited, finding the right personality fit is harder than year’s past. Plus, it’s reassuring to know the right combination of personality and talent is more important than plugging in whoever looks best on paper.

Finding and securing a new position can feel like a long, hard, and sometimes awkward process under normal circumstances. In a pandemic, those factors can feel like they’ve been multiplied by ten. Especially the awkward factor when giving your two-week’s notice over Zoom or attending a virtual going-away happy hour. 

Virtual onboarding can be tricky too. Thankfully I was onboarded during a re-opening phase that allowed me to go into the office for two half-days and have a small number of in-person meetings. These meetings helped me connect with the people I would be working closely with and provide a much-needed break from Zoom fatigue. And being able to finally see the office space where I would eventually work was pretty cool.

My most helpful onboarding tool was my schedule. It was packed with meetings, much-needed breaks to decompress and other items that I needed to familiarize myself with in the coming weeks. Virtually or IRL, being the “new kid” is stressful, and onboarding information overload is inevitable. It’s critical to have a plan when welcoming a new employee. Laying out what they need to learn and when they need to pause so the information can sink in can set the tone for a person’s entire tenure. Plus, having an understanding team that checks in and reassures the person that it will all become second nature before they know it is super helpful too.

I’ve come to sum up the most important lessons I’ve gained from this experience and the pandemic overall by using a quote from Dr. Ian Malcom (aka Jeff Goldblum’s character from Jurassic Park), “Life finds a way.”

Okay, so technically Jeff Goldblum didn’t give me this advice directly, but amid the uncertainty created by a global pandemic, families, communities and businesses have continued finding a way. Life will be stressful and may look completely different at times, but if you keep an open mind, trust in yourself and your abilities and stay flexible, it finds a way.

Want to learn more about startup life? Check out the Forge Buffalo Blog or click here to upload your resume if you’re ready to join the Forge Buffalo community.