By: Karen Sheffield
In October of last year, my husband got a new job in a different state and I had to reconsider my next career step. Because I’m part of an organization that truly cares about its employees, and with the help and advice from many highly esteemed colleagues, I was able to successfully negotiate remote flexibility in a new role with a new team. It IS possible — here I share the 5 steps I took to make this happen. Hope this helps you, too!
1. Let Your Work “Shout” For You
Passion yields superb performance and superb performance can help your case for flexibility requests. Do not expect to put your head down, “do your job” and be noticed. The world is too competitive and doing just what the job description says is now scraping the baseline. You want to go above & beyond. This doesn’t necessarily mean working overtime and killing yourself. Instead, work smart by making allies of those who have the expertise/answers you are looking for. Invest yourself in projects that are game-changing. Question the status quo. Make curiosity your friend. Be first to volunteer for that “scary” project. You can either win or learn — and you have much to gain.
2. Spot The “Alpha User” In Your Network
Who is/are the individual(s) with exceptional influence at your workplace? They are the people who are highly connected to other thought leaders in your professional network. These people are uniquely positioned to help match people with roles as they are created (and, even before they are created!). Effective networking doesn’t mean mindlessly handing out business cards and chatting up everyone and anyone. To make it work for YOU, write down your career path options. Look up those in the leadership roles you would like to attain at some point. Connect with them and make notes of their stories. Having these individuals become your sponsors can only help your case.
3. Identify The Role You Want To Do Remotely
Once you have proven yourself as an out-performer and have secured key sponsors at your workplace (who will support you when decisions about you are made), you will want to identify opportunities that can be performed remotely. There are some functions and roles that can easily be done remotely (i.e., software development, copywriting or a cross-functional finance role). Once you identify the role, you will want to talk to people who have previously held the role (if applicable). Ask them if being physically present is crucial for the role. What are some challenges in the role? Perhaps you can close the gap with your skills/experience. Figure out how YOU can improve this role. This will become your promised contribution when asking for remote flexibility.
4. Prepare For Your Interview
When we are already inside an organization, it is easy to relax and think of the internal interviewing process for a new role as a mere formality. Do NOT assume so! This is especially true if you are applying for a role with people who do not know you or your value proposition. Or, if you are making the case for a benefit that the position does not actually warrant (such as remote flexibility). If you can talk to the person who previously held the role and ask them what your potential future boss finds useful, that could help you best prepare for the interview. Do they like visuals (in which case you can prepare a striking PPT deck)? Are they task-oriented (in which case you will want to stick to your facts/figures accomplishments)? Make sure you knock it out of the ballpark!
5. Make The Ask
When you discuss remote flexibility with the hiring manager(s), make sure you come prepared to describe what it exactly means for you. What are your flexible terms? Are you asking to work from home once a week? Or, to be based remotely 100% of the time? If so, are you willing to fly back once a month? Be the first to offer up performance checkpoints (for example, every 3 months you and your hiring manager can discuss how this arrangement is working) — this way you show you are serious about your commitment to perform. If the hiring manager is hesitant to grant your request at first, you can request a testing period. Say, you ask to work from home every Friday for a month. Then, if your hiring manager determines the testing period was successful, you can make the arrangement permanent. If you value remote flexibility above other things, you can also offer a trade-off negotiation. For example, if you were looking to be promoted to a higher level in your organization, but working remotely is something you value more, you can offer to remain at the same level (of title and/or pay) in lieu of being able to work remotely.
The path of success almost never looks like an upward linear progression, anyway. Sometimes you will want to prioritize other things in life over “the next step” in the career ladder.