5 Ways To Gain a Career Boost When Working Remotely

10 min read
March 31, 2020


Photo by Matthew Henry


According to Buffer's 2019 State of Remote Report, 99% of people would choose to work remotely, at least part-time, for the rest of their careers if they could.  The world is so connected that, with the right employer, you could work from anywhere on earth, never have to commute again on a crowded train or congested freeway and be as valuable to your organization as an in-office employee. 


Working from home might sound great, but its not easy and comes with many unique challenges.  The remote work culture has not yet appeared to affected the C-Suite and salaries for remote workers remain very pedestrian. While the perks of flexible schedules and avoiding commutes might seem attractive, the shade of green on the other side of the fence might make you think twice. Almost 74% of remote employees earn less than $100,000.  These statistics beg the question; is remote work is a temporary solution, one that is not yet built for the career-minded individual?  In this blog, we combat the naysayers and explore 5 essential ways to gain a career boost when working remotely. 


Establish A Healthier Relationship with Time Management

Time management is an endangered skill if only because most professionals don't fully understand what exactly it is.  “Time management” is defined as the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities.   The truth is, we all manage our time every day, but unfortunately, very few of us do it properly.


Proper time management isn't just about being efficient with your time.  It's not about working every moment of your work day.  Its about being strategic and thoughtful in how you use that time and being accountable for it.  While technology has afforded us the luxury of working remotely, it has also empowered employers to demand more from their employees, a greater level of productivity.  Many of us are feeling the stress of having to accomplish more with less. We often articulate this as not having "enough time" and that manifest in form of anxiety which, in itself, is an impediment to proper time management.  

Time is Energy

Instead, elect not to use the phrase you had a "long day," I "ran out of time" or I made "good time."  Those are simply fallacies we tell ourselves to mask our own inefficiencies and cause us to have an unhealthy relationship with time. Instead, it may be helpful to think of time in a whole new context as energy.  Energy can not be created nor destroyed and neither can time.  You can't have more or less of it than anyone else.  Instead, we need to harness time as energy and use it for our benefit.


We all make to-do lists.  However in reality, we can't accomplish everything on that list in a given day.  So we divert and push it off until the next day, only to add more tasks and the never truly finish anything.  So often we identify a list of things "we must accomplish" in a given day but if we analyze them as a function of time they'll take to complete, you'll realize they add up to 40 or 50 hours.  I'm not breaking any news here but there are only twenty-four hours in a day.  From the moment we wake, we've already created an unhealthy relationship with time and that energy is transferred from a sense of accomplishment and success into anxiety and failure.    

Ditch the To-Do List

What if we change the to-do exercise to only include the five to six most urgent and important tasks we need to accomplish for that particular day? Instead of simply listing the tasks, associate it with the time it will reasonably take to complete. Ask yourself, is success attainable? Do you have the discipline to complete the task in the allotted time? 


Then begin to evaluate these activities and schedule, not just list them, in order of priority.  High urgency and high importance task should be scheduled first followed by high urgency, low importance tasks.  We often gravitate to high importance, low urgency tasks but in actuality if there's no immediate consequence for us scheduling them later.  Thus, they can be reserved for unexpected time gaps along with low importance, low urgency tasks.     


As the world gets more remote and less physically present we're forced to be more disciplined in how we make use of our time.  The ability to be a master of time energy is something employers truly value. Yes, they want efficient employees.  However, someone who makes time management look and feel effortless brings this energy to those around them, empowering more of the same.  Executives in particular are searching for it.  They might not be able to articulate it but they know it when they see it.  Fortunately, you only need pig-headed discipline to acquire this intangible skill that could make your career.  


Its all about Passion not Glory

It can be extremely frustrating when you're not recognized for your work but not physically able to demonstrate your value.  You might feel like all is lost but don't despair.  Its important that you ground yourself and fully understand what value you bring to your organization and confidently and authentically demonstrate it. This means being very honest with yourself about what you can't do and being careful not to undersell what you can.The savvy professional can see through phoniness, so its very important to not be "look at me."  Conversely, they may recognize your humility as insecurity and a sign of weakness.  It is important to strike a balance.  You can do that by harnessing your passion.  Here are a few tips:

  1. Nurture - think of your talents and passions as your own personal vegetable garden.  Sure there are bigger farmers, those with more experience.  But you just farm your own land.  Nurture your talents, by working on them, honing your skills, concentrating on the details and encouraging them to grow.  
  2. Capitalize -  At one of my first jobs in radio, my supervisor struggled to teach me how to use Adobe Photoshop to adjust elements on the station's website.  For her, it was a pain because graphic design wasn't a strength for her.  She assumed I had no experience, when in fact I was self-taught and could run circles around her.  I regret that.  I missed an opportunity to show my worth and potentially accelerate my career track.  In a remote workplace you must take advantage of these opportunities.  Don't assume your supervisor knows your resume chapter and verse. While your growth might be stunted in your current position, another team may have a need that's a match for passions. 
  3. Exude - Whatever you love doing, seek out opportunities to demonstrate that and add value to the organization. Let people know who you are and what you are doing. The more human and multidimensional you can be in a remote environment, the more your team will want to help and work with you and management will take notice. Express your passions in everyday communications whether it be in morning roundups or slack channels, but again, be careful to strike a balance between humility and arrogance.  

Fight The Urge To Isolate 

Technology is the great equalizer, bridging the economic and educational disparities.  Its what has enabled this global remote workplace to materialize.  Your socio-economic and educational background has less equity than it use to. Employers are embracing team dynamics, corporate culture and placing more value on those who demonstrate an ability to work seamlessly within the virtual organization. 


This can prove difficult because being a good teammate is not an innate behavior, it is learned.  However its learned in a way that no expensive education can teach you, only immersive experience can do that.  To be a good teammate you have to surrender to the will of the greater group, be humbled by it.  Humility is an extremely hard tool to acquire and one that is in direct contradiction to our ego, making it even harder to demonstrate.  Humility is invaluable in the remote workspace where trust is paramount.  By submitting that the organization is greater than you, the individual, you can add indispensable value to the team and build confidence among your superiors.  They're more inclined to entrust greater responsibility with those that pose the smallest threat to their construct.  

Drink the Culture Kool-Aid

How do you do this?  Drink the culture Kool-aid.  Invest in the organization with all your being, give unwavering buy-in.  If you don't feel you can do that in your job, it may not be the place for you.  I'm not saying to let your guard down but understand the culture and embrace it with both arms.  Fight the urge to isolate from it.  


One of the most common unforced inhibitors to career path progress in a remote work environment is self-isolation.  19% of remote employees say loneliness as their biggest challengeHaving worked alongside some of the most heralded and talented individuals over the course of my career, I would never trade the collective sum of them for the team we've built at Highbrid.  The reason is simple.  You can hire a great employee, but you can't hire a team.  I don't care how much money you throw at the problem.  As a small agency, we can't compete for the top talent our industry has to offer for a bevy of reasons so why try?  Instead, we work on building the best team and hire for culture fit and the ability to work within that team dynamic.  


Remote team environments only exacerbate the need to be a great teammate first and foremost and you can't do that by working independently and relying solely on your skills.  At this point you become not much more than a valued freelancer, expendable by all measures.  In a remote workspace, your most valued skill may not just be how well you work with others, but your ability to elevate them.  Can you be part of something greater than yourself?  


Be A Learn-it-All Not A Know-It-All

The pace at which technology is changing industry, ages your degree the moment you earn it.  Its analogous to that new car myth that it loses 50% of its value the moment you take it off the lot.  We've reached a point in society that innovation is moving at such an accelerated pace that education truly is a depreciable asset. Your degree is already aging by the time you frame it and employers are putting less stock in it.  It used to be a defining characteristic, representative of who we are professionally.  Today's employer is less concerned with who you are, or better yet, were than who you're working to be.  

Are You Challenging Yourself?

You can't approach your organization like you have all the answers.  If you do, you're not challenging yourself.  During the industrial revolution, the global economy was built on manufacturing as many widgets as an organization could produce as quickly and efficiently as they could. Today's technological revolution is about solving problems to make the world smaller. 


Everyone hates a know-it-all.  Don't be that person.  Not only does it tear down the team dynamic but you can't be solve for a new problem with assumption you know the answer. This approach is why you must be on the constant hunt to acquire knowledge.  Demonstrate a thirst to learn, be a learn-it-all, the antithesis of a know-it-all.  We all grew up understanding, (at least hoping) that our days of school would cease one day, and while this might be true, learning never truly stops.  Its just consumable in different and much more specialized receptacles.  


Demonstrate your worth by investing in your professional development.  You've heard this before right?  However, strategize how to invest in yourself while adding value to your organization or that of the company you aspire to work for.  Think big picture and long-term.  The easier the knowledge is to acquire, the faster it depreciates so be patient.  Think about where the company is going and orient your knowledge quest along those lines.  Consider the organization and the skill gaps that currently exist and how you aspire to fill them down the road.  Is a Far East expansion part of your organization's 5 year plan? Consider taking Chinese classes and maybe invest an upcoming vacation into a visit to acclimate with the cultural norms.  Your experiences will showcase value and plant seeds to your superiors.  

Even if You Know the Way, Use The GPS

Those of us of a certain age remember a day when interstate rest stops made very good money selling road maps printed annually in large laminated books.  What ever happened to them?  GPS of course.  Everyone has one on their smart phone or dashboard of their high performance vehicle.  GPS doesn't just give your directions, more importantly it helps you navigate your trip.  You now know the shortest trip, can avoid traffic and tolls and schedule stops along the way, all with the press of a button.  So why do we still use road maps to navigate our careers? 


I'm using a metaphor, of course, but many of us approach our career by periodically pulling over to the side of the road with our hazard lights on as we review our road map to stay on course.  Instead we need a navigator, or a series of navigators to keep us on course so that we avoid the pitfalls their own experience and knowledge lets them know lies ahead.  Even when you know where you're driving you might keep the GPS on to assist and alert you to a speed trap or accident.  Invest in a great career navigation system and use your network in the same way. 


Seek out mentors, professional confidants, masterminds, meet-ups, Facebook groups within your organization, your industry and beyond.  There is no such thing as too many navigators if they have the experience to add value to your journey.  This is never more important than when your job requires remote work.  It will actually require an aviation caliber GPS because you're often flying at 50,000 feet with limited visibility.  It helps to have someone who's been there or someone going through it with more experience to help you triangulate danger as it never remains in the same place very long. Additionally they'll keep you abreast of the most efficient routes to career growth even if that wasn't initially chartered path.  

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