Now that most professionals are working from home, being remote should not be a disadvantage come promotion time. That said, you still need to manage your career to be promotion-worthy and to manage your brand to get noticed. With everyone working remotely – including your boss, helpful mentors and supporters, senior leaders you don’t know as well – you need a strategy to proactively get and stay top-of-mind with the decision-makers and influencers of promotion decisions.
Here are seven ways you can proactively promote your career even when you work from home:
1 – Check in frequently
The cliché, “out of sight, out of mind”, could very well apply to the relationship between you and your manager. You may have had a great relationship when you worked in close proximity, and you still may have a great relationship, but you’re only going to know for sure if you check in. If you have a regular cadence for checking in, make sure it’s frequent enough now that you are both remote.
Your manager may not know how to manage remotely. Communicating with and collaborating with a dispersed team is different than managing a team all in one place, and your manager may not realize this. In addition, the pandemic, slowing economy and volatile political landscape add additional challenges, so even if your manager is fine with the remote curveball, there are plenty of other distractions. If you want to stay top-of-mind, you’ll need to check in more frequently than before.
2 – Report your results
Many companies are trying to contain or even reduce costs, so leaders are questioning every resource – including their employee count. It is critical that your contributions are clear and well-known. Do not assume your manager knows everything you’re working on – hence checking in more frequently. In addition, regularly report your results.
Your report can be a simple email to summarize what you have accomplished for the week, or it could be an update on the status of each of your projects. Better yet, ask your manager what format and frequency they would prefer. If they say they don’t need a report, send one anyway as a summary email at the end of each week. At the very least, you’ll have a written account for your next performance review.
3 – Align with company priorities – which may have changed
Getting results makes you productive. Getting results that matter to senior leadership makes you indispensable. Make sure your work aligns with company priorities, and re-confirm with your manager what the priorities are because they may have changed. Some projects may no longer have budget, while some may leapfrog to the top of the list because the new market conditions make them more relevant.
Being flexible is critical during unpredictable and changing times. Your day-to-day responsibilities may look very different. You may be asked to take on additional work or what feels like a whole new role. By aligning where the urgent work is, you stay busy where the need is greatest and hopefully where senior leaders are watching closely.
4 – Pay attention to possible next steps
With roles and responsibilities shifting, what next steps are available and ideal also shifts. If you had a promotion strategy mapped out pre-pandemic, check with your mentor and/ or your manager to see if that is still a viable plan. If company strategy veers away from an area that you were interested in, that may not be the best move right now. On the other hand, if the company is making new moves in response to the pandemic, slowing economy or other market conditions, these could present opportunities you hadn’t considered before.
5 – Stay upbeat
Unpredictable times are anxious times, and your manager and their manager are not insulated from the anxiety. If you are grounded and upbeat, that adds value, as you can be a stabilizing force on the team. It also enhances your executive presence since you exude confidence.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t surface problems or speak up if you have a different idea or point of view. However, make sure that you surface problems by offering solutions, not just complaining about what’s wrong. Offer a different idea or point of view, but always give the contributor of the initial idea (especially if it’s your manager) a graceful exit to agree with you and not seem wrong.
6 – Nurture your connections outside your immediate group
Your manager and immediate department are not the only decision-makers or influencers in promotions. While everyone works remotely, you won’t have opportunities to bump into people on the floor, in the elevator or at lunch. You will have to make a concerted effort to nurture connections outside your immediate group.
This includes taking an inventory of who you already know but need to reconnect with and who you don’t already know and need introductions. You’ll have to proactively schedule time to talk. You may need your manager, mentor or colleagues to make an introduction for you. If your company has continued town halls or other company-wide events virtually, take advantage of those opportunities to virtually bump into people you would otherwise not reach.
7 – Nurture your connections outside your company
Your current employer is only one place to promote your career. Given the market uncertainty, the most proactive promotion plan should include options outside your current employer. Prioritize connecting with your broader network outside your company, so that you hear about what is available elsewhere. At the very least, you’ll have a better understanding of how other companies are handling the current market challenges, and this may give you ideas even if you stay where you are.
As you focus on what you can do, don’t forget the company’s part
When are promotion decisions made? Who are the decision-makers? What backgrounds and track records typically get promoted for what types of roles? Even as you focus on what you can do to improve your prospects, don’t forget that your company has a promotion process in place. You need to know what that is and work within that system to make sure you focus on the right things with the right people at the right time.