While last year was about ‘getting by’ for many homeworkers, now’s the time to turn your attention to your professional development. What’s the best way to prepare to take the next step on the ladder in a radically different working world?
While vast swathes of the corporate world spent much of the last 12 months adapting to working remotely, this year we should seize the opportunity to focus on professional growth.
If you’re worried that you’re at a disadvantage by not being in the office, don’t be. A study in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour finds remote workers do get as many promotion opportunities as office-based staff – it’s just a case of being, and staying visible. We look at ways you can help boost your career prospects when working from home.
Maximise your online presence
Managed correctly, social media can be a brilliant tool for expanding your business network. Find out which platforms your industry favours – media and creative industries, for instance, seem to thrive on Twitter and Instagram, while consumer-led companies often prefer to connect over Facebook.
Of course, with more than 760 million users, LinkedIn is the one network all remote workers should master. Recent statistics show that 80% of social media B2B leads come from LinkedIn, while 40% of users access the site every day. Whichever platform you choose, it’s important to have a good profile, set clear goals and remember to join in the conversation, though be conscious to allot time “offline” for yourself between work and online networking sessions to avoid burn-out.
Utilise the time and upskill
Take advantage of a zero commute and use the time to learn more industry skills or pick up a professional certification to help advance your career. Online platforms like Udemy, Coursera and edX offer a range of free and low-cost online courses, including some taught by Ivy League colleges.
Business Insider recently released a comprehensive list, including short courses such as Introduction to Negotiation or Design Thinking for Leading and Learning, from Princeton, Harvard and Yale.
Polish up your Zoom game
One way to get noticed when working remotely is to really make an impact in video meetings. “It’s important for home workers to highlight their successes,” advises Sharon Clarke, Professor of Organisational Psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School in an article for the BBC. “Adaptability and innovation are going to be very important to a company’s success [in the post Covid-19 world], so being creative and coming up with ideas will be important. So try to put your ideas forward so you can be recognised.”
Ask for feedback
Regular feedback, appraisals and performance reviews are important for career growth, as they identify your strengths, showcase your skills and highlight any areas for improvement. But if these reviews are not forthcoming, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your managers or leadership team.
“You have to be proactive,” says Dorie Clark, author of Entrepreneurial You in an article for CNN Business. “Go to them after a presentation and say: ‘I would like to make my presentation better in the future. Do you have feedback on this or one thing I can do differently in the future?’”
Reconnect with former colleagues
Use this time to reconnect with friends and former colleagues in your industry. “Reach out and ask them for advice, share an interesting link or tell them about a recent project,” suggests Beth Bridges, founder of TheNetworkingMotivator.com and author of ‘Networking on Purpose: A Five-Part Success Plan To Build a Powerful and Profitable Business Network’ in an interview with the New York Post.
“But don’t ask them for a job or referral,” she warns. “Renew the connection first, and see where the conversation goes.”
The past year has seen online networking skyrocket, with all manner of virtual conferences, digital meet-ups and Zoom events. But the rules of face-to-face networking still apply – do your research, ask thoughtful questions and always follow up any connections with an email.
“Never presume anyone knows anything about your business or your profession,” advises Simon Glenn, co-founder of virtual networking platform meeow in an article for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). “Don’t use jargon, assume you need to explain what you do to ensure you’ll be understood by everyone.”