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Starting a career in a pandemic

When joining Deloitte Real Estate in September 2019 nobody knew the full extent of how our first year at the firm would pan out. If someone had told us that we would be working from home full-time, halfway through our first year on the Deloitte Graduate Scheme, we would never have believed them! In the week that our new 2021 graduates join us, we have taken a look back on what it was like to start our careers at Deloitte during a pandemic.

Our graduate scheme journey began with an induction week, where we got to meet and work with other graduates that were also joining the Financial Advisory arm of Deloitte, to learn more about the firm itself. We then joined our team in the office and met up with our ‘buddy’ who we had been in contact with prior to joining the firm. We were also assigned a coach to help us with our Assessment of Professional Competence. From the start, we found ourselves well supported whilst working on exciting and diverse projects as well as meeting with clients.

During our first six months, we kept in contact with the people we met during our induction through regular social events and lunch and learn sessions. These were hosted by the Junior Financial Advisory Committee (JFAC) which organises events for graduates and assistant managers in Financial Advisory.

The practice of working from home was already encouraged by Deloitte’s agile working policy, which supports flexibility in terms of where, when and how we work. Being graduates, we enjoyed the busy environment of the office, whereby we were able to learn from those around us and soak up the professional surroundings. The office, One New Street Square, was well-equipped for collaborative and individual working as well as social areas which facilitate chance encounters with colleagues. Whether we chose to work from the office or from home, it was helpful to know, we were equipped with the right infrastructure and supported by the firm to do so.

In March 2020, the government announced that workers who can work from home should do so. With this announcement, our daily work-life routine significantly changed as everything turned virtual, including meetings, one-to-one catchups and even after work social events. The term ‘you are on mute’ became a daily occurrence and ‘casual attire’ became the new workwear. The first few months of this change were challenging. As graduates, only six months into our careers, it was hard to expand upon our knowledge and further develop our skills when working from home five days a week. Those little questions you would often ask the person sat next to you had to become scheduled phone calls. In the office we were used to a very sociable team, often having lunch with our peers and attending after work social events with our colleagues. Lunch in the kitchen at home was never quite as exciting…

Ten months on, we have thoroughly adapted to working from home and have reflected upon the elements we have enjoyed. From the start of the pandemic, daily sub-team calls were scheduled. These were used to have a general, informal chat with members of the team. Topics discussed ranged from raising back garden chickens to learning how to carve a wooden spoon. We got to meet members of families, including paw friends, admire wall art and enjoy family photos. Meetings with sub-teams, wider teams and one-to-one well-being catch-ups were regularly scheduled, as well as all social events hosted virtually. Although everybody was at home, the team was more connected than ever before.

Deloitte has ensured the wellbeing agenda has been a top priority for its people during the pandemic, expanding its mental health champion programme and networks which focus on wellbeing. The Deloitte wellbeing networks are core to ensuring that everyone is able to reach their full potential. Throughout the pandemic the network has hosted various wellbeing events and offered lots of help, advice and resources for looking after our mental health and wellbeing during this challenging time.

The JFAC has hosted regular virtual events throughout the pandemic, which ensures we stay connected with other junior colleagues working throughout Financial Advisory. The wider firm also hosts a weekly coffee catch-up session that matches you with a random colleague in Deloitte for a 30-minute virtual chat over coffee (all other hot drinks are also acceptable!). The firm has made a great commitment to regular ‘Let's Talk’ sessions, which provide an open forum for discussing the challenges people are facing working from home, including working in shared houses, or with young children. To ensure our technical knowledge and skills continue to develop, Continued Professional Development sessions have continued to run virtually, while training and learning modules have been moved to online platforms. The seamless shift to providing these resources virtually has meant that we are able to remain connected to our colleagues, continue to expand our networks, and further develop our knowledge and skills.

Looking to the future, we are both eagerly anticipating our return to the office (whenever that may be) and a sense of normality returning to our day to day lives. However, we expect that this will not reflect our previous work-life pattern but we consider that the office will still play an important role in our day-to-day working lives including providing a suitable environment for collaborative working with colleagues and clients.

Overall, we are thankful to Deloitte for adapting so well to the change in circumstances over the past ten months, but we are also proud of all our colleagues, for the support we have received. If we could offer any advice to new joiners, it would be:

  • Never be afraid to give someone a call if you are unclear on something;
  • Introduce yourself to new people on calls as you would in person;
  • Attend virtual coffees and socials with colleagues; and
  • Try and make the most of the benefits of working from home.

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