Working from home during the coronavirus outbreak doesn’t mean you have to put your career ambitions on hold. Seize the moment with these helpful tips.
Pandemic? Social distancing? The experience of work is a lot different than it was just a short time ago. While it may be tempting to slip into the mindset that the world (and your career development) are in suspended animation for the time being, now’s the time to stay on the ball, demonstrate your value at work, and plan for your long-term career trajectory.
Stay Efficient and Motivated Through Structure
Lying in bed and jumping into your work inbox isn’t optimal for getting motivated and transitioning into “work mode.” Start your day off right by sticking to a similar routine to the one you had before social distancing made you a remote worker: get out of bed, shower, get dressed, and eat a nutritious breakfast. You don’t need to necessarily wear what you would have to the office, but something that looks presentable over video conferencing and makes you feel put together will help you stay on point throughout the day.
When the physical space of your work overlaps with your living space, you need to be more thoughtful about how you structure your day, and that begins with your work space. If possible, designate an area of your home as your working zone, ideally somewhere uncluttered with minimal distractions. Keep ergonomics in mind, too—being comfortable and finding optimal body positioning will boost your productivity, minimize distracting aches and pains, and elevate your mood.
Another element of structure is your time. In the absence of meetings, you should still make a schedule for your day so you avoid aimlessly bouncing from project to project. Create a to do list that syncs up with your schedule. This will not only increase your efficiency, but make you feel more accomplished as you complete tasks. Having the to do list to look back on can also be helpful when you check-in with your boss or team and recap them on what you’ve been working on.
Don’t forget to plan breaks into your schedule! It sounds counter-intuitive but planning for breaks will likely reduce the amount of time you spend not working. And if you can, commit to stopping work at the same time every day. It’s not uncommon for remote workers to overwork, which can quickly turn into burnout. By keeping a strict end time to your workday, you will stay more focused during the day, knowing you have a limited time to complete your work before you shut down.
Plan and Execute Excellent Virtual Meetings
Just because you’re not all in the room together doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put just as much effort into your meetings’ planning and execution. In fact, pulling off a truly great virtual meeting takes additional thought and preparation to get it right, and if you do, your boss and colleagues will take notice.
As you would with an in-person meeting, send a meeting agenda beforehand. Set clear goals for what it is you and the attendees need to accomplish, and be sure everyone is aware of them before logging in. Always account for some extra time before the meeting start time to test the technology. Nothing gets a meeting off to a worse start than having to troubleshoot tech issues for the first 10 or 15 minutes.
Use video as a way to promote engagement and discourage attendees from multitasking. Virtual meetings are more effective when you can all read each other’s facial expressions. As mentioned already, while the company dress code may not necessarily apply to your guest bedroom, be sure to dress in a way that reflects well on you and sets the tone for how serious you’re taking the subject matter of the meeting.
If you must present, make it short and sweet. If one of your primary goals is to convey information, consider putting together a pre-read for attendees beforehand so you can spend most of your virtual meeting on discussion and sharing of perspectives and ideas. Take note of who’s talking and who isn’t. If appropriate, call on individuals to be sure everyone has a chance to weigh in. If it’s a large meeting of more than eight people, consider using a flash poll as a way to quickly ascertain the group’s feelings on a subject.
Before you end the meeting on time, make sure you save a couple minutes to outline next steps, assign tasks, and even plan for the next meeting, as needed. Immediately following, send a follow-up email with your notes and the assigned tasks to be sure everyone is aligned moving forward.
Develop Your Long-Term Career Vision
Use the extra time on your hands in this period of social distancing to devote some thought and energy to beyond the day-to-day and think about the long term of your career in a strategic sense.
It’s worthwhile to think about where you want to take your career in the next 10 years, the steps it will take to get there, and how to most efficiency get from point A to point B to point C. But it’s also important that you build flexibility into your goals—no one can predict the future, and you need to build that uncertainty into your plan. Many people with career success didn’t end up where they are today because they thought about how to get there 10 years before that—they found success because they are adaptable, have a growth mindset, and at different points in their career made choices that kept their options open.
Without a doubt, part of your long-term vision should be expanding your skillset. Commit to being a lifelong learner, think through what skills you need to develop to accomplish your goals, and consider which skills you can learn on the job and which skills you’ll need to learn through education. Don’t delay—take advantage of the new time you may now suddenly have while social distancing.
Another important consideration is network. Think about how you can grow your network and get connected with people who can help you get to where you want to go. Remember that your network isn’t a static entity, it requires maintenance. Just because you connected with someone on LinkedIn five years ago doesn’t mean they’re going to be willing to have a conversation with you now if you didn’t make any effort in the intervening time.
A great way to build your skill sets, expand your network, accelerate your long-term career development, and keep your career options open all at the same time is through earning an MBA or business master’s degree from a graduate business school. At business school, you’ll learn cutting edge management principles and in-demand skills from leading business thought leaders and form a close bond with a cohort of classmates who share your ambition.
A great place to start is to determine what program types are a good fit for you, your level of experience, and your goals, and find specific programs at leading business schools using Program Finder. Create an mba.com account and opt into GMASS so schools can learn more about you and connect with you about upcoming events and assess your eligibility for scholarship opportunities.
Seize the moment! Don’t let social distancing get in the way of you making progress toward your career goals. Create an mba.com account today to get started!