I work for a multinational company on a team where I regularly have early morning and late night meetings in order to partner with my teammates around the world. A lot of our work is done over the phone, through sharing desktops virtually and over email. At first it felt awkward and clunky to work so closely with someone without meeting them in person; how was I expected to build a rapport with a voice or a name on the “To:” field? How do you become more than just a name?
Put a face to the name
Several people at work have a small snapshot of themselves in their signature line while others have simply just asked if I could send them a photograph so they could “see” who they are talking to. This helps with a few different things. First, it puts a face to a name. Now the person on the other end of the e-mail who is asking for your help isn’t just an unknown face, but they’ve become a person.
Second, it’ll help you figure out what pronoun to use. This may seem trivial, but it’s true! My name, Sejal, is actually a unisex name. (While I’ve never met a male Sejal, I’ve heard they exist!) When someone writes to me and refers to me as Mr. or he, it actually distracts me from the rest of the message. A picture would clear that up. Lastly, it’s an attention-grabber. When you’re looking at a screen all day, a picture is a break from the mundane.
Ask about more than just work
Small talk: who would have thought that two simple words could be so terrifying? Small talk isn’t everyone’s favorite, but it does have a purpose. It’s the gateway to building a relationship with someone, especially when it’s someone you won’t necessarily see in person. The trick to small talk is to ask questions and listen to the responses. If you’re going to ask just for the sake of asking, save your breath because you’re not helping anyone out.
Through small talk you can learn a lot about your coworkers which can then open the door to further conversations, a deeper relationship and a trusted partnership. Small talk can be as simple as, “How was your weekend?” to “What’s the weather like?” And if you’re still afraid of small talk, just listen to someone else start a conversation and you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll pick up my just observing.
Follow up on what you’ve learned
Did you find out about a colleague’s hidden talent of doodling online? Or perhaps you picked up on another coworker’s obsession with cupcakes or fascination with a specific sports team? Whatever you learned through listening, put it into use. If you see an article that made you think of them, send them a quick email sharing it. Is your cube neighbor an avid hiker? Ask them for some tips for a newbie and you’ll be rewarded with a new bond and some great advice too!
These are a few tips that worked for me; I’d love to hear what’s worked for you! Whenever I do finally meet a colleague in person, I often hug them because over the hours we’ve spent talking on the phone or corresponding over email, we’ve built a relationship and they are more than just a name.
Sejal is a Recruitment Marketing Project Manager at Intel. She is part of the team that is responsible for Intel’s global employment brand. This team helps connect candidates with Intel and Intel with candidates using channels such as the Jobs at Intel web site, the Life at Intel microsite and other Web 2.0 channels. Sejal specifically manages theJobs at Intel Blog and Intel’s recruitment Facebook strategy. Originally from Toronto, Ontario (yes—a real, breathing Canadian!), Sejal graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with her Bachelor’s in Communications before starting at Intel in 2008. When she’s not working, you’ll find Sejal working at crossing things off of her Bucket List (which includes skydiving, reading 1000 books and traveling the world), eating cupcakes or spending time with family and friends. To learn more about opportunities with Intel, visit intel.com/jobs, follow Intel on Twitter @JobsatIntel or check out the Jobs@Intel blog!