A year ago, I had the honor to co-write “Earn It!” with my mentor and boss, Mika Brzezinski, a best-selling book to help young women in their 20s and 30s navigate their career and communicate their value.
While the book has helped so many since its publication, the coronavirus pandemic has since changed the job landscape. Those of us who are lucky enough to still work from home are facing new challenges, like figuring out how to assert ourselves and truly stand out in a sea full of Zoom meetings, email exchanges and limited face-to-face interaction with our co-workers and bosses.
While this will be a temporary change, we still don’t know what the back-to-the-office rollout will look like and when it will be. Not to mention, several experts are predicting that this remote working arrangement is a trend that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
With that in mind, what are the new rules of getting ahead, asserting yourself, and ‘earning it’ while working form home?
As part of my new Friday weekly Instagram Live series for Know Your Value, I recently chatted with Lauren McGoodwin, founder of the job advice website Career Contessa and author of “Power Moves.” We discussed small ways young women can show their value and stay on track even when they’re working from home.
Here are some of our key takeaways:
1. Make mini goals for the day.
If the days seem monotonous, try breaking up each day with mini to do’s. “Setting and achieving goals is important for your well-being,” noted Lauren.
I personally love writing small goals each day in my planner and then physically crossing them off my list when they’re done. As a booking producer for “Morning Joe,” I’m always looking for new voices and story angles. So, for example, one mini goal for me might be to ‘reach out to three potential show guests” on a story angle we’re working on. Another mini goal might be walking my dog before my morning calls start, or not scheduling calls from noon to 1 so I can make and eat a proper lunch.
Think about mini goals that might make sense in your day and then write them down. They will keep you accountable but also help break up the day so you feel accomplished and productive.
2. Celebrate your accomplishments.
It’s important to recognize that this social distancing and remote working environment is new. So if you’re struggling, cut yourself some slack, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
The first few weeks of quarantine, I found myself easily irritated and unmotivated. Before allowing my feelings to interrupt my work, I tried incorporating feel-good practices to perk me up. When I crossed an action off my to do-list, I would celebrate by treating myself to dessert, giving myself a facial, or with Netflix time. Find those little ways to pat yourself on the back.
3. Designate screen-free hours or days of the week.
Do you find yourself staring at a screen from the moment you wake up until you go to bed? Without having a physical ‘in’ and ‘out’ from the office, it’s tougher to set boundaries around our regular work hours.
If you can, try to follow the routine you had at the office. If you leave the office by 6 p.m., try and shut down your computer by then.
I work in news Sunday through Thursday and then work on writing projects the rest of the week. But I’ve designated Saturdays as my no-screens-no tablet day in order to give my brain (and eyes!) a break.
Lauren told me that she would go a step further and consider a larger digital detox, “Unfollow accounts that don't bring you joy and learn how to overcome "FOND"—the fear of not doing. A fear that you have to be "doing things all the time" because taking time to really relax takes just as much practice as doing all the things.”
4. Check in with your colleagues, virtually.
Now is the time to find ways to show off your digital savviness by introducing new ways for your team to connect. Lauren encouraged workplaces and employees to “create a ‘virtual watercooler’” in programs like Slack, in addition to scheduling videoconferencing calls.
“Zoom calls have a specific start/end, but with Slack or a tool like that you can chit chat with your team all day,” if you and your co-workers would benefit, she said.
5. Try networking with a new contact through a ‘virtual coffee call.’
In some ways, quarantine has made networking easier. More people are now at home and perhaps more available for networking opportunities. Virtual coffee calls can become the new informational.
In order to make it as effective as possible, Lauren advised to “make sure your email asking for a virtual coffee call is clear, concise, and the person on the other side knows what you're looking for.” She echoed a cardinal rule we lay out in “Earn It!” when it comes to your first outreach: “Never ask for a job.”
When you’re on the call, try the two conversation tactics we lay out in the book to make a good impression. The first is to prepare tactical questions that speaks to the skill set of the job you’re interested in, such as “What qualities make someone in this role effective?”
The second is to ask personal questions (non-intrusive that is!). Pick ones that will allow you to learn something unique about the person you’re chatting with, like “What is it that you love about this business/or the work?”
These questions will show that you’ve come prepared and will help create rapport.
To finish it off, don’t forget to follow up with a thank you email!
6. Look and dress the part via video conference.
No need to walk around in a pantsuit or jeans all day but our tips in “Earn It!” about looking polished at work still apply. For that Zoom call, throw on a blazer over a cotton shirt, consider a muted lip color if that’s your thing, or put your hair in a neat pony. Extra points for a DIY home manicure. Whatever makes you feel confident and put together will help show you mean business.
7. Find ways to keep track and showoff your workload.
Now is the time to find ways to impress your boss with accountability. Lauren suggested sending a weekly progress email to your boss or manager.
“Every Monday send an email to your boss to let them know what you're planning to work on and make sure the things on your list align with the company's goals. On Friday, send a recap of what you completed this week, any challenges and any other information that can showcase your value,” she said.
8. Ask for feedback.
In ”Earn It” we discuss the importance of asking for feedback, especially if you’re not getting it. Many young women tend to second guess their actions if they aren’t getting validation. During this time under quarantine, don’t assume that if you’re not getting feedback that it’s a bad thing. Feedback is good, but if you’re not getting it don’t feel like you can’t ask for it. Now is a good time to take the initiative it will show your boss you’re on top of your work and are taking that extra effort to check in.
9. Remember that you don’t have to have it all figured out.
If you find yourself in a job you don’t love, and you’re finding it hard to “figure out your purpose,” try not to overwhelm yourself by thinking you’re losing time.
If you’re lucky to still be working during this time, don’t try to jump ship now. Try using this time to do your job and work on finding ways to sharpen up new skills during your downtime. This will help you find new opportunities down the road.