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As employers increasingly embrace remote work opportunities, new employees are searching for ways to make their transition to a virtual setting more comfortable. We connected with Esther Kong, Human Resources Generalist, to find out how new remote employees can make a stellar impression, build strong relationships, and hit the ground running. Not only is Esther a leader in recruitment, she is also settling into a new role while working from home. Here are some of her strategies:

 

Get to know your tools

From the outset, identify what technology and tools are essential to your daily operations. Then, ask if there is anything you have at home that can supplement. In the early days, take some time to familiarize yourself with essential programs. If you receive training on special applications, demonstrate you understand how they work. “Share tips, tricks, best practices or shortcuts,” says Esther. “This shows the team they have properly prepared you, and it's one less thing for them to worry about on top of their daily workload.”

 

Identify top priorities

When you begin your new role, make a point of identifying immediate priorities with your manager and determining where you can have the most meaningful impact. “Whatever your team’s needs were before the pandemic are likely different now,” Esther explains. “Understand what the priorities are now, because they may be different from what was initially discussed or laid out in the job description.”

 

Set or take advantage of regular check-ins

Building rapport with colleagues can be tricky without the luxury of proximity and collaboration. If your team holds regular check-ins, schedule your day around it. “Now more than ever, it's important to be present in those meetings,” says Esther. “Even if we can't physically be around each other, we should still maintain close social contact. These meetings offer valuable facetime with your coworkers even though it's online.”

 

A good way to integrate yourself into a team is by sharing anecdotes at the beginning of these check-ins to help break the ice. “You find out all these interesting facts about your coworkers, so they are no longer just a person on the screen to you. It helps you humanize each other,” she adds.

 

Ask questions

Asking a lot of questions is also a strong way to demonstrate commitment to quality. “It’s important to ask clarifying questions to fully understand what needs to be done. It’s always better to take a bit of extra time on the front end rather than jumping in, guns blazing, and having to fix things on the back end,” she says. “This shows others you want to do a good job.”  Your leader will appreciate your initiative, and desire to do something right the first time, and this opens the door for communication for the future. 

 

Be intentional

Being intentional in your interactions with colleagues is important to establishing yourself as a professional. You can show intention by being punctual for meetings and coming equipped with an agenda or meeting notes. “This demonstrates to people that you are someone who takes their work seriously and is respectful of other people's time,” says Esther. She also infuses intention in her daily interactions. “If I reach out to someone, I give them a reason to collaborate with me and try to add value,” she says. “For instance, if I'm sending an instant message to someone, I don’t start by saying hi and wait for the person to answer. It’s a time waster. I want to get my point across in the first message,” she explains. “We're all going through the same thing right now working remotely. Everyone's getting pinged with emails, instant messages, calls, and video chats. I try to be mindful of that.”

 

Welcome feedback

If there’s a sure-fire way to garner respect from your colleagues, it’s acknowledging the value they have to offer. Your teammates are already familiar with processes, personalities, and policies that can impact the success of your projects. A bit of this insight can help provide clarity and remove barriers unbeknownst to you. “I think it's important to establish to everyone on your team that you are respectful of their opinion and trust their expertise. This in turn also encourages further collaboration,” Esther offers. “Mutual respect is key to team dynamic.”

 

Take on some quick wins

While compliance training might not be the most exciting project on your radar, it is essential to onboarding. Tackle this essential training as soon as possible so your team can have your full and focused attention. Once that is complete, you can seek out low-hanging (but important) fruit. “Some tedious tasks that no one wants to do are really easy. Dedicate half an hour or an hour to breeze through it. That's one less thing on the list your team has to worry about.” This is an easy way to build rapport and better positions the entire team to take on priority tasks.

 

Prepare for the physical office

For many starting new roles in our current climate, the virtual work environment is a temporary arrangement. Give yourself a leg up by creating a daily routine that is transferrable. “I don't want that shock to the system, so I've still been getting up early in the morning, going out for my morning runs, getting showered and dressed as though I'm going to work, and keeping my work area organized” Esther says. “The less transitioning you need to do once you return to the office, the better.”

 

Esther also recommends creating a digital parking lot of activities suitable for when your return to the office. “This helps you plan and prioritize what to do once you’re back in a physical setting.”

 

While starting a new role in a virtual environment might seem intimidating, remember that your employer wants you to succeed just as much as you do. If you follow the guides above, embrace the new challenges a virtual setting brings, and have the courage to ask for help along the way, your effort won’t go unnoticed.

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There’s always a story behind how people choose their careers. For Brian Verspagen, Water Resources Engineer, it was a love of cars. A motorhead at heart, his enthusiasm for vehicles originally steered him toward mechanical engineering. After further research, his eyes were opened to the many options in engineering and he found himself gravitating to the water resources specialty at the University of Waterloo.

 

What was it that drew him in? “The water resources principles really clicked for me,” he explains. “The fluid hydraulics, hydrology, and the calculus behind it were all things I understood, and I thought I would enjoy the practice.”

 

After graduation, he furthered his education with a Master of Applied Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of Guelph. His studies, including his thesis on thermal enrichment of stormwater runoff from pavement surfaces, only furthered his passion for the field.

 

With his Masters in hand, Brian’s career path took him down south to Florida and Texas to try his hand at work in a warmer climate. As much as the warm weather was great for cruising, Brian was drawn back to the Waterloo Region in 2000 and in 2009 he joined WalterFedy to establish the Water Resources Team. He is now a Senior Project Manager and Team Leader for the group, in addition to being a Partner with the firm.

 

In the last 10 years, the Water Resources Team has grown to five professionals dedicated to designing water resource solutions for a variety of project types. Brian and his team have worked on several projects using Low Impact Development (LID) measures to enhance groundwater recharge, including monitoring the sites to prove that the implemented measures have a positive impact.

 

“Early in my career, I saw more projects focused on designing to the minimum standard for development than I do now,” says Brian. “The shift to doing more projects using LID measures is more environmentally responsible and allows us to do design work that really enhances the natural environment. It represents client demand for development in our growing communities without sacrificing the environment.”

 

Brian has seen the importance of water resources grow exponentially in the last decade. “Every project needs water resources in some capacity,” says Brian. “It’s not possible to construct a new road, develop a site, or build a subdivision without having an aspect of water resources involved. This means we have to have a good understanding of every sector’s needs and challenges to design the best solution for each client.”

 

It is that client-centred approach that makes all the difference for our team. Every new project is an opportunity to be creative when designing the perfect solution. “We look at each client’s goal and develop the best approach to fulfil it,” says Brian. “We have a team dynamic that allows us to look at a problem from a number of different angles to ensure we are choosing the solution that best balances client needs with an optimal approach.”

 

What’s in store for the future of water resources? A lot according to Brian. “The potential that our rivers, streams, and creeks offer as spaces for people to reconnect with nature will continue to gain importance, along with the need to preserve and enhance the quality of these natural systems as functioning ecosystems,” he says. “The role of water resources engineering will evolve to ensure these natural systems continue to function and are seamlessly incorporated into our landscape.”

 

If you’re looking for a new place to explore your passion for water resources, WalterFedy is expanding our team to include another Water Resources Engineer and a Junior Water Resources Engineer and we’d love to hear from you! You can also visit walterfedy.com/careers to see all the available opportunities to join our team.

 

 

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Combing through job boards, searching for valuable connections in your existing network, and fine tuning your social profiles can make hunting for a new job feel like a grind. But after hours of slugging away, you’re bound to see a role so perfect you can already picture yourself at your new desk drinking coffee with a collection of grade-A industry pros. When the thrill of the discovery settles, and the daydream fog lifts, reality sets in. To nab an interview, you’re going to need a standout resume.

 

Natalya Smith is a Human Resources Generalist at WalterFedy and spearheads the bulk of our recruitment efforts. Every week she reviews hundreds of resumes, looking for the next great addition to our team. What makes an application stand out from the stacks? Natalya offered us some insight into five things you can do to help bring your CV to the top of the pile.

 

  1. Pay close attention to the organization and editing of your resume
    Resumes that stand out are clearly organized with consistent spacing and text styles. Overcrowded text can be challenging to read, while too much white space can leave your application looking sparse. When a page is clearly organized, it’s easier to spot the keywords relevant to the position (make sure you add them!). Before you submit anything to a hiring manager, be sure to give your document a thorough edit for typos and clarity; for some hiring managers, glaring mistakes may take you out of the running.

  2. Show us why your experience is relevant
    We want to see you have the skills and experience needed to excel in this role. Tailor your resume to complement the expectations of the position. We can tell when you’ve put in the effort to draw parallels and it goes a long way. If you are trying to break into the field, show us experience that is relatable and take the time to explain why.

  3. Education and training are important
    Whether you are a new grad or an experienced applicant, we are interested to learn about your academic qualifications and personal commitment to continuous improvement. Don’t be afraid to point to a couple of courses that are relevant or distinguish you as a strong leader. This section is particularly useful for applicants coming right out of school who may not have industry experience.

  4. Call out any special skills
    No, we don’t mean your aptitude in Microsoft Word—these days that’s a given. Show us that you are familiar with the special applications, tools, technologies, and emerging platforms that are sought after in your role. Sometimes we look for these skills first.

  5. Take some time to write a cover letter
    Do you ever wonder if people actually read your cover letter? Natalya does. A cover letter is your opportunity to tell your story. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be tailored to the position. We should know within the first few sentences what you are applying for and why you will be a great fit. While a cover letter is not mandatory, it is one additional way to show us you are truly interested in the position.

 

Bonus tip: We love to see a commitment to our core values

Quality, Integrity, Client Focus, Community Building, and Environmental Sustainability are important values at WalterFedy and demonstrating how you live out these values will go a long way. For example, because we care about giving back to our community, we would be happy to hear about your volunteer experience. While this is not a deal breaker, it certainly shows us that you share one of the values we hold dear.

 

If there is one key takeaway, it is this: if the opportunity feels right, take a little extra time. Not only will it help elevate your application, it also goes a long way with hiring managers, who can spot when you have invested your time and care.

If you are interested in a career at WalterFedy, check out our current opportunities at walterfedy.com/careers/.

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