Sport Journalism alumnus Tom Bestwick on starting a new role during the global pandemic


On 23 March, the night before Tom was due to start his new role as PR and Outreach Specialist at Hallam (an award-winning digital marketing agency), the UK was ordered into a strict lockdown. Tom shares his advice on 'How to thrive in your new agency role during a global pandemic.' 


Tom studied Sport Journalism at the University from 2011-2014, graduating with a first class honours. After graduating Tom worked at Derby County Football Club, Everyone Active and freelanced for Aston Villa Football Club (although not so much with football games being cancelled.) On starting his new career with Hallam, Tom said "It was an incredible opportunity for me - one I didn't expect to get at this stage of my career. I felt like it was a chance to not only join an agency closer to home but join one that is right at the top of its field."

"Starting a new job at any time, usually, comes accompanied with two emotions. Firstly, overwhelming excitement, the second a few niggly nerves. The night before starting my new role, with the UK put into lockdown, my head swirled with questions. Largely, they centred on how I could possibly hit the ground running, make the impact that I wanted, get to know my new team and fully understand what it means to be part of a thriving agency. How could I possibly be integrated?"

Tom Bestwick on his new role working from home as a PR and Outreach Specialist

How to thrive in your new agency role during a global pandemic

Here's Tom's five steps to take to allow you to thrive in your new digital role in the midst of a global pandemic.


1. The 'bread and butter'

The first point here actually pre-dates the start of the new job entirely.

One of the most interesting aspects about joining a new digital agency is finding out the clients you’re going to be working on. To ensure I was fully prepared, I wanted to be sure, at the very least, that I knew my ‘bread and butter’ and spent the week prior to starting by researching.

This doesn’t have to be strenuous. Bits of free time I had and a couple of hours at the weekend enabled me to look into my clients, their backgrounds, what they’re currently doing, their social media channels and even find out their respective status in the midst of COVID-19.

Don’t go in blind. Taking a bit of time at the beginning can free you up during your first couple of weeks in your new role and makes client-related conversations a lot easier.

2. Embracing a new culture behind a screen

There has never been a more important time to use video calling in your business and personal life and, sticking with the former, it goes without saying that it’s a fundamental integration tool for any new starter.

The use of Slack video calling, Zoom and Google Hangouts has kept me involved, allowed me to see and communicate with my new team members on a frequent basis (minimum twice a day), strike up relationships with other departments, fulfil the HR necessities and see how Hallam’s processes work – all from behind a screen.

Also, the ‘buddy lunch’ deserves a special mention. I was able to enjoy my lunch with a member of the team from a different department via a video call. I got the chance to find out about them, their interests, their work and how we can help one another moving forward.

You learn more during a two-minute call than you would a messaging service and I’ve seen and felt that value as a new starter. In short, I haven’t felt alone with anything.

A nice little touch from Hallam was every colleague being surprised with an Easter / work from home care package. Personally, it's these thoughtful gestures that have really helped me settle into life at Hallam - a lot can be said for biscuits, sunglasses, a branded mug, an easter egg and toilet paper!

Laptop screen with 30 colleagues on Zoom Tom's colleagues at Hallam, on the Feel Good Friday Zoom event which celebrates successes over the month as well as birthdays and then a digital quiz. Tom said it's "A lot of fun after a tough week and a great opportunity to see everyone's silly side."

3. Making the most of home comforts

Life has changed entirely in the interim, but working from home can have its advantages as a new starter.

Your first week as a newbie is a whirlwind as you try your best to soak up as much information as possible during regular meetings, chats with other departments and the necessary HR and system set-up processes – the necessities that enable you to get fully accustomed with your new way of life.

Working from home, however, gives you some much-needed breathing space. You have an opportunity to take stock, sit back and do your own research into that new process or piece of software you have just been introduced to.

There’s been a lot of that here at Hallam and in between calls and meetings, I've had chance to take time to review what I’d been shown. I did so safe in the knowledge that there was a member of the team just a video call or message away if there wasn’t something I didn’t fully understand.

Tom Bestwick sat at his deck in his new role working from home Tom working from home in his new agency role at Hallam.

4. Making the most of free learning tools

That buddy lunch I mentioned, It was valuable for another reason, it actually opened up different learning avenues for me.

SEO is something that interests me greatly and is a tool I’ve been looking to improve my knowledge on. A chink in my armour, if you will.

And thanks to my buddy, I was made aware of the courses Moz are currently giving access to, free of charge, during this pandemic – an incredible gesture and one that I will certainly be making the most of during this period of isolated integration.

Moz is not alone in offering such a service. Be sure to check out Search Starter Pack, which has links to a number of free and discounted courses that could be relevant to you or your business beyond COVID-19.


5. COVID-19 and beyond!

And now we’re back full circle, back to the ‘bread and butter’ of life working in a digital agency.

Here at Hallam, we’re coming up to Q2 of our client strategies and the conversations, again via video calls, are very different to how they usually would be. Naturally.

Not only is there a need for us to be thinking ahead – to a time when COVID-19 is a distant memory – but we also need to be thinking about the here and now and how to align our clients’ messaging and campaigns in line with what is happening.

There is a need and a want for uplifting and positive news stories and case studies, something that is not only going to brighten up the lives of the journalists we are outreaching to, but to the audience connected with each of our clients.

Those human stories and campaigns are going to be key during this period and because of that early research and time I spent on my clients, I was in a good position to positively bring new ideas to a team already brimming with them.



I’ll keep this brief. The use of video call technology – like Slack and Google Hangouts – has been integral in my integration into my new role.

It’s made the process as seamless as possible, allowed me to get to know people right across the agency, learn the processes thoroughly in a structured manner and get up to speed with my position and what is required from me.

No-one knows when normality will return. Until then, though, I’ll be focusing on ensuring I’m making the biggest impact I can from the comfort of home.

Stay safe!