Ever heard the saying “Do things, tell people?”
It’s sage advice for any employee, but it’s even more important when you’re on a remote team, and run the risk of being out of sight and out of mind. Sure, some people assume that’s a benefit of working from home (e.g., How would your boss know if you took a two-hour lunch?) But there’s a flipside to that coin: When you’re exceeding expectations and there are no casual stops by your boss’ desk to fill her in on all you’re doing—how will she ever know?
If you want the same raises, gold stars, or promotions you’d receive if you worked in an office, you’ve gotta make some noise. And you have to do it without being all socially-awkward-penguin about it. Try these four strategies:
1. Build Your Network
You want everyone possible to know you and the value you bring, so that when new opportunities show up, you come to mind. For this to happen, you need to build relationships within your team. No matter how small the group is or how far-flung the zip codes are, your colleagues are part of your network. Here are two easy ways to get this relationship-building going.
Pretty obvious, right? Right. But it’s a surefire way to connect with the people you’re working with. Skip the slimy flattery or half-hearted “kudos” here: I’m talking about expressing gratitude and calling it like you see it.
When someone else saves the day, helps you out big time, or goes above and beyond, make some noise. Shoot’um a thank-you badge on Slack! Let your new boss know. Mention it during your next conference call.
People don’t forget this kind of thing, especially when it’s done publicly. The next time they spot you dishing out some awesome, they’ll reciprocate. There’s nothing like having someone else make noise for you!
Seek Out a Mentor
Find a mentor. Acting on feedback is crucial to getting better at your job and earning recognition. With the help of a mentor, the getting better part explodes, and here’s the best part: You can still seek out a mentor-mentee dynamic when you work remotely.
You probably won’t find the same structured arrangements you world in an office. Weekly coffee dates will be harder to come by, no question; but this relationship is less about form and more about content. As long as you’re connecting with someone you admire who can give you clear advice, you’re golden.
Ideally, choose someone who can introduce you to others within the company and your industry. Most importantly, select a person who has the skills you’d like to master, because you can learn from his experience. Which brings me to me next point…
2. Acquire New Skills and Ask for More Responsibility
It’s great when your manager looks for opportunities for you to grow, but truth talk: Your professional development is no one’s responsibility but yours.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Internal workshops, seminars, and just plain gaining skills on the fly are terrific—if you want to move ahead at the same rate as everyone else on your team.
But I’d bet that you want to stand out.
Apply the extra hour or two you save by not commuting every day to some outside training. There are a million ways to up your game. Some of my personal favorite learning platforms include edX, lynda.com, and Coursera.
From there, seek out avenues where you can apply your new skills. Asking for more, new, or different responsibilities increases your value within an organization. It also puts a spotlight on your growing capabilities.
If there aren’t new and exciting opportunities floating around your team, volunteer to help other departments. Yes, this can be harder when Steve from marketing and Tara from engineering don’t stand around the same water cooler, so you’ll have to find out yourself. Ask your boss is there are company-wide or cross-team projects. If there’s no room for you to contribute that way, ask about big picture strategic goals and study the needs and challenges of the company to see if you can spot a neglected area. Create your own opportunity by pitching a new project or position that you could take on to address the weak spot.
3. Track Your Progress
Consider this your new Friday ritual. Take a few minutes to jot down an outline of everything you’ve accomplished that week. Include all of the items that you feel great about. This record—I call it my “Lookit Me!” file—serves a few important purposes. Long term, when it’s time to update your resume, you’ll have a treasure trove of accomplishments and metrics to pull from.
Future you will be grateful, I promise!
More immediately, this practice reinforces not only your personal awareness of how things are going, but also the awareness of your boss. On particularly good weeks, fire off your “Lookit Me” summary to your boss, explaining what you feel great about and the things you’re excited about in the week to come.
They’re perfect for when you’ve really been on fire. Maybe you closed a hefty new account, implemented a new system or tool that quickly showed positive results, or delivered a project early, not to mention one that wow’d a client—I think you get the picture.
It’s fine to toot your own horn, as long as it’s not too often or loud.
4. Ask for What You Want
You’ve networked, paired yourself with a mentor, and trained up. You’ve also flaunted your skills (and the value they create).
It’s time for the big ask—though actually, at this point it’s not so big. You did most of the work already!
Still: You have to make some noise. Again.
The first step in asking for what you want is finding the right time to do it. Since you’re remote, you may have to be twice as proactive in initiating the discussion. Be sure to ask your manager to set a time to talk—over video if at all possible. (You do not want to ask for a promotion over email.)
Besides setting aside a dedicated time to chat, make sure you know exactly what you’re asking for. If it’s a raise, what’s the dollar amount? If it’s a promotion, what are the specific duties you’re ready to tackle?
In an office setting, a small presentation covering your recent milestones might be appropriate, but in a remote dynamic, a formal pitch will likely weigh the conversation down. Everything moves fast in a virtual setting, so keep it simple. Your best bet is to have a brief (updated!) resume to send over in case you’re asked for one, and a “brag sheet” on hand to look at so you can rattle off examples of your work.
Working remotely comes with lots of independence, but that shouldn’t stop you from proving your worth. Network, get a mentor, build your skills, look for new challenges, and track your progress. Make noise for yourself, do it with style, and you’ll find the recognition and advancement you’re looking for.