Virtual Onboarding in The time of the Coronavirus

By Marisa Rubin 

Transitions can be hard, new jobs can be scary. Usually the process of onboarding to a new job is quick, easy and oftentimes seamless. And then COVID-19 hit.  

I was rapidly approaching the end of my two-year Springboard Fellowship through Hillel International at Central Florida Hillel, when I was offered a job with The Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, it was a dream come true. I put in my two weeks and figured I’d have plenty of time to say goodbye to my students, friends, colleagues and family. Until President Trump gave his first big speech on the novel coronavirus, I then found myself scrambling to pack, change my lease date on my apartment and leave Orlando to start anew in Nashville. 

Amidst the scrambling, I knew that the offices in Nashville were still working as normal, so I was very excited to start a job working alongside an amazing team, in real life. But that’s not what happened. 

My start date did not change, April 1, I was set to begin my new journey as the Community Engagement Associate and I was beyond excited. I had never worked from home before, so this was all going to be new to me, and added with it was a lot of anxiety. 

During the two weeks before I started, I had already been contacted by HR to fill out paperwork, send documentation and get them anything they needed to get me in the system. A few days before I started, I was contacted by the IT department to set up my email address. Everything was happening so fast and it was so hard to comprehend because none of it was happening in person. 

Typically on your first day, everyone welcomes you with warm hugs and smiles. The first thing on my agenda my first day, was a Zoom staff meeting, in which I was greeted with immense warmth, comfort and support from my new team. Their friendliness and willingness to help at anytime made this seem a little less scary. When starting a new job, most often you have tons of meetings with the staff, your supervisor, if you’re lucky like I am, your predecessor and so forth. For me, that was impossible to do in person. 

Later on my first day, I had a call with my supervisor and predecessor. We chatted on things I should be focusing on, what exactly is going on and how to begin to engage with the Jewish young professional community of Nashville. 

Throughout my first week, I would get calls from not only staff, but community members checking in on me, making sure I was doing alright and wasn’t getting too overwhelmed with the whole social distancing in a new city. This community has already proven themselves to be uniquely caring in such daunting times and it showed me the type of family I am joining as a new member of this team. 

Being onboarded virtually is one of the most challenging ways to be onboarded. You can’t see the dynamics, you can’t be with the person to just walk to their office when you have a question. Virtual onboarding is solely reliant on technology and hoping that it works when you need it to. It’s sending a text or an email to a colleague instead of popping your head in and saying “hey,” or having Shabbat services and dinner over Zoom instead of being together with the community you are now a part of. 

Although I can’t be in the office now, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to be in the office, I look forward to my “first day” of work, just as I looked forward to April 1. Seeing communities come together in the time of COVID-19 is so beautiful to me, and I know that my team and I will overcome this together.  

Marisa Rubin is the Community Engagement Associate at The Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.