Monthly Archives: December 2016

Landing Remote Jobs

You’ve got the right background, stellar credentials, and a resume that screams “Hire me!” You’d be a catch for any company. The twist is that you really want to work from home, and none of the companies advertising a remote job are calling you back.

Here’s why: You’re probably making some basic mistakes that matter a lot more when you’re applying for virtual positions. The good news is that there are quick fixes you can put into place to turn your search around for the better. So, read on for four common issues (and four easy solutions).

 

1. You’re a Ghost

By ghost, I mean you have zero web presence. Aside from your email address and its account avatar (if you have one), there are few other clues as to who you are and what you’ve done. Your LinkedIn profile is out of date and your personal website is just a domain name. Employers get a faint sense of what you’re about, but not much else.

“But I sent my resume, isn’t that enough?”

Not if you want to quickly establish trust. Think about it: These companies have expansive websites, social profiles, and web presences that go on for days. That’s because they want you to understand them. Failure to return in kind makes it difficult for them to see why you’re awesome.

 

The Quick Fix

I point to LinkedIn here because it’s free, relatively easy to set up, and it’s a social profile, blog, and personal website rolled into single platform.

My bite-sized advice is to populate your profile’s sections (especially the summary) with a least three to five lines of information each, and then share a status update once a day. It can be an article or a feel-good motivational quote—anything goes. Oh, and a solid profile picture is a must.

You’ll have a warm, fleshy profile out in the world that’ll rank highly in your search results, instead of a bag of bones.

 

2. Your Emails Are “Meh”

Super long emails. Stuffy, overly formal emails. Emails with generic cover letters in them. Emails that don’t really say anything. Typos galore. Emails you leave unanswered for days.

“Meh” covers so many things in this case.

At the end of the day, the problem is that your communication style doesn’t match that of the company or remote teams in general. People like working with people. Not robots. Not dinosaurs. Certainly not the guy delivering a 300-page dissertation on how goal-oriented he is.

To engage your readers via email and show that you “get it,” you’ve got to be concise, authentic, and snappy (read: fast!).

 

The Quick Fix

Be a copycat. Consider the tone of the job ad you’re responding to, in addition to the voice used on the company’s site. Scan the LinkedIn profile of its founder. Read the blog posts. Match the organization’s pace and vibe.

Is it business casual? Is it serious? Maybe it’s somewhere in between the two. Then, kind of like how you’d dress for an interview, be half-a-step more formal. That way, you’re balancing a message of “I’d totally fit in here” with “I still get it’s a first impression.”

Finally, match the tone in your communication with everyone you meet on the team. And if you’re volleying emails with someone from the company, pay attention to the way he or she writes, and echo the style—because maybe the hiring manager and your potential boss communicate differently. Most importantly keep your message short, because—who’s really got the time for all that jazz?

Skills That You Need When Work From Home Job

So, you’ve realized all the amazing benefits of remote working—like being able to earn a living from your living room and being more focused and effective at what you do—and you’re ready to go online and get a remote job.

Or are you? Before you go after that position, you need to know how to shine when you’re looking for a remote job. Of course, all the standard job search rules apply—have an updated and proofread resume, make sure your social media is squeaky clean, and have well thought-out questions for the interview. But employers hiring remote workers are looking for a little bit more. So, make sure you show that you have these seven key skills covered if you want to land a remote job.

 

1. Organization

When you work remotely, your boss won’t be looking over your shoulder—or even able to stop by your cubicle—to see if you’re staying on top of your tasks. You’ve got to keep yourself on track.

To prove that you always know what needs to be done and when, emphasize in your resume, application email, and interview the jobs or projects you’ve done that have required managing many moving pieces, and talk about how you kept everything coordinated.

For example, perhaps you were responsible for both creating content for the company blog and answering customer service emails—and you balanced the priorities perfectly. Or, maybe you gathered stories from contributors, contracted with the printer, and oversaw the distribution of the newsletter each month as a volunteer at your child’s school. Give the details of how you did that, and remember to refer to the tools you use—like Trello, Asana, or Basecamp for project management or Google Drive or Dropbox for collaboration—since these are exactly the kinds of tools you’ll be using for remote working.

 

2. Communication

Keeping in touch when you work remotely is absolutely crucial—think email, online chat, video meetings, and maybe phone and text messages, too.

You should be familiar with the most common tools used, and, when it comes time to contact your potential employer, you should show that you’re willing and able to use them. That means offering to have an interview via Google+ Hangouts or Skype or to jump on an online chat to go through the details of your test assignment.

You also need to have top-notch communication. Be very prompt to reply to any contact from employers. Keep your messages clear, concise, and correct (in other words, read, edit, and then proofread one more time before pressing “send”). And be extra sure you have all your equipment and home office in order well before any video calls.

 

3. Time-Consciousness

Since you’ll probably be working in a different region than at least some, if not all, of your team, you’ll have to be extra aware of time zones. And, because remote working sometimes makes it difficult to know what your co-workers are doing at any particular moment, you also need to be sensitive about using their time.

So, make a point to include dates and time zones when you suggest or agree to meetings or deadlines with an interviewer. So, if you’re in San Francisco and the company is in New York, you can say, “I’d be happy to talk with you tomorrow, Monday March 16, at 10 AM Pacific Time (San Francisco) / 1 PM Eastern Time (NYC).”

Then, when you are talking with a prospective employer, make sure that you respect the time limits set. Or, if there weren’t any set in advance, at the beginning of the conversation, say something like, “It’s great to get to talk to you. I want to make sure we can cover everything we need to—can you let me know how much time you have now?” And then be sure to wrap up the talk before then.

There are Much Reasons Working From Home

I’m a big fan of having the option to work from home, and I believe every company should offer this amenity to its employees. Sure, there are some jobs in which this isn’t possible—I can’t imagine an ER doctor operating out of his living room—but keeping employees locked up in an office building every hour of every day for no good reason just bothers me.

With that said, I don’t work from my couch all the time. Currently, I average once a week, as I have a weekly meeting that’s easier to get to if I spend the day at my apartment. But the truth is, if I didn’t have this regular commitment, I’d probably work from my apartment even less.

I know—some of you who don’t have this luxury are probably saying, “What? You’re crazy! I would stay home as often as possible if I was allowed to!” But, here’s the thing: I actually like going into the office, mainly because of these four reasons.

 

1. I Get to See My Friends

I’ve made some really great friends at my present job, and I truly enjoy spending time with them. When I go into the office, we grab coffee together, celebrate each other’s birthdays over lunch or happy hour, and even hit up the occasional group fitness class together. “Employees report that when they have friends at work, their job is more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying,” says Christine Riordan, President of Adelphi University.

There’s a special type of bond you can form with your colleagues that you just can’t with people outside your company. Because only they really understand the hard work you’re doing, the struggles you encounter, and the annoying emails you always get from Dave in the marketing department.

“Friends at work also form a strong social support network for each other, both personally and professionally,” says Riordan. “Whether rooting for each other on promotions, consoling each other about mistakes, giving advice, or providing support for personal situations, comradeship at work can boost an employee’s spirit and provide needed assistance.”

And, for me, it’s just a lot easier to benefit from these work friend perks when I see them in person. When I work from home, I’m missing out on that face-to-face interaction. And yes, as an ambivert, sometimes that is more than needed. But the truth is, when I decide to hunker down in my apartment for the entire day instead of making the commute, I miss my friends.

 

2. I Have a Better Desk Set-up at the Office

I live in a small one-bedroom apartment in the middle of DC. Do you know what that means? It means that when I work from home, I’m crammed onto my tiny kitchen table in our dining room (a.k.a., the far right corner of our living room).

Hunching over my tiny laptop and trying to maneuver the seven to 10 different documents I usually have open at one time is really not that easy and often proves to be pretty inefficient. While I’m pretty certain that I could be much more productive at home if I had a proper work space, I also know that as it stands now, my employer has provided me a better one than I’ve provided myself. At the office, I have two monitors to utilize (it’s amazing what a difference that can make when you have to compare Excel sheet upon Excel sheet), and a desk that moves from sitting to standing.

 

3. I Can Disconnect More Easily

When I bring my laptop home from the office, the lines begin to blur. A lot. I decided not to have work email on my phone—it’s not required, and my company doesn’t pay for my phone, so why should I? This means that when I leave the office, I actually leave work, instead of checking my email for the entire metro ride home, while exercising, while eating dinner—you get the picture.

Removing that feature from my phone made it a heck of a lot easier to disconnect, something that’s vital for everyone, from entry-level to CEO. As Alice G. Walton, PhD, a science and health writer for Forbes, says, “continuing to communicate with colleagues after hours not only creates stress, but it prevents your brain from relaxing and recouping from a long work day in preparation for the next.”

And it’s true (for me, at least). Last night when I returned home from grabbing a quick drink with a friend, my laptop was open and staring at me from the table. Though it was almost 8 PM and I said to myself, “Abby, you were done three hours ago. You have nothing more to do tonight,” the dreaded thing still beckoned me over, silently convincing me that I needed to make sure no top secret emails came through (I’ll let you in on a spoiler: They never do). And after I checked, I was not only annoyed, but I was then thinking about work. Again. Hadn’t I spend enough time thinking about it already?