How to Get Promoted while Working Remotely
Does work from home effectively translate “out of sight, out of mind?” It doesn’t have to. Here are several ways to level up your career while working remotely.
Working from home has become an almost universal experience for used-to-be office workers since the onset of COVID-19. Whether employees have shifted to 100% remote work or simply a hybrid model, working from home is something with which we’ve likely all had experience. And that’s not about to change: recent surveys suggest that roughly half of all workers say that they will only consider jobs with remote flexibility.
Remote work can have many benefits: including potentially more flexible schedules, money and time saved on commuting, and the opportunity to build a custom environment uniquely optimized to your own productivity.
However, remote work — even for those who prefer it — still poses some unfamiliar challenges. Perhaps most significantly, Harvard Business Review recently reported that remote employees are 50% less likely to get promoted than their onsite counterparts. So, does work from home effectively translate “out of sight, out of mind?” It doesn’t have to. There are many ways to build a career, and if remote flexibility is a non-negotiable for your future, there are several ways to get ahead and prove your potential while conducting your calls via Zoom.
Below, we outline a few ways to ensure career advancement in a remote position, including how to set and communicate clear goals; advocate for yourself; continuously make yourself visible; and build a professional network and seek mentorship to help guide your through change.
Over-Communicating Your Goals
Setting clear goals is essential to career advancement, no matter how you work. First and foremost, at the beginning of every fiscal year, every quarter, every month (whatever cadence works best for you and your manager) define your goals. Share them in a meeting (at best) or an email (at minimum).
What might be specific to remote work, when considering goal-setting, is the potential for your career development conversation to get folded into (our out of) other touch points with your manager as a matter of convenience. While you certainly should have regular and casual conversations about your progress towards your goals, it’s important to create, define, and protect more formal meetings where your development is the singular focus. In general, your manager probably spends more of their day in meetings than you do, making it difficult to access their calendar. To get yourself in their schedule, make sure to send meeting invitations well in advance. Twenty-four to forty-eight hours ahead of your meeting, send a brief agenda for your meeting so that your manager knows what to expect, has an opportunity to add their feedback, and is reminded of the importance of this time.
During your conversation, start with the successes you’ve had since your last career discussion. This ensures that you don’t run out of time to communicate your effectiveness as an employee, and also provides an easy bridge into your next subset of goals. Make sure that you’ve prepared using the SMART framework — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound — to ensure a productive discussion.
Finally, and just as importantly, use the same approach outlined above to make regular meetings with your boss's boss – also known as a "skip-level". These should be less frequent than your meetings with your manager — and your manager should also be fully aware that they are happening. The purpose of skip-levels is to ensure face-time with decision makers. Given the limited opportunity for casual face-time across levels (that would come by default when working in an office every day), make an effort to communicate your goals, experience, and expectations with decision-makers with whom you might be less familiar. When your manager goes to bat for you (citing the many reasons you’ve provided in your career-focused conversations), their manager will be more likely to approve or move things around if they know who they’re doing it for.
Advocating for Yourself
Make it easy for your manager to trust you by regularly tracking and sharing your accomplishments. At the end of every week, send a Slack or an email to your manager with a brief list of what you achieved, and include outstanding questions or opportunities for the week ahead. In doing so, you’ll establish yourself as a proactive member of the team who is consistently working towards common goals. Additionally, you’ll make it easy for your manager to reference high-level information when sharing updates with their leaders — making your successes an indispensable part of their work. When it comes time to negotiate for a promotion, you’ll also have a well-documented portfolio of your best moments.
Some examples of what you can consider sharing:
- Track financial goals you've reached with analytics and results
- Include the projects and tasks you completed early and on time, even ones that you think are small
- Describe any times when you were under pressure and still succeeded in meeting your goals
- Be sure to add less frequent moments, such as winning an award; being selected to speak at a conference; or being recognized in some way by a third party organization
Making Yourself Visible
In order to avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” narrative… keep yourself in sight! There are many ways to do this from a remote situation.
First and foremost, when joining calls, always turn on your video. Of course, there are sometimes extenuating circumstances, but you should ensure that the folks with whom you’re speaking can match a face to the voice, to the role, to the work. In fact, Zoom reports that 61% of professionals feel that they perform better, and 72% of people managers feel that their direct reports are more engaged when video is turned on. Enabling your video also affords other meeting attendees the opportunity to understand or ask for your perspective based on visual cues such as your expression and body language — making your opinion more likely to be heard.
Make sure to join and participate company chats, virtual groups, online events, and other organized conversation. Contribute often (but still appropriately) with updates on your work, questions for your colleagues, or even details about your day. Sharing the funny or the lighthearted alongside the task-driven updates adds a memorable and humanizing touch to your virtual presence.
Finally, and if possible, make a point of visiting the office every so often for in-person contact with your colleagues. If you live closeby, this may not require significant extra effort; but if you live further away, it might be worth asking your manager if there is budget to support occasional trips. Alternatively, if you have existing offsite meetings or team retreats, try your best to be amongst the first to arrive and the last to leave: creating ample opportunity for casual coffee chats or opportune 1:1s.
Relationships are the most important part of career advancement: close colleagues will vouch for your effectiveness, share resources that enable a tough deadline, and support you when you need it. However you can, make time for your colleagues — at all levels — and underscore your willingness to contribute. Whether remote or in-person, establishing yourself as a go-to colleague to see through professional needs and to celebrate personal wins is a surefire way to gain trust and responsibility.
Expanding Your Network Without an Office
It’s clear that working remotely requires creative solutions to meet and build relationships with your colleagues; yet, something you can leverage about a work-from-home scenario is the opportunity to connect with and meet people in your industry across geographies and time zones.
Estimates show that between 70% and 80% of all jobs are never posted; and that 80% of all jobs are filled through a network connection. Access to that hidden job market — even within your own company — is therefore crucially underpinned by having a strong professional network.
One of the benefits of connecting with people remotely is the inherent convenience of it: LinkedIn messages and email outreach offer an easy way to document all contact information (no more business cards or scrawled phone numbers on notepads!) and scheduling a get-to-know-you chat can happen out of the comfort of one’s home, versus comparing schedules and commutes to find a spot for an in-person coffee. Even when networking within the familiarity of your own company, the culture around virtual 1:1s has become much more common — making networking and career strategizing a more accessible topic to propose.
A strong network acts as a safety net for your career. First and foremost, if you’re seeking promotion within your own company, external mentors and network connections might be able to provide unique perspective on skills and capacities that could give you a competitive edge. They also might suggest job titles or slight career pivots that better match your long-term vision. Internal connections, meanwhile, can be the first to let you know of an opening that that is yet-to-be posted, or who the hiring manager a will be.
Building your network remotely also does not have to rely on cold outreach. There are several existing forums and strategies to jump-start your relationship building in a strategic way:
- Join a Slack community: there are thousands of channels for specific interest groups or professional affinities. Here is a list of some of the communities specific to tech workers, helpfully split out by region.
- Attend virtual events: Webinars are a great way learn about new skills or approaches to your work, and to establish a direct connection to speakers, panelists, or other attendees. Try to ask a question while attending, and then follow up on LinkedIn (or via email, if you can). These opportunities are’t necessarily to ask for a job, but to uncover professional overlaps, pursue learning opportunities, and even establish yourself as a resource in the industry. You might eventually get tapped to be a speaker or panelist, yourself.
- Join a mentorship platform: Merit, for example, is a professional network for tech industry workers that supports career growth by connecting members with mentors, with a special focus on under-networked tech workers. Find a mentor and schedule a session in minutes.
Remote work is still an area of innovation, trial, and error for companies and individuals, but the benefits of remote work don’t have to come at a cost to your career. Actively engaging with your communities, sharing your insights and ideas, and building strategic relationships are critical skills no matter your work situation, and all of them can be adapted to remote scenarios.
Your career trajectory, no matter its shape, can be hugely affected and supported by the colleagues, mentors, and supervisors you encounter along the way. Learn how to make the most of every relationship and build your professional network with Merit.