How to Keep a High Profile Even When You Work From Home
Career health warning - don't get left out in the cold
A March 2021 YouGov survey of 1,671 GB adults highlights the importance of not getting left out in the cold when you work from home
But working from home has serious implications for your future prospects. Out of sight, out of mind is just one of the issues. It becomes imperative that you ensure that your good work is noticed. Many people, particularly introverts, don’t like to blow their own trumpets. So what’s the best way to manage your career progression when you work from home?
I have coached 47 managers of various levels during the pandemic and these are some of the career development strategies that have helped to keep their careers upwardly mobile.
Make being noticed a priority
You may think that if you keep your head down and do a good job you will get noticed — but you may not. It’s not worth the risk.
There are two benefits to determining to be noticed. First, if you have any conscience at all, it will motivate you to produce good work. And high quality is a solid foundation for career progression. Second, it will make you develop strategies for being noticed that are natural for you. If you’re not an extrovert it does not disqualify you from promoting yourself. It just means that you have to find ways to be noticed that come naturally to you.
More about being noticed in a minute.
Focus on what you do well
In 2 YouGov focus groups conducted in June 2020 respondents highlighted “increased productivity” as a major reason why they wanted to continue working from home.
If everyone else is producing more you have to make sure that you are in the game. Your strengths will keep you in the game. It sounds obvious but when you spend most of your time and energy on the stuff that you’re good at you are most likely to produce noticeably good results. Quality output is the best platform on which to build your career.
Quality, rather than quantity, will make you stand out from the crowd.
Do NOT compete with your peers
Trying to compete with others can take your eye off the quality ball and it can make enemies.
Competition can stir you up, but you don’t want it to stir everyone else up in a bad way. The answer is to compete with yourself. Make it your aim to seek to make everything you produce slightly better than its predecessor. This process of continuous and never-ending improvement has been fundamental to the success of many great brands and companies.
This affirmation may help you: “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” Emile Coué
Become a great storyteller — use this simple, yet effective way to tell your success stories
Stories are a natural and memorable way to impart information.
We start listening to stories when we’re very young. We never lose our thirst for stories. We read books, watch movies and TV to slake our appetite for stories. So, when you use stories to advertise your work successes people are pre-programmed to listen.
This is a natural, non-boastful way to tell stories at interviews, annual reviews, catch-ups and town halls.
Describe the situation. What was going on? Was there a crisis? Was it an important project? Give your audience some specific context.
Detail the action you took. In simple words describe what you did e.g. “I assessed the situation, the chemical spillage was potentially catastrophic for us. I decided that we needed to tell our side of the story. I called in the PR agency, briefed them on the clean-up operation we had mounted to rectify the situation and asked them to focus on the positive environmental impact of our remedial action.
Give the result. The story ran on TV that night and in all the major newspapers. Our Good Citizen rating improved by 5 points in the next Gallup survey.
When you tell your stories using the situation, action, result formula you do not appear to be boasting. You are simply describing what happened and what you did.
Keep a results journal
When you’re busy working it’s easy to forget all the good things you do. They’re just part of the daily routine.
But, if you want your work to make an impact on those who matter you have to make the effort to manage your career. It’s a good idea to keep a journal in which you make a few notes of your work highlights. Use the situation, action, result formula to keep brief reminder notes of the good things you do. Then when you need to make a favourable impression trot out one of your stories.
Your memory is fickle, give it a helping hand, keep a success stories journal.
Be a human being
It’s easy to become a bit robotic at work, especially if you work to a schedule.
People relate to people. In order to get on well with your boss and your work colleagues, you need to show your human side. Find time to talk about your dog, or your exercise routine, or your new way of cleaning the living room. Anything that shows you are “normal” and likeable will make you easier to like and befriend. The more people like you the more they will do to help you.
Above all, ask other people how they’re getting on and try to help them with the issues in their lives.
Be alert for opportunities
It’s easy to just sit back and wait to be asked, but that doesn’t help either you or your employer.
Busy leaders don’t like to have to do all the thinking themselves. Thinking is hard work and it’s time-consuming. Regard problems as opportunities. You won’t lose out by making suggestions. Even suggestions that are not adopted can often plant a seed that germinates into a solution.
When a problem arises ask yourself, “What would I do in this situation?” Finding answers is good preparation for your next step up the ladder.
It’s easy to be passive and wait to be told what to do.
You will be held in much higher esteem when you are proactive. Give your upline progress reports when you make progress. Suggest ideas that might help move a project forward. Suggest candidates when jobs become vacant. Have ideas for team bonding sessions. Suggest how reporting lines could be shortened or made clearer.
All you have to do is send a text, or an email or drop a suggestion into a meeting. Proactive employees are noticed.
Seize the opportunity to write the minutes
When the chair asks, “Who would like to take the minutes?” have you ever watched the heads go down as people try to hide.
Minutes are a great opportunity. When you do the minutes you can blow up your successes and minimise your mistakes. You have control of the whole tenor of the meeting in the eyes of those who did not attend. You also control the circulation of the minutes so you can make sure people higher up are made aware of your good work. You effectively become the second-in-command of the meeting.
Minutes are a power position. But you don’t want to spend hours writing minutes. Here’s a simple formula for writing the minutes of most everyday business meetings.
All you have to do is take the Subject from the Agenda. Then confirm what was agreed with the meeting chair and make a note under Agreed Action. State who is responsible for taking action and insert the delivery date.
There’s no need for any long description of who said what.
When you’ve finished filling in all the blanks on your minute’s table write a short synopsis, not more than 3 lines, and place it at the top of the minutes. You won’t believe how many senior managers will read that synopsis.
Note: This formula is not intended for taking the minutes of Board meetings or major policy decision making meetings.
Manage your lifestyle by using your calendar as your to-do list
Health, wealth and happiness are the cornerstones of an enjoyable life.
But it can be hard to manage all aspects of your life when you are constantly in the same environment. You need to organise yourself. I recommend using your calendar as your to-do list. That way you allocate blocks of time to specific activities like: 09.00–10.00 write report, 10.00–11.00 team meeting, 11.00–12.00 plan project A, 12.00–13.00 walk the dog etc.
Being organised reduces worry and stress.
Master the art of flipping your feelings
Working from home can be lonely or it can be filled with interruptions, either way, your emotions can get scrambled.
Your challenge is to become self-sufficient. The key is to be in charge of your mind so that you can control your emotions and thus your energy output. When you notice that you’re feeling more than you’re thinking it’s time to ask yourself, “what is causing me to feel this way?’ You will notice that there is always something going on in your mind that is causing the feeling.
Once you notice what you are thinking about that is causing the bad feeling ask yourself, “What is the opposite of what I am thinking?” Once you identify the opposite flip your thoughts and focus hard on that thought, then wait for your feelings to change.
Do it your way
You now have techniques for controlling your lifestyle and making an impression on those who influence your career progression.
Some of what I have suggested in this article may not be right for you. That’s OK, you are unique and not everything will ever be right for you. You may even see the point of some of what I have said but have your own way of implementing the idea. That’s fine. Do it your way. You know best what’s right for you.
Whatever decisions you make just make sure that you take action to get noticed.