“When I was invited to an assessment day for the graduate programme for a big national insurer in early March this year, I was really excited.
But only a week after I’d completed the day, lockdown began. I was left wondering, would I make the grade? And even if I did, would the company decide to defer its intake of graduates this year?
I was so happy when I quickly discovered I got through, and was told I would be starting at the end of August. But then the nerves set in again. What would it be like starting in my very first full-time job, working remotely away from all the other graduates, my managers, my team – and even the office?
Luckily, I needn’t have worried. The onboarding process was brilliant. My firm already used an online portal as part of their onboarding process which definitely helped things run smoothly, despite the lockdown. As soon as I’d accepted my place on the programme, I could explore the site, so my onboarding started weeks before my first day.
Taking care of the formalities
Firstly, all the technical nitty-gritty was easy. The website housed all the contracts I had to sign, all of the official forms I had to fill in, and all of the company’s policies around everything from Health and Safety to Diversity and Inclusion, so I had plenty of time to get my head around it all. With the portal managing all of the more mundane admin bits and pieces, HR and my manager were then on hand to talk with me about the more exciting aspects of my role and the company, and what I could look forward to.
Keeping me organised!
The onboarding process was super simple to understand, because there was a series of checklists – one to be ticked off before I actually joined, the other for my first ninety days when I’d actually started. It was really reassuring to know exactly what I needed to do, and where I was in the process – and to be able to have more of an idea of some of the goals I’d need to meet in my first three months on the programme. It made everything much less stressful, because I didn’t feel like things were being suddenly sprung on me.
Making new friends and connections
But perhaps the best thing, especially through June and July, was the chance to ‘meet’ other graduates online in the portal’s social area. Given the times we are all living through, it was really good for our sanity to have people to chat to who were in the same situation – and to start making friends and building networks before day one. It was also great to get to know people in very different teams, doing really different jobs – as well as my fellow aspiring actuaries! There were dedicated spaces for different groups too, such as BAME, LGBTQ+ and Disability. Everyone was welcome within those groups and they were such a great way to help everyone feel welcome.
Once we started, the main social page was great for sharing tips on everything from getting to grips with new software, to remote working. (What’s the best way to keep your cat out of a Microsoft Teams meeting? Discuss.) A few of us have even agreed that when we move back into a real-life office, we’ll share a flat together. (We all live quite a way from the London offices: Truro, Leeds and Newcastle respectively.)
I can message my manager and buddy through the system too, which is handy. My buddy is great. She did the same graduate programme I’m doing two years ago, so she knows all the pitfalls and short cuts. I feel like I can ask her anything at all – really handy when I have a stupid question I don’t want to ask my manager before I’ve even started! Having said that, my manager’s been good too. I filled in a questionnaire about my home environment on the onboarding portal, then got a follow up call from my manager to chat through how they could support my remote working – which included getting me a folding desk for my bedroom so I’d have somewhere less noisy to work than the kitchen table.
Getting me up to speed quickly
The other thing that was great about the portal was the chance to get a bit more up to speed on the company, and my place in it. I had a bit of an idea of course, but the site’s content was tailored directly around me and my programme.
There was a video from the head of my division, welcoming me to the business, as well as lots of information on my team’s goals, and ongoing projects, which made starting so much easier. They also ran through what systems and apps I’d be using, with links to training videos for anything I was unfamiliar with. You could even do a 360° tour of the office – including the gym and roof garden. None of which I can use at the moment of course, but it was still quite nice to see it anyway. Hopefully I’ll get there eventually!
Working for my future from day one
A lot of work has gone into making the process of starting my new career really personal to me. For example, in my ‘first 90 days’ checklist, they’ve included some specific bits of training just for me. Because the assessment process here is quite in-depth, they’re able to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses – whether that’s in specific knowledge, or in softer skills – and set up tailor-made training for me. A career path planner tool also helps me see some of the directions my career could go in, and the benchmarks I need to reach to progress.
All in all, I feel like a huge amount of effort has gone into making me feel welcome, prepared and relaxed. On day one, I felt ready to get stuck into work straight away with the team I had my first rotation with. I knew people at lots of levels I could turn to for help. And I now feel excited about all the ways I could develop my career over the next few years.”