Remote work has been booming in adoption in recent years, and even more so since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The flexibility that remote work offers is one of its biggest advantages, but it also presents some new challenges for professional development. Remote workers must stay current with skills, maintain a competitive edge, and grow their expertise without the aid of on-site resources, peer-to-peer interactions, or in-person training.
Professional development has always been essential in any career, and remote work presents a shift in approach to achieving these goals. Here, there are best practices for professional development in remote work, focusing on six areas that remote workers need to consider to stay ahead.
- Setting Goals and Making a Plan
Setting goals and making a plan is the first step towards professional development. Identification of areas for improvement is essential, as well as the creation of measurable objectives. However, goals should align with your career aspirations and be realistic and achievable.
There are some key considerations in setting goals and making a plan for professional development in remote work:
- Assess your current skills and competencies – An early evaluation of current skills and competencies is important as it will help identify gaps that need to be filled.
- Identify your strengths – It is also essential to give time to identify your strengths. It serves as a starting point for developing a plan of action.
- Analyze industry trends – Staying updated with industry trends will help remote workers know what skills and knowledge are in demand. Understanding industry trends will help tailoring the career development plan accordingly.
- Prioritize goals – Once you have identified goals and objectives, it is important to prioritize them, i.e., what goals should be accomplished first and when.
- Create an action plan – Once you have prioritized your goals, break them down into achievable tasks and put them into a timeline. An action plan will help you account for progress and help you monitor the plan’s effectiveness
By setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals, remote workers can stay on track, motivated and hold themselves accountable for their development.
- Continuous Learning
Continuous learning is essential for professional development. As a remote worker, you may not have access to on-site resources like a library or in-person training, but there are a plethora of online resources available. Many organizations offer webinars, online courses, and other resources that can help you acquire new skills or improve existing ones.
Some popular platforms to access online courses are Coursera, Udemy, edX, LinkedIn Learning, and Skillshare. These platforms offer various courses on programming, communication, business management, design, and marketing, among others.
To get the most value out of online courses, remote workers should:
- Identify the skill they want to learn
- Research the online platform offering the course
- Read reviews and feedback from previous learners
- Ensure the courses are suitable for their learning style
- Allocate time and resources to complete the course
- Apply the knowledge acquired to work-related tasks
Additionally, there are many online communities where remote workers can engage and interact with each other, such as Slack communities like the Remote Work & Coliving Slack Group. The group is an open forum to discuss topics related to entrepreneurship, remote work, and coliving.
- Get Feedback
Another crucial practice for professional development in remote work is feedback. Feedback provides insights into strengths and weaknesses, helps remote workers identify areas that require improvement, and provides direction for growth.
Getting feedback may be more challenging than in traditional office settings, but remote workers should strive for regular check-ins with their managers or supervisors to get feedback on their work. They should also seek feedback from peers, mentors, and subject matter experts in their field via virtual communication channels like Zoom and Skype.
Horizontal feedback can also be valuable to remote workers, as feedback received from colleagues and peers on a similar organizational level can play a significant role in identifying performance gaps and providing a better view of work performance.
- Participate in Virtual Networking
Networking is a vital aspect of professional development that remote workers need to consider. Although remote workers don’t have access to physical networking events, there are still many virtual networking tools and resources available. Virtual networking can be beneficial as it can allow you to connect with people from all around the world and from different industries.
Some key virtual networking methods to try out are:
- Joining industry-specific groups on social media – LinkedIn groups are a great platform for virtual networking. It is the world’s largest professional network that connects professionals from different industries. You can join groups relevant to your industry to enhance networking opportunities.
- Attend virtual conferences – There is no need to leave your desk to attend remote conferences. Virtual conferences are a great way to network online with other professionals, learn about industry trends, and gain insights from industry experts.
- Initiate virtual coffee discussions – Consider reaching out to your professional network for a virtual coffee discussion. It is a great way to build and maintain relationships with your connections.
- Build A Professional Development Network
Building a professional development network is one of the best ways to stay ahead in your career. This network should include colleagues, mentors, industry leaders, and subject matter experts. This network will provide useful feedback, guidance, and support in your professional development journey.
To build your network, attend professional events, participate in online groups, and reach out to people for advice and mentorship. Remember to reciprocate by offering your expertise, insights, and career advice when people reach out to you.
- Make Time for Self-Care
Self-care is essential for the well-being of remote workers and plays a significant role in professional development. Remote work presents an environment where work and personal life intermix, which can lead to burnout and compromise your professional development journey.
To address this, Remote workers should:
- Set clear boundaries between work hours and leisure hours
- Take breaks and exercise regularly
- Eat healthily and stay hydrated
- Manage stress by engaging in relaxation exercises
- Take time off as needed
Self-care is a key element of professional development in remote work, as without it, remote workers may find it challenging to be productive, engaged, and motivated.
- Seek Out Mentorship Opportunities
Mentorship is a powerful tool for professional growth, and remote workers should seek out mentorship opportunities to accelerate their development. A mentor can help guide remote workers to the right resources, provide valuable insights based on their experiences, and offer career advice.
Although remote workers may not have access to in-person mentors, online mentorship programs are available. Platforms like MentorCruise, FindMentor, and Mentorloop provide virtual mentorship programs with industry experts and experienced professionals.
- Leverage Technology
Technology is a crucial tool for professional development in remote work, even more so with remote work’s expanding nature. It facilitates virtual communication, provides access to online learning resources, and enables remote collaboration.
Remote workers should leverage technology to stay connected with colleagues, attend virtual training programs, and stay up-to-date with industry news.
Some popular tools that remote workers can use are:
- Zoom for virtual meetings
- Trello for project management
- Slack for team communication
- Google Drive for collaborative document sharing
- Asana for task management
- Calendly for scheduling virtual meetings
Leveraging technology to support professional development is critical for remote workers, and continuous learning of new technologies should be a priority.
- Embrace Collaboration
Remote work can sometimes feel isolating, and it can be challenging to engage in collaborative work. Collaboration is essential in professional development, and remote workers must actively embrace and seek out opportunities for collaboration.
Collaboration not only enhances learning and knowledge sharing but also helps build stronger relationships with colleagues. Remote workers should find ways to participate in virtual team-building activities or communicate with their team on a regular basis.
- Implement a Personal Branding Strategy
Personal branding has become increasingly important in today’s digital age, and remote workers must have an effective personal branding strategy. Personal branding aims to build a strong reputation in a specific industry or niche by highlighting skills, experiences, and unique insights.
To implement a personal branding strategy, remote workers should:
- Identify the target audience – Determine who your target audience is and customize your content to meet their interests.
- Create a professional online presence – Develop online profiles in platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter that reflect a professional image.
- Share industry insights – Contribute to news or media outlets around industry trends, and share insights through blog articles or social media posts.
- Build strategic partnerships – Collaborate with other experts in your field to increase the reach of your personal brand.
Having a personal branding strategy can serve to differentiate you from others and help you establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Professional development is of utmost importance in remote work, and remote workers must adopt best practices to stay ahead of the curve. Setting SMART goals, continuous learning, feedback, virtual networking, building a professional development network, self-care, seeking mentorship opportunities, leveraging technology, embracing collaboration, and personal branding are some of the best practices that remote workers can embrace to achieve their professional goals.
By adopting these practices, remote workers can not only stay competitive in their careers but also find fulfillment in their work.