Last summer, I had the privilege of being offered the position of Vice President of Product Marketing & Strategy with Technomedia, a global talent management software – a full HR suite of solutions which includes talent acquisition, performance review/management, compensation, learning & development, as well as leadership dev and succession planning. I gladly accepted the role, but there was one problem – the company was based in Montreal and I am based in Southern California, and I would be reporting to the Executive Vice President, who worked out of Houston, TX at the time – he has since moved one time zone further away – to North Carolina.
I had previous experience, but…
After having worked for a UK-based company previously, I had experienced the difficulties of working so far away from company headquarters. I was well aware of the pitfalls and the challenges, but there were also great benefits and opportunities. But I had worked in an office setting, not alone – from my home. With the multiple challenges and benefits in mind, I have come up with a personal plan for virtual employment success. These things work for me, but I am sure there are numerous other ways to be successful as a remote or virtual employee.
Tips for Virtual Success
1. Know Your Job – Understand what is truly expected of you. Do you have a job description? Do you need to write your own or fill in some gaps? If so, do it. This will only benefit your work and your relationships with you boss and other senior authorities. Within your first thirty days, write a 90-day plan and submit it, ask for feedback. This will allow you the chance to see if you really do know your job and what is expected of you.
2. Onboard Yourself – In a virtual workplace experience, YOU are the one who has to jumpstart the onboarding process. Connect with HR or your direct supervisor consistently for the first 30 – 90 days. Make sure they remember who you are, what you do, and where you reside/work. Taking charge of your own onboarding will allow you to dive in, at your pace and learn as much as you can about your role, your team, your department, your division, your region, your territory, your company. No one will do it for you – be a self-starter.
3. Meet Everyone You Might Possibly Work With – Make sure you introduce yourself to everyone with whom you might possibly need to work. Ask your supervisor who these people are, connect with them on LinkedIn, request a phone call, find out where they live/work, what their likes and dislikes are – find out WHO they are. Start to CARE about them. They will be your resources, your confidantes, and quite possibly your lifeline in the weeks to come.
4. Create Opportunities to Build Company Culture – Sometimes, it can be very lonely to work virtually or remotely. You must be disciplined enough to get the work done, but you must also be strong enough to ask for help when you need it. By building company culture for yourself, you are creating a pleasant work environment, building relationships, and developing your own loyalty to the company which has employed you.
5. Do Not Cancel Meetings – Stick to your meeting or conference call schedule. These are important times to build rapport and also know what others in your work groups are thinking, how they are feeling. This week, they need support. Next week, it will be you. I like to hold informal, but regularly-scheduled “jam sessions” with folks that I work with on a regular basis – only 30 minutes long and we talk about anything and everything. It is important to feel a part of a group. This has also provided opportunities for brainstorming and partnering. It has become one of my favorite parts of my week – I always view it as my “learning” time.
6. Find a Friend, Mentor, or Confidante – If you have someone who you can go to on a regular basis for questions or assistance, your confidence will grow and you will discover a new kind of loyalty. I love my new friends in Seattle, Jersey, Pennsylvania, Montreal, North Carolina, Houston, and D.C, and many other places. Connect with them on LinkedIn or any other social network which you and/or they frequent. Let them get to know you and you get to know them…
7. Participate in Your ISN (Internal Social Network) – Many companies now use networks like Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, or Microsoft Lync for connecting internally. Stay connected. Download the desktop versions to receive push notifications and frequent the site(s) for industry and company news and updates. Be an active participant in culture-building activities like photo sharing or costume contests. Share charitable efforts, showcase your latest work, or simply lurk and like updates and events. My company is even holding a limerick writing contest to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day next week!
8. Have Fun – If you aren’t finding fun in your work, every day, you will get burned out and lonely pretty quickly. You need to create a workplace which means something to you, with people who mean something, doing something that means something to you. If you don’t, than none of this matters, because you won’t be inspired to keep going, to keep driving, to maintain a level of serious tenacity that makes a difference in your work. If your don’t like it, how can you ever hope to feel or be successful? Have fun!
It isn’t easy to work far away from your company’s home base or far away from your colleagues. But with discipline, your own good nature, and simple willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, there is no reason why it can’t work. I find new ways to make it work every day. Finding the “better way” is what I am all about!
And to that end – if you have additional ideas, suggestions that have worked for you – please share them here – I would love to learn more and share more, in the future!
“If you want it, you can fly, you just have to trust you a lot.” – Steve Jobs
Trust that there is a reason you were hired to work remotely. Be aggressive in what you need to be successful. And then fly…
by Rayanne Thorn