No-one should have to put their career growth on hold because they work from home (WFH), or work from anywhere (WFA). However, the rapid shift to remote work in early 2020 has led to a 48% drop in promotions, according to research by UK workplace learning platform HowNow.
Alarmingly, 75% of survey respondents also reported a significant drop in training and career development, with 52% claiming to have received no training at all since the start of the pandemic. If your office is continuing with WFA or a hybrid workforce, you may need to take a more proactive approach to career growth.
Alex Kenning, managing director of recruitment and professional development agency Aquent Australia, says it’s important to take ownership of your career pathby understanding what matters to your manager, particularly as their job will have changed dramatically in the last two years as well. “What are they looking for from their staff? How are they measuring staff performance? You need to empathise with that,” says Kenning. “If you can make their life easier, then that makes you a better employee.”
Thanks to regular video meetings, emails and online chat, your team and line manager are unlikely to forget who you are. Unfortunately though, decisions on promotions may involve people beyond your immediate professional circle – and remote work may have made you less visible to them, increasing your risk of being overlooked.
But it’s not all bad news. You might just need to put in a little more legwork for networking and to nurture relationships beyond your immediate manager. “If your manager goes to their boss and says, ‘I’m either going to promote Fred or Sarah’, and their boss goes, ‘Oh, I don't know Fred’, it's not going to put you in good stead,” says Kenning.
According to 2021 research by Harvard Business Review, employees who work hard on building relationships with their seniors are 82% more likely to be promoted. “In an office, that's pretty easy,” says Kenning. “You'll see them walking around; you'll see them in the kitchen.”
When WFA, you’ll need to be more proactive to create these opportunities and nurture these relationships. For example, you could involve yourself in other work projects to get exposure beyond your team in other departments.
While building relationships is an essential part of facilitating career growth, you also need to demonstrate you can deliver more to the business than the requirements of your current role.
“It's all about having regular communication to gain an appreciation of your manager,” says Kenning. “What are their challenges? What opportunities might there be for you to do something else?”
There are always opportunities for improvement in any business. But while merely pointing out what needs fixing can quickly become a nuisance, offering solutions and volunteering to implement them can help to demonstrate your true worth.
Now might be the perfect time to work on your own career development plan. Be proactive and map out your ideal career pathand share it with your manager. Consider where you would like to get to as well as how you plan to get there, including the training you will need along the way. With so many online courses and digital training providers around, there’s no reason why you can’t continue your career and professional developmentwherever you’re working from.
Kenning also recommends aligning your goals with those of your employer. “If the company is introducing new technology, volunteer to work within that technology and to train up on it,” he says. “If the company is going in a different direction with a new product, learn about that industry with the new product and put yourself front and centre.”
Just remember to demonstrate the value of your newly acquired skills to your manager by finding a reason to apply them to the business. “Then people will notice that you are making a difference with those skills that you brought in,” adds Kenning.
Career growthdoesn’t have to rely on promotions within your current employer. One of the benefits of WFA is that there are fewer limitations on who you can work for.
“You're not restricted by your lifestyle. People can be much more flexible in terms of when they log on and when they log off,” says Kenning. “Also, the geographical location is becoming less and less important. You don't need to live within a 20-minute or one-hour commute from the office anymore. So, the number of opportunities has increased as well.”
However, finding WFAopportunities means developing your digital presence, as employers and recruitment agencies have become increasingly proactive in seeking out the talent they want to hire.
While some professionals work on projects that are easily curated into an impressive online portfolio, others may need to prove their abilities in other ways
One obvious tool for networking online is LinkedIn, and Kenning recommends you develop and enhance your profile with as many recommendations and endorsements from colleagues as you can.
“Generally speaking, people don't get promoted on their business skills or their trade skills or how good they are at making a widget or whatever it might be,” says Kenning. “It's the whole rounded person that gets the promotion.”