What’s it like to start building a career in the pensions industry having never met your new colleagues face to face? What are the challenges of virtual onboarding, online training and home working for graduates starting off in pensions?
Let’s hear from some of our 2020 Pensions Management Graduates - Kirsty Bain, Jack McCusker and Niall McDonnell – as they reflect on their first six months with us.
Kirsty: My whole experience so far, from my first interview to present, has been virtual. While initially the prospect of not only starting a new job, but starting my first full-time job, from home was daunting, I soon adapted to this style of working. Everyone was really welcoming and supportive of the challenges entailed with working remotely and I managed to settle in quickly. In particular, being able to have video calls with colleagues using Microsoft Teams has been a really great way to not only build professional relationships but those on a personal level too!
Niall: Remote working has been great – the lack of commuting is a real bonus for me and working in lockdown hasn’t been as tough as I expected. I was onboarded in September and was sent a starter kit with a laptop, water bottle, face masks etc. I was paired with a buddy and also worked closely with one specific graduate; it was good to build an early relationship with them so I had someone to bounce ideas off and chat to like you would in an office. Initially, I didn’t quite understand where I fitted into the team, but over the past couple of months I have managed to pick this up and understand through meetings/social events etc. where we all sit in a structure and how our work matters and impacts the business.
Jack: Starting remotely came with its own set of challenges. However, everyone was very accommodating during the onboarding process and made every effort to make sure I had all the necessary equipment to start remotely; they also made me feel incredibly welcome as I started in the new role, which helped immensely given how daunting it can be starting a new job.
Kirsty: I have enjoyed working from home and it has allowed me to go on nice morning walks each day as there is no commute time. Although I have attended many virtual social events, including Countdown and Graduate Pizza and Drinks, I am keen to meet people face-to-face and experience working within an office environment.
Niall: I am eager to get into the office to meet my colleagues however, I feel like I have a good relationship with them through the Graduate Launch event and the Christmas nights virtually. We have also attended some graduate workshops as well as IT workshops being regularly offered so we can get the best out of our software packages and Microsoft Office whilst working from home. I can make work fun with my colleagues via video calls and messages, which I think is very important for people to enjoy what they do! It will be really good to meet my colleagues in person eventually – but I’m not yet ready to think about those 7:30am train journeys!
Jack: The training on the programme started on day one, both with formal training sessions and on the job training. Both these types of training have broadened my understanding of the pensions industry in a very short period of time. In particular, I have learnt a lot from dealing with pension member’s queries directly as well as getting involved with project work for schemes going through the Pension Protection Fund assessment period. The broad experience of the scheme terminations team and their approachability have made learning that much easier, and despite not having met any of them in person I feel very much a part of the team.
Niall: I was completely new to working in the pensions industry, but I did write my Masters dissertation about young workers and their views towards pension savings. Needless to say the general thinking is ‘that’s too far in the future for me to worry about just now’. I learned through my studies that it’s never too early to think about pension savings – and I now understand this more than ever working in the industry and talking to people who are at the other end of the spectrum and preparing for retirement. I do certainly believe that pensions is an industry that changes so often, so there is lifelong learning within it.
Kirsty:My knowledge of pensions and trusteeship was limited. However, within my first few months at the company I was given training of the sector, which, coupled with a very hands-on approach to working directly with schemes, has allowed my breadth of knowledge to grow significantly. Furthermore, this has also allowed me to appreciate how vast the pensions sector is, with ample opportunities to progress your career path. I am currently working towards my PMI qualifications and will be sitting my Leavers 1 and 2 exams in March 2021. We are given study leave in the run up to exams which has helped support my capacity for revision, so fingers crossed they go well!
The last word goes to Niall, who sums up what many of us have felt during the pandemic, but like all of our graduates, has found the resilience and determination to see a bright future ahead.
Niall: I am about to sit my first two CPC exams in March. It’s been hard to find motivation for a lot of things during the pandemic and I’m sure that I’m not the only person who feels this way. But I think these exams will be so crucial to identifying my strengths and weaknesses and will help me build a solid route for a career path within pensions.