How can you stay ahead of the professional curve if you continually feel left behind? Many remote workers struggle with a lack of visibility and little to no formal professional development in their roles.
If you’re worried about becoming invisible in your remote job—that is, “out of sight, out of mind”—you’re not alone. Knowing how to articulate personal goals, advocate for yourself, and identify learning opportunities can mitigate these concerns and put yourself on track for growth.
When Being Just a Little Behind is An Advantage in a Remote Job
Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger says that comparing ourselves to “proximal peers” helps us to build motivation—especially when trying to close small performance gaps. In examining tens of thousands of NBA and college basketball games, he found that teams down by a single point at halftime were actually more likely to win because they knew that putting forth the extra effort could indeed tangibly change the outcome. To sum it up: who you compare yourself to on your remote team definitely matters.
No proximal peers to speak of? There are multiple other ways that you can maintain your drive. Gain new skills, stay ahead of trends, and engage in lifelong learning by:
- Consuming relevant digital content. The Internet is a complex web of highly valuable information, thought-provoking multimedia resources, and highly amusing cat videos. It’s your job to be able to navigate them without falling into a proverbial rabbit hole of lost productivity. Seeking out practical MOOCs, expert blogs and podcasts, and free online courses that you can view at your convenience on a Friday and start applying on a Monday, for example, is one way to ensure your skillset never ages.
- Engaging in real-time online training. Other types of training may be happening synchronously, and there’s value in these as well. They can take the form of 1:1 coaching or mentoring sessions, or live webinars with well-known industry professionals or thought leaders. If there’s a fee, weigh it against the session’s promised deliverables, and consider requesting reimbursement from your HR department or company leader in advance. Note that such expenses can be considered tax deductible.
- Participating in virtual conferences. No lanyards needed here! Whether you’re an attendee, a panelist, or a speaker, your involvement in relevant events online can have a lasting impact on your professional growth. Keeping notes of specific takeaways, burning questions, and people you’d like to follow up with will provide you with an array of interesting options for expanding your network and knowledge base.
- Building your social network. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: just because you work from home doesn’t mean you’re stuck there. You can leave the house to hit up a Meetup at a local coworking space or an alumni gathering for your alma mater. Or you can check out (free!) online networking events in areas that interest you or are tied directly to your career, which can expose you to more diverse or even global groups. Discussing issues and challenges in Workplaceless’ monthly Networkplaceless events or in curated Twitter chats like #remotechat are two of my personal favorites.
- Growing your remote brand. You’re in charge of your digital persona—if you neglect it to focus on day-to-day tasks, you’re missing out. Engage in thought leadership activities like content creation and chat with others in your field; you never know when a connection can help you identify opportunities where you can contribute. Your efforts don’t have to be especially time consuming, as spending even 30 minutes a day on your remote brand will help you build momentum. For example, from writing about remote work extensively over several years and then sharing those articles on social media, I’ve been able to secure multiple speaking gigs and podcast interviews.
- Exhibiting leadership qualities. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking you’ve got to be a born leader. In many cases, leaders are made…even self-made. Work on honing key qualities that are critical for those running remote teams and companies, such as trustworthiness, having a bias toward action, and keen organization skills, and you’ll be on your way. Meanwhile, you should visualize your most meaningful professional goals and break down the steps required to achieve them.
- Advocating for a promotion. If rising up the remote work ladder is on your radar, you’re in luck. By keeping updated records of your most recent achievements and sharing them regularly with your boss, you’ll be in better standing for a promotion when the opportunity presents itself. Of course, you can always initiate the conversation. Even if the answer is “Not now,” you’ll signal your desire to advance and the effort you’re putting in to make it happen.
(Interested in building even greater career visibility as a location-independent employee? Ask yourself these Socratic questions to get started.)
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