03 December 2020

By second year trainee, Brandon Wong 

Vacation schemes are hard enough without the added pressure of everything moving online. Rest assured that over the last few months, everyone has had to learn quickly and adjust to the new world we currently find ourselves in, so you are certainly not alone when it comes to navigating the labyrinth of working from home. That being said, there are definitely some basic pointers to be aware of to help you make it through your vacation scheme as smoothly as possible. 

Networking is still on the table

Whilst the challenges of networking are exacerbated in a virtual environment, there is still plenty of opportunity to reach out to people in the firm and find out about different practice areas that might be of interest. 

You might find it daunting at first to 'approach' someone (even if via email) and ask them to tell you about their work, but you'll soon realise that the vast majority of people are more than happy to schedule in a 'virtual coffee' and a chat. If there are already practice areas that you think you might be interested in, a great first point of contact is your trainee buddy, who can steer you towards a friendly lawyer in the team or a trainee that's recently completely a seat in that department. 

As with face-to-face networking, the normal rules still apply however. So make sure you think carefully about why you might like a particular practice area and come armed with research ready to ask some insightful questions and engage in conversation. 

Virtual etiquette is the new trend

It's no surprise that working from home has ushered in a wave of new conventions that dictate our on-screen interactions. Becoming quickly accustomed to the new way of doing things can help avoid any unwanted virtual faux pas. 

Make sure to dress to impress, and not just from the midsection up (even if for nothing more than to get you in the right frame of mind). Clear the background behind you. If there truly is nowhere else to hang your washing, make use of features such as blur background or default background in teams to maintain the professionalism. Become a savant with muting and unmuting your mic and video. And finally, remember that the other person can still see you, so stay engaged and act as you would in a face-to-face conversation. 

Ensure your home office is more an office than a home

In the midst of networking, attending socials and preparing to make a good impression at the final interview, it's easy to forget that you'll actually have some work to do. Unlike days in the office, good working habits can be more difficult to develop when working from home. You don't have a dedicated workspace, you're not surrounded by your colleagues, and you have to be more rigorous than ever to structure in those short coffee breaks.

Making a structured routine for yourself to help you get through the working week can help tremendously however. Be sure to organise your desk space so that it is free of interruptions and dedicated solely to working. This will make it much easier to focus throughout the day. Try and wake up at the same time each morning and give yourself enough time to get into a focussed mind-set (rolling out of bed 10 minutes before logging on generally doesn't have that effect). Remember that mobile hot-spotting can be a lifesaver when the WiFi inevitably goes down. And finally, stay armed with a pen and paper at all times, as you never know when instructions may come through.

Not worlds apart from before

Despite some of the additional challenges that undertaking a vacation scheme from home presents, the reality of a virtual vacation scheme is not dramatically dissimilar to one in person. Just stay positive and enthusiastic and gain as much from the experience as you can… and don't forget to unmute your mic!

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