Ways to Grow Professionally.
Professional growth essentially refers to gaining new skills and work experience that can help you reach a goal in your career. And since we’re going through an ever-changing job market, keeping yourself up-to-date with trends will give you a better chance to distinguish yourself among others for years to come.
If you’re one of the many people who started their first job in 2020, you’re probably anxious about how you’ll manage your workplace relationships in a mostly virtual world. We know that the best ways for young professionals to build and grow their networks used to be through in-person experiences: onboarding sessions, working shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues, or participating in social events like team lunches and happy hours.
How are you supposed to do that when you’re working remotely? It’s a question worth some serious consideration.
Fifty-four percent of U.S. business leaders plan to keep jobs remote for the foreseeable future, according to PwC’s CFO Pulse survey. In addition, one-third of 330 executives surveyed by The Conference Board said that they are willing to hire 100% remote workers located anywhere in the U.S. or internationally. This means that anyone starting a new role could be onboarded virtually and work with people they may never meet in-person.
While there are plenty of upsides to working from your couch, it can be especially challenging if you’re new to a company. You may need to work harder than most to build meaningful relationships and establish a strong network.
The good news is that we’re seeing more business leaders actively trying to help their remote teams connect and collaborate. Supporting remote work has rocketed to the top of business agendas. With the support of your manager, you can learn and grow while replicating many of the positive experiences you’d get if you were in an office.
1. Use remote team meetings as networking opportunities.
Productive virtual networking is possible and the easiest way to do it is in your team meetings. Try joining a few minutes early. You might run into other colleagues who have also hopped on before the call officially begins. This is an easy, natural way to strike up casual conversations with your colleagues — the first step towards making new connections.
Once the meeting starts, listen intently to show people that you’re engaged. Think of curiosity as your superpower. Don’t shy away from asking questions to your manager and colleagues. You’re not going to get the opportunity to shake hands with anyone in person, at least not right now, so you need to speak up if you want to be visible.
Afterwards, take some time to message someone whose ideas you found interesting or challenging. It may be the best opportunity to connect with a peer to not only help you get situated, but also understand the details of their role.
2. Seek out mentors or coaches.
A mentorship is one of the most valuable relationships someone in their early career can build. As you learn to navigate your new role and build out your career in general, a mentor can clarify your priorities, provide constructive feedback, and offer new knowledge and perspectives.
Your manager is probably the senior employee you have the most direct access to as a new remote worker. That said, this person may not be the best candidate for a mentor. Your manager has direct power over your career trajectory, and you may find it difficult to be candid with them about your biggest struggles and aspirations. Some of those struggles may have to do with their direction. Some of those aspirations may not be in their best interest (even if they are in yours).
To find a mentor at your current organization, ask your manager or HR leader if your company has a mentorship program for junior employees. If the answer is no, rest assured that there are many other places to find one.
Internally, look into employee resource groups, happy hours, or lunch and learns. Each of these spaces will give you more face time with the colleagues you are not bumping into in the physical office and help you find people who share your values and interests. If you’re attending a lunch and learn, for example, and you hear someone make a point that you’re curious about, reach out to them after the event. To begin the conversation, send an email stating clearly what caught your attention and why you want to know more.
Outside of your organization, look into your alumni network, or sign up for workshops in your areas of interest. A mentor or coach doesn’t have to be someone you already work with. You may be surprised by the people who inspire you outside of the virtual “office.”
Try to remember that none of these things are one-time activities. Relationships build over time and the first conversation isn’t the most appropriate time to say, “Could you be my mentor?” Remember, too, that mentoring can take place through your external network, and that it can be worth staying in touch with a mentor at your company even if you (or they) find another job elsewhere.
3. Take initiative.
If your workplace doesn’t have many virtual events to help you make new connections, think about how to initiate those relationships yourself. There are a couple of easy ways to do this.
One is to check in with your manager and see if they would be open to having you run an event yourself. You don’t need to rely on ideas that revolve around work. Think book clubs, virtual lunches with new hires, or coffee meet-ups to discuss hobbies or other common interests. Many business leaders are aware of the challenges their teams are facing right now and are eager to help. You might be surprised by how welcome your suggestions are.
The second is to be of help to your team members (you know, the ones you met when you showed up early to that meeting). For example, if digital tools are second nature to you, can you help a colleague who is less fluent? Great at creating presentations? Ask your manager if you can help format their next presentation. And don’t stop at tech skills: Respectfully offer a new set of eyes whenever an opportunity arises. Does anyone need their report proofread or help brainstorming new ideas for social media?
Resist the urge to hang back: You were hired for your unique talents so use them to your advantage.
4. Say yes to stretch assignments.
Some managers offer their team members opportunities to work in other departments for a limited period of time. These special projects are sometimes referred to as “stretch” assignments because they require tasks that you may have less experience with but give you the opportunity to learn and grow outside of your expertise. For example, a stretch assignment might include organizing an important company event or leading a recurring meeting to hone your project management skills. These assignments also allow you to expand your network and build better relationships as you meet new people or collaborate with colleagues in different ways.
How do you land one? Once you settle into your new role, think about your strength and struggle areas. What skills do you have, but want to improve and develop? What skills do you want to learn? Once you’ve answered these questions, ask your manager if there are any projects on your team or in other departments that you could participate in to hone or learn those skills. If you’re interested in working for another department, address why it would be a good opportunity — leverage rapport from your strongest relationships and evidence from your best work performed in your current role to make the case.
While making connections in a virtual environment may not feel as organic as doing so in person, there are still opportunities to learn, develop, and build a network if you know where to look and how to start. Help your manager or team leader understand what you need, and take the initiative to grow.
Bhushan Sethi –Joint global leader of PwC’s people and organization practice.
Also Read: 4 Basic Reasons Why Talented Employees Don’t Reach Their Potential