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Career Coaching

How to succeed as a remote employee

Remote work is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and many people I know. As a remote worker of 12 years, I have a hard time imagining going back into an office setting. Of course, as the CEO, I would love to see my employees in their productive states, since our relationships are through a computer screen, but the autonomy that comes with remote employment is invaluable. I have built stronger relationships with my family, friends, and myself, and I attribute a lot of that to my work from home lifestyle. If I want to go for a walk in the middle of the day while not feeling obligated to get back exactly 30 minutes late, I can without guilt. I want to sign-on early and stop working at 3:00pm, I can. As long as I don’t miss my meetings and the work gets done, what harm is there with not chaining your employees to a desk just to say they were there? 

The question I get all the time is how do you stay productive while working remotely? The key to remote work success comes in many forms, based on your personality, work agility, and environmental preferences. We work from home, so we have a healthy work-life balance. We work from home, so we can be productive in more ways than just our careers.

Pros and cons of remote work 

There can be some back and forth on whether working from home or in an office is better. The reality is, it’s based on your personality whether it works for you or not. Some people need more human interaction outside of those who live with them, others enjoy spending time at home. 

Pros

  • There is more flexibility when dealing with appointments and errands. 
  • There are fewer interruptions from meetings and office chat. 
  • There is no need to commute, so you save time, money, and stress. 
  • You make a positive environmental and sustainability impact. 
  • There is more time to spend with your family and friends, resulting in a stronger work-life balance. 
  • You more than likely can do your work when you are most productive – just make sure you don’t miss those meetings and deadlines!
  • You have location independence and are not tied to living in a specific location, possibly one you don’t like, simply because the company is based there. 

Cons

  • There is less in-person contact with colleagues. 
  • You are not on site for the in-office perks. 
  • There is a lack of physical separation between work and leisure time. 
  • Electronic communication with colleagues can result in misread cues. 
  • You must make an effort to get a change of scenery. 

Staying productive while working remotely 

Staying productive during work isn’t as easy as many think when working from home. The reality is that you are home, and you most likely have things you could do around the house. There is a chance you have a day or two where you don’t have a lot of meetings or specific deadlines and you’d prefer to spend part of the day doing something else. 

Here are my top tips on staying productive while working remotely: 

  • Work out a schedule with your family, so you can spend time with them, have designated work time, and to keep distractions at bay. If possible, keep the door closed to separate yourself from your personal life during your working hours. 
  • Have your own office/workspace, so you can keep work in a separate area of your home. Keep the space tidy, to eliminate clutter and unnecessary stress. 
  • Get ready for work every day. Take a shower, put on some non-pajamas, and get into a work mindset. 
  • Keep an early schedule, if possible, and get as much work done in the morning. 
  • Schedule and set alarms for breaks and take them. 
  • Keep your personal social media, communication, and digital engagements on mute throughout the workday. Eliminating the distraction will keep you from falling down the rabbit hole. 
  • Block off time for checking emails. 
  • Keep a to-do list. Keep it up-to-date, and make sure you stick to the goals you have set on a daily basis. 
  • Try meal prepping, to cut down on leaving the house to grab food or having long periods of time cooking meals throughout the day. 
  • Keep yourself hydrated.  
  • Block “office hours” in your work calendar. 
  • Multitask when possible.
  • Have a non-digital distraction/break to keep yourself off social media (e.g., a jigsaw puzzle, word search, Legos, etc.) to replace “water cooler” time. 
  • If you’re having a tough day, don’t stop working. Push through it the way you would if you were on-site. 
  • Don’t go back to work once you are done working for the day. You surely will burn yourself out if it becomes a habit. 

Succeeding in your career while working remotely 

Staying productive and succeeding in your career while working remotely can be two different things. But if you want to climb the ladder in your company, you’ll need to put in the extra effort to succeed in what you are currently doing, proving that you’re ready to make your next move forward. 

Here are my top tips on how to succeed in your career as a remote employee: 

  • Stay on your bosses’ radar. If you have weekly check-ins, keep them in the loop of your work-life. Document everything. If you  need to provide daily status, be smart with how you communicate; don’t send multiple emails throughout the day – send one thoughtful, all-inclusive email at the end of each day. 
  • Do not assume good work/workers get noticed. During your check-ins with your manager, be transparent about your successes, your room for improvement, and if not already defined, create a career path plan based on what you want to do with your life. Your boss isn’t seeing you “in action” at work every day, so taking initiative is key. 
  • Speak up during team/department meetings, but don’t over communicate or dominate every conversation. If you want to have deeper conversations on topics, follow up with your manager, on a one-to-one basis, and communicate the rest of your ideas and ask any questions you may have. 
  • When team/department meetings have a lot of people sharing their thoughts and ideas and you feel as though you cannot get a word in edgewise, put your thoughts, notes, and opinions in the virtual meeting (e.g., Zoom) chat. Everyone has access to the chat, and it can be a great way to make sure everyone can hear you.
  • Embrace sharing your computer screen or your video during meetings. This shows engagement, and helps you connect with your team/department virtually. Get comfortable on Zoom, take the extra five to ten minutes before a meeting to ensure you’re presentable – you would do this if you were in the office, so why not when stepping into a Zoom lobby. 
  • In an ever-changing environment, understand you can only control what you can, so make sure you do. A bit of a tongue-tie, ey? If your position is growing because of understaffing, budget cuts, or departmental mergers, or you are simply taking on additional responsibility in hopes of climbing the ladder, take the time to truly understand what you are supposed to do, and how to do it. If you’re anxious about all of this, take online classes or conduct deep research to help yourself. Take advantage of your company’s educational opportunities. Few people do, but if you capitalize on the opportunity and communicate to your manager the steps you are taking, you are sure to be seen as a go-getter. 
  • If you want to grow in your career and your company isn’t in the right place to support your growth, keep all of your options open. If you decide to grow elsewhere, be patient with your onboarding. Typically, the first 90 days on a new job are the transition period, which is where you get the opportunity to show your new boss your ability to be a sponge. Remember, just because you’re comfortable with the job you’re in now, doesn’t mean you’re happy. Do not stay “stuck” in a job you do not want to do, or for a company you do not believe in. 

Working from home can be difficult at times, but it’s worth the work-life balance. Make sure you’re separating work from your personal life, so you do not go through phases of feeling bogged down. Work hard, make your meetings, meet your deadlines, and keep climbing that career ladder. 

Categories
Career Coaching

Networking 101

Good ole fashioned networking – it’s more important than you think. In the day and age of social media and instant gratification, there’s nothing that compares to someone’s ability to socially engage not only behind the screen, but in front of it. 

Networking is more than just exchanging business cards at a sporting event, cocktail party, or concert. Networking is more than bragging about yourself or asking for help from people you barely know. Networking is relationship building, based on trust and a give-and-take approach. Networking is about leaning on someone you barely know, with shared interests to either teach or learn. Today, networking is no longer an option, but a critical skill everyone should master to be successful in our careers. 

You may be asking, why does networking matter? Why can’t I just connect with people on social media and rely on that? Simply put, networking works! 

Back in the day, your options were only attending a job fair, going door-to-door dropping off your resume, or going down to your community employee placement center to have a conversation about obtaining employment. Now, your options have changed and are broader when you have a network (i.e., community) to support you. It’s one thing to have a killer resume and cover letter, it’s another to be able to send it to people who can help get it into the right hands. 

The reality is, getting an entry level position by applying online through the normal application process will help you land the job, but being able to send it off to someone on the inside makes your chances of getting an interview and landing a higher-profile job more likely. 

 Networking timing 

Most people do not work on building their network until it’s absolutely necessary. You lose your job, you get demoted, there’s major shuffling within your current organization, and you then start to build. However, if you start building your career network before hitting crisis mode, you have a better chance of gaining employment elsewhere at a faster rate. Remember, everything takes time, but having a network will streamline your process. 

The best advice I can give you is:

  • See every social opportunity as a networking opportunity. 
  • Carry business cards (make sure either your personal website or LinkedIn URL is on them). 
  • Be ready to answer the questions “what do you do for a living” and “do you like what you do?”.
  • Always bring forth the best version of yourself. A first impression goes a long way, and you only get one chance to make one.

Networking goes beyond knowing everyone at your current and past place of employment, it’s knowing people outside the workplace that can advocate for you. When you have a network and maintain contact on a regular basis, it becomes part of your everyday life. 

Getting started with social networking 

When I say social networking, it goes beyond social media – it’s in-person and virtual events, it’s putting yourself out there, it’s always being prepared to talk shop. 

Here’s how you get started: 

  1. Research, research, research. Your time is valuable, so make sure you research the networking events you plan on attending. You need to make sure who you’re trying to connect with will actually be at the event. Imagine wasting your time at an event, one at which you put yourself out there socially and professionally, all to find out it was not the right networking opportunity for you. Don’t waste your time if you can help it. Also, when researching, make sure you plan your time accordingly, so you can meet as many people as possible. 
  2. Stay positive. With a positive mindset, you will naturally prioritize adding networking events to your already busy schedule. Remember that networking is not a chore, it’s an essential part of your professional development. When you go to these events, keeping a positive attitude will attract people to wanting to socialize, A.K.A. network with you. And even if the event didn’t get you what you were hoping, staying positive moving forward will enforce prioritizing professional networking. 
  3. Prepare. Make sure you have resumes on hand, as well as business cards. Dress well – your appearance at an event says a lot about the type of professional you are. Practice your pitch, because you may find yourself on the spot with the opportunity to present it. Think of your pitch as a TV commercial and try to keep it under 60 seconds.  
  4. Have courage. You are putting yourself out there, which is not always easy. Be brave in the opportunities in front of you. Courageously have the conversations you want to have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or even for help. Not to mention, people are attracted to bravery, and you may find your network growing at a faster #pace than planned. 
  5. Be open. Before attending a networking event, plan, but make sure it’s flexible. Networking has to be strategic – you’re there to connect for personal and professional growth – but also needs to allow for deviations from the plan. Stay open to conversations that are new or may not fully apply to you. You may find yourself connecting with someone that you can help, or they can help you in something you weren’t prioritizing at the event. The best connections are not always obvious, so listen, share your experiences, and find common ground with those at the event. 
  6. Follow up. If you want to continue connecting with someone at the event, follow up. The event was an introduction, it did not solidify a relationship. Follow them on LinkedIn and their other social media platforms, if appropriate. Drop them a note asking to meet up for coffee. Also, if there was someone you wanted to connect with but found it was not possible, you can always ask the event coordinator for the invitee list, so you can look them up on LinkedIn. Create your own opportunities. 

Networking can be intimidating, but it has a great payoff. Get yourself out there and start looking for networking opportunities that fit you and your professional needs. Just remember networking works! And when done right, it can be extremely effective in helping you grow professionally.

Categories
Career Coaching

Your first 90 days on the job

You did it! You landed the job! You are on your way to success, a new form of productivity, and making an impact in what you do. You have to make sure that within the first 90 days you take a head-down approach, focusing deeply on what your role is, what your department owns, and what your company needs. You may be sitting there asking: why 90 days? In the business world, quarterly progress is how everything functions. Your first 90 days do not always align with the company’s fiscal and productivity quarter, but that is how they will judge your ability to produce what they need. The first 90 days is where the opinions of you and your abilities are formed by not only your boss, but your colleagues. 

More than that, the first 90 days is where you start to understand truly what the company drives towards, and the politics involved. When I say politics, I mean the use of power and social networking within the workplace to achieve changes that benefit the organization or individuals within it. I know, we all hate politics, but no matter where you work, you are going to experience them in one form or another. You also start to understand the company’s hierarchy, who you know you can go to with challenges (and those you do not feel comfortable going to), and how your colleagues and higher-ups handle conflict, pressure, and day-to-day operations . You will learn which of your colleagues are complacent, those who are “favorites,” those who have your back, and those who feel as though they’re in competition with you.

With all of this being said, it’s important that during your first 90 days you make a great impression, act like a sponge, and go the extra mile. 

Know who and what you work for 

During the first 90 days on the job, the most important thing for you to do is not only understand what your role is, but what your company does. What is their mission? What are their products and/or services? How does the organization come together to accomplish its goals?

Within the first few weeks, show initiative and try to understand your role within the company, and the company’s role within the industry. So often within the first 90 days, as new employees, we focus on the little details of our personal jobs, and often lose sight of the company’s mission. 

Here are some easy tips on how to get up to speed on the company’s big picture…because it matters: 

  • Read all of the documentation the company provides you…every line. On top of that, make sure you read the company’s website in its entirety to understand not only the company, but how they want to be perceived by their customers, employees, investors, and competition.
  • Figure out who the company’s main customer base is comprised of. Are they individuals? Are they other corporations? Are they a specific type of organization (are they mainly non-profits or for-profit companies)? Imagine the impact you can make in your role if you know who you serve. Knowing your audience has proven to be an invaluable trait when coming into a new professional role.
  • Make sure you understand the products and services that the company provides. My company, CoreAxis is more than just an L&D solutions organization, we also provide staff augmentation. Many companies provide more than what’s at surface level or what they’re mainly known for. 
  • Ask your colleagues and manager about the company after you’ve done your research. Have them fill in your knowledge gaps. This is also a great opportunity to show your manager that you’ve taken the initiative to understand why your role matters to the company. 

Make a point to become part of the team

Embrace the team you are joining and try to build trust based on your professional demeanor, personality, and work ethic. Though this may seem like a no-brainer, so many new hires focus on their own onboarding and struggles that they forget that they are one piece to the puzzle. Putting in the effort to become an accepted member of your team starts with solid rapport to build upon. Start by making sure you know everyone’s name – it’s not as easy as it seems, but it will go a long way. Then, take the time to understand their roles to fully understand how your own role plays into everyone else’s’ on the team. Once again, understanding the big picture. 

I am not saying become best friends with your coworkers – in fact, I advise to follow with caution. There are a lot of different opinions about this. I have one employee who eight months after her start date for her first job out of college moved in with the two other women who started at the same time and still to this day, they maintain great friendships. They never once had work-life balance issues or arguments that leaked into the office. I also know of a handful of people who have burned themselves trying to be close friends with their coworkers, all for it to come back and bite them in the ass. 

Build a strong foundation but maintain boundaries and professionalism with these relationships. 

Become independent, fast 

Within the first few weeks on the job, everything is a blur; the people you work with, the office, the communication channels, the ticketing systems, etc., which can be overwhelming. However, make sure you spend as much time learning about what you do, so your manager and colleagues do not feel burdened by having to “hold your hand” for too long. As a manager, I don’t mind helping someone who truly needs it, especially when they first start. But, if I receive the same question five times from the same person within a relatively short period of time, I start to question their competency. 

Within the first month, ask all your questions – ask them three times – ask them to multiple people. But don’t become reliant on others to remember this information for you. Keep a notebook on hand or a Note open on your phone/computer to track these items. Absorb what you can but be realistic about it. When you’re hired for a role, they chose you because they felt as though you can take the job on yourself – so prove it. Relying on others is going to not only weigh your manager and colleagues down, but it’ll also weigh you down and most likely stunt your opportunity for growth. 

There is nothing more impressive in a new hire than one who can pull their own weight. 

Solicit feedback

I cannot emphasize this enough – ask for feedback. And when you receive feedback, drop your defenses. If you have asked your manager how you are doing in the new role, an effective manager/mentor will give you honest feedback. You may not like what they’re saying, but it will help you grow. 

When you ask for feedback, you’re showing three things: 

  1. You care about your progress in your role. 
  2. You care about how your deliverables/roles affect the team/company. 
  3. You want to do your best and grow. 

Many companies have a feedback system in place, which is scheduled either quarterly, bi-annually, or annually, but that doesn’t mean that is the only time to solicit feedback. Be proactive and ask how you’re doing. The worst thing that can happen is that they tell you need to improve – but don’t we all? Reaching out shows your willingness to learn and improve. 

Give your two cents

Within the first 90 days, you are the fresh set of eyes on the organization, how things are run, and outcomes. This can bring about the great opportunity to recommend solutions for improvement. A fresh perspective is beneficial and ultimately can help with long-standing problems your team or the organization may have. 

For example, if you see an opportunity to streamline a process, which would ultimately result in time and money saved, aligned with happier employees leading towards retention, speak up! Once again, what’s the worst that could happen if you approach it respectfully? They say no. That’s okay – at least you spoke up, showed your manager you are paying attention and want to improve the department/organization, and also show them you have a backbone and can take rejection gracefully. 

I would prefer my employees speak up to me about issues that they see or have. Even if I do not agree with them, I never knock them for thinking outside the box or speaking up. 99% of the time, the changes suggested come from a good place where my employees are seeking improvement not only for themselves, but for their colleagues and our customers. As a manager, it’s important to see outside of yourself, and when an employee comes to me with their two cents, I listen and am always open to discussing solutions. 

Your first 90 days can be difficult and exhausting, but once you get through them, as long as you’ve used your time wisely, you will come out with a ton of knowledge. That knowledge leads to confidence, which can help you steadily grow into the position you desire. Take my advice, put in the extra effort and you will see fantastic results.