How to Advocate for Yourself in a Digital World
It’s been five months since the work world as most of us knew it drastically changed. Five months since we battled traffic to get into the office. Five months since we stood in a crowded elevator. Five months since we actually saw our colleagues.
Really, it’s been five months since we’ve “shown up.”
Don’t get me wrong. We’re still working – some of us harder than we ever have before. But in a world where work is done remotely, how do we know others are seeing our contributions? How do we make sure we aren’t forgotten or deemed less valuable?
It’s a question I’ve been asked by a growing number of colleagues. Women, in particular, worry that their voices will be lost in this new world where conference calls and virtual meetings reign supreme.
It’s a valid concern. There is ample research that shows how frequently women are interrupted, talked over, misheard, or misperceived in business meetings. And that’s when they are sitting right there in the room!
So, as the timeline for returning to our physical workspaces continues to be pushed out, the urgency to stay visible and advocate for yourself in a virtual world will only grow.
I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do have some thoughts and ideas based on my own experiences over these past few months. I also want to share some practical tips that stem from a virtual event hosted by our firm’s RBC Women Empowered group a few months ago that featured Romy Newman, president and co-founder of Fairygodboss.
1) Ditch the pajama pants.
Even though no one except your family members or your cat will see you in the flesh during your work day, pajamas and yoga pants can make it harder for you to get into the “work” mindset. I’ve found that if I don’t get up and put on real clothes (yes, jeans count as real clothes these days), I’m not as ready to tackle the day.
But when I get up and get ready as if I were driving into work, I am so much more productive and confident. No, I don’t go full court press with the fashion or make-up anymore, but I at least make sure I look – and more importantly, feel – put together. Doing all this also makes me more likely to follow the next piece of advice, which is…
[Related: Personal Style as Your Super-Suit]
2) Turn on the camera.
It’s so easy to just dial into a WebEx meeting or Zoom call with audio only. But being able to see people’s faces – and for them to see you – leads to much richer conversations.
Developing strong relationships with your colleagues and your leaders is critical to success in any role. And we all know there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when it comes to relationship building.
3) Communicate more frequently with your leader.
So many people are concerned that their manager doesn’t know what they are working on. If you’re one of those uber-conscientious people, you probably aren’t the person your manager is worried about. Still, it’s important to make sure they have insight into your days.
Ensure you still have regular one-on-ones and consider whether the frequency of those meetings needs to change given your new working arrangement. Perhaps you were set up every other week before and now weekly is needed.
4) Be proactive (and maybe even a little self-promotional).
Don’t just wait until the actual one-on-one to let your manager know what you’re up to. Create agendas for those meetings and send them to your manager in advance. Include not only discussion items and FYIs, but accomplishments, too. Tooting your own horn is more acceptable today than ever!
Also be sure to send updates and questions between your one-on-ones, and make sure you engage your leader in successes and challenges. Letting your manager know what roadblocks you are running into is important, not only so they can help and support you, but also because doing so demonstrates your willingness to solve problems.
5) Build new skills.
Think about where you want to go next in your career and ask yourself: What are the one or two areas you need to improve to get there? The shift to online learning in response to the pandemic just might make it easier for you to find courses that fit into your schedule to help you improve these skills.
Once you identify the desired skills and learning opportunities that exist to help you build them, talk to your manager so they fully understand your focus and goals and can better help support you. Plus, engaging them in this journey shows them just how committed you are to growth and development in your career.
As weeks working from home have turned into months with no end in sight, it’s easy to get down and to dwell on the negatives. But with a fresh mindset and a few new tactics, your standing in a virtual work world shouldn’t be one of those sources for concern.
Ann Senne is the Head of the Advice and Solutions Group at RBC Wealth Management.
RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC.
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