Career and Jobs

4 Great Ways To Grow Your Career Even When You Work Remote

Hybrid work is the future and millions of workers will have the opportunity to benefit from its terrific advantages—but the dark side of hybrid work may be its damaging effects on career growth, development or advancement.

Many companies are seeking to ensure employees have growth opportunities no matter where they work. But it would be naïve to believe organizations can achieve this aim perfectly, quickly or completely.

The Proximity Bias and the Advancement Tax

It is the human condition to pay attention to things which are more immediate and people who are more available. In fact, the psychological principle of the “exposure effect” or the “familiarity principle” has demonstrated through research, that people tend to feel most positively toward things and people which are familiar.

Mere exposure tends to increase good reactions. You’ll be more likely to enjoy a food if you’re tasted it more often or admire a painting style when you’ve had more exposure to it. The effect is true for people as well. When you have more contact with a person, you’ll tend to feel more positively toward them.

The advancement tax (or career tax) is real—meaning if you choose more days away from the office, you may pay a price in terms of your opportunities for promotion. In terms of human dynamics, proximity is one of the most important determinants of relationships. This means it will be easier to build relationships, develop social capital and benefit from career opportunities when you see and know people better—it is the result of a proximity bias.

But if you’re working remotely or in a hybrid model, don’t despair. Proximity can be either real—built through in-person time together—or perceived—built through closeness you build in other ways.

Assess the Organization

As you consider strategies to advance your career while working remote or hybrid—with more time away from the office—consider the organization you’re working for:

  • How long has the company embraced remote or hybrid work? If it’s an employer which has long accepted work away from the office, you may have to worry less about your advancement when you’re not in the office every day. Or if the company is all-remote, you may not need to worry too much—although you’ll still need to be intentional about how you manage your career.
  • Where and how is information accessed and decisions made? You’ll want to ensure you have access to your company’s information highway and you’ll want to participate in decision making, so give thought to whether information is accessible within systems or more within minds and human networks. And pay attention to whether decisions are made in more virtual situations or more when people are in person together. Knowing these will help guide how you stay involved.
  • Who gets promoted? Also pay attention to who gets career advantages. If you see evidence the company promotes people who work away from the office or if senior leaders aren’t all located at the headquarters facility, these are good signals you can advance your career successfully even if you’re not in the office predominantly.

Grow Your Career Intentionally

Knowing the nature of your organization can put you on a path to make sound decisions about how you build your career. And the name of the game when you’re working away from the office, even for a portion of your time, will be intentionality. You’ll need to be intentional and planful about how you spend your time, on what and with whom.

Be Intentional About Your Time

When you’re working away from the office, you’ll need to schedule time to connect with others. You won’t have (as many) moments for running into people at the coffee machine or in the cafeteria, but you’ll need to ensure you still stay in touch. Schedule virtual meetings to connect, even for 15 minutes at a time, and make time to be in-person when you can as well.

Also be accessible and open with your calendar. Make your free and busy times open to everyone so it’s easy to schedule a meeting with you. You can manage your boundaries, of course, but transparency with your schedule and availability tend to build not only trust, but also credibility. When people know when to count on you, it will build your working relationships.

Also be responsive—impeccable in your follow up and follow through. In one study, accessibility and responsiveness were the most important characteristics which built credibility among co-workers.

Be Intentional About Your Relationships

Chances are, you’ve stayed in touch with your primary networks—those people with whom you work most closely, but you may have lost touch with your secondary or tertiary networks. But those connections with people who are farther out in your relationship grid, are those from whom you can learn the most and from whom you’re statistically more likely to access new opportunities—because they are the people who have access to information you don’t.

Give thought to those with whom you want to connect and the people from whom you want to learn. Seek out those who have different opinions than yours and who are in a variety of departments or who have difference expertise. Consider those to whom you can add value.

In addition, always value people and relationships, and avoid simply networking to gain an edge through a relationship. People can see through a manipulative approach which is all about how you can gain. Instead, seek to build meaningful relationships in which you truly value the person you’re with.

And when you’re connecting virtually, turn on your camera, so you are more accessible, so you can read body language and respond more effectively in conversations.

Be Intentional With Your Communication

The saying, “out of sight, out of mind” is real, so strive to communicate regularly and stay top-of-mind. Every time you communicate, you’re either contributing to your brand or detracting from it. Communication is rarely neutral. Build your writing skills, since when you’re remote, much of your communication will be in writing.

Also track and document your work appropriately—to a greater extent than you would if you worked side-by-side with your colleagues or your leaders. You may choose to track your projects individually and share them with your boss or you might initiate a project tracking system for your team so there is greater visibility to what people are doing and how you’re all following through successfully.

Share information and articles with team members when you find something of interest to them. The bottom line: Stay in touch and visible, so it’s clear you’re engaged, present and accessible.

Be Intentional With Your Involvement

Also be planful about getting involved and staying involved. When you contribute to your organization, you’ll get more out of it as well, because you’ll feel you matter and you’ll be able to apply your talents to your work community.

Volunteer for the new project or the next initiative. Start a book group if you love to read or a walkers club if you thrive on a lunch-time stroll. Join an employee resource group or affinity group.

Getting involved will provide you with the opportunity to get to know people, and you’ll also be more in the know. You’ll build relationships, enhance your proximity with a variety of people and you’ll expand your visibility—all of which are important to your overall credibility and career advancement.

In Sum

It is possible to build a great career if you’re not working in the office, but the process isn’t automatic. It will require time, effort and investment on your part. But it will be worth it. The opportunity for more flexibility, more control over your schedule and more reward from both work and life mean the investment will pay off in all kinds of ways—career advancement included.

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