How to Get Promoted When Working From Home
How do you position yourself for promotion when you’re working from home?
This is a real worry in an environment when virtual working has become part of the norm.
Without natural opportunities to speak to senior decision-makers at the end of a meeting or have your manager see you in action demonstrating your skills, it’s that much harder to build the relationships and reputation that you’ll need for promotion.
So, what do you do when you want to get promoted but have the apparent disadvantage of being virtual?
By the way, this is the same issue that people working in remote offices face.
In my experience, it all comes down to your visibility – both being visible to others and having visibility on what they value from you. Here are three steps to achieve it.
- Keep your boss updated
- Be proactive in reaching out
- Get clear on what’s expected
First and foremost, give your boss visibility on what you’re doing
My best team members were the ones that were “no surprises”. They kept me informed regularly and frequently, often with just a short email or note. I never had to worry about whether they were working on the thing I had delegated or whether they were going to meet the deadline.
Because of this level of transparency, I knew I could trust them. And that made it easy for me to support them for promotion.
When people don’t know what you’re doing, their imagination can run wild. And they usually end up fearing the worst. For example, “What if they’re not being productive? Are they just lazing around? What if they’re not going to meet the deadline?”
Even for the best bosses, the effect of “not seeing is not knowing” can cause anxiety. And if your boss has micromanager tendencies, not seeing you in person will only make those tendencies more pronounced.
So when you’re working from home, do your boss and yourself a favor. Provide regular and frequent updates and stay in regular communication. And do it in the way they like to be updated.
Which brings us to the next step…
Be proactive about reaching out to connect with others
To avoid being “out of sight, out of mind”, it’s key to invest in your relationships whether that’s to strengthen existing relationships or build new ones to extend your network.
Advancing in your career requires that you have a network of people who know who you are and what you do. While that feels harder to build and maintain when you’re working from home, that’s only true if you let it stop you from moving forward anyway.
The key to success is to take the initiative yourself. Don’t wait for others to reach out to you under the assumption that senior managers “should” be taking the lead. That only hurts your chances. Since you’re the one with the most to lose and gain, take it upon yourself to do the reaching out. Most people will welcome the chance to connect because they’re facing the same situation.
The benefit of your being proactive is that it gives others visibility on how terrific you are. It also helps you get visibility on what else is going on around the organization so you can connect the dots and find ways to add more value, provide insight, build bridges. Find collaborative opportunities.
They say the next level of opportunities lies in the connection between areas, not digging deeper into the area you’re already familiar with. So go ahead and travel in different circles and bring back the learnings.
And this brings us to the third way.
Gain visibility on what’s expected of you
To know where to put your efforts, you need to have clarity on management’s expectations of you. This is especially vital when you’re not in the office and therefore unable to pick up on the subtle signs and vibes as to whether you’re on the right track or not.
Plus, physical distance is an additional barrier to communication so much more goes unsaid.
That’s why you need to be intentional about agreeing expectations. And not just on your general responsibilities, but also the specifics of what success looks like from their perspective, how they see your work aligning with the bigger goals of the unit and the milestones they’ll be looking for along the way.
You’ll also want to get clear on expectations when it comes to communication. How often do they like to be updated, what kinds of issues to flag and when, and what’s their preferred mode of hearing from you.
This is also the ideal moment to get visibility about permissions and boundaries
What permissions do you want to ask for so you don’t find yourself worrying later? Like getting permission to call if it’s an emergency or to make certain decisions without having to interrupt your manager.
Equally, think about any permissions you want to give. For example, you could grant your boss permission to give you real-time feedback or to ask you for an update if they find themselves wondering.
As for setting boundaries, it’ll be useful to discuss and agree on when you’ll each be available and when you won’t. When you’re not physically in the same location, it’s hard to know whether someone is available so establishing these rules of the road upfront will reduce the chances of misunderstanding.
But what if you already know what’s expected of you?
That’s great! But it never hurts to check your assumptions because we all have blind spots. Like my team member Ben, who knew that he was expected to call on his clients and bring in business. But didn’t understand that I also needed to hear progress updates in the meantime.
If he had asked me how often I wanted to hear from him, I would have gladly answered. Everyone else on the team seemed to do it automatically so it didn’t occur to me to tell him explicitly. Let’s just say this didn’t help Ben’s promotion prospects.
Also, things can change, and your managers might not remember to clue you in. So even when you think you know what your managers and colleagues expect, it’s useful to periodically touch base before you put your head down and focus on executing.
Just don’t make the mistake of working extra hours because the boundaries between work and home are now blurred
This will burn you out and keep you mired in doing tasks at the expense of being strategic. And this will ultimately reduce your ability to demonstrate that you’re thinking and behaving like someone worthy of promotion.
So if you’re working from home, remember to take these steps to maximize your promotion chances:
- Keep your boss updated – transparency and regular communication builds trust, confidence and a greater willingness to support you
- Be proactive in reaching out – don’t wait for others to invite you to connect, even if they’re senior to you
- Get clear on what’s expected – knowing what success looks like and agreeing on permissions and boundaries will help you deliver the right results in a sustainable way
So how about you? Which of these steps would most help you pave the way for your next promotion while working from home?