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Remote Career Development: Debra Boggs Of D&S Professional Coaching On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely

An Interview With David Liu

Project management is more complex in a remote environment because you can’t just pop into someone’s office to get a quick update.

Career development is the ongoing process of choosing, improving, developing, and advancing your career. This involves learning, making decisions, collaboration with others and knowing yourself well enough to be able to continually assess your strengths and weaknesses. This can be challenging enough when you work in an office, but what if you work remotely? How does remote work affect your career development? How do you nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues? How can you help your employees do this? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely”. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Debra Boggs.

As the Co-Founder of D&S Professional Coaching, Debra works with interesting, talented, and successful executives from all over the globe to equip them with the tools they need to advance in the modern job market. Debra has been recognized as a resume, LinkedIn, and job search expert by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and many other career-related sites in addition to serving as an international speaker and guest for top-rated podcasts. She holds a Master of Science in Management, a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, and an Associate of Science in Labor Studies. She is also a Certified Digital Branding Strategist through Career Thought Leaders.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I’ve always had a deep interest in all things related to careers, the workforce, and hiring. But it wasn’t until I led Career Services for a university that I discovered my passion for resume writing and preparing job seekers for the job market. After that, I began resume writing as a freelancer before my client list, referrals, and skills grew to a point where I took the leap and turned it into a full-time business in 2016.

Since then, my team has grown and we now focus our helping executive-level candidates compete for top positions in their industries by writing resumes and LinkedIn profiles, making introductions to recruiters, and coaching on things like interview skills and job search strategies.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

It would be impossible to pick one interesting story because the nature of my work is to interview leaders from all over the world about their careers. This means my day is filled with fascinating stories about some of the world’s biggest companies, emerging technologies, industry trends, and people’s lives. One of the best things about my work is combing through everyone’s backgrounds to find what makes them interesting and unique and then helping them tell that story in a way that resonates with employers.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’d prefer not to answer this question, but let me know if you need me to.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think about this quote by Maya Angelou often, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive”

I bring this mission to my own work and try to instill this mindset into my clients’ work as well. In our careers, we can do the bare minimum or stay in a job that we don’t love because it pays the bills, but that’s just surviving. We thrive when we reach for bigger goals, live boldly, and make our own way in the world.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?

To help employees thrive, business leaders need to make sure individuals on their team are doing work that engages them. This can mean giving stretch projects, making room for professional development and growth, or providing the space for creativity.

To avoid burnout, leaders need to do two things regularly. First, evaluate the workload and prioritize initiatives based on their team’s capacity. So often, new responsibilities are added to someone’s plate without taking stock of what’s already there, and this pile-on can lead to decreased morale and higher rates of burnout.

Second, make sure all your team members are taking time off to rest and recharge. Even companies that give unlimited paid time off see decreased rates in employees actually taking the time because of their workload, company culture, etc.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunities but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?

Remote working benefits both the company and the employees.

For the company, they have an increased ability to recruit top talent because most professionals currently want to work remotely. This is especially helpful if the company is located in a smaller market with a smaller talent pool. This can also help diversify your team if you can pull staff from other regions or countries. It also decreases operational costs in physical office space and facilities. This also gives companies more flexibility and agility to expand (or contract) when needed without having to move locations or paying for wasted space.

For employees, working remotely has a ton of attractive benefits including increased work-life flexibility, which is especially helpful to working parents and caregivers. It also opens employees in smaller markets up to an entire country or world of employment options allowing them to pursue their chosen careers without having to relocate. Many employees also prefer to skip the commute and all the costs (car maintenance and mileage, gas, parking, bus/public transit fares, etc.).

Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?

  1. It can be challenging for new employees to join a team and establish a sense of community with the rest of the staff, especially if part of the team is onsite and others are remote. It can take longer to form relationships and establish trust in an all-remote or hybrid environment.
  2. Project management is more complex in a remote environment because you can’t just pop into someone’s office to get a quick update.
  3. Many employees find it harder to establish work-life balance or set clear boundaries when working from home because their office is in the middle of their living space. This can be especially hard for employees who live alone.
  4. The opposite can be true for others. Without the pressure of the commute and “clock-in” time, some people have trouble adjusting to the looser routine of remote work without a strict schedule.
  5. Zoom fatigue is real, and with the rise of remote working, people are spending more and more time in video calls and meetings. A recent study by Stanford published in the journal, Technology, Mind and Behavior concluded that video conferencing is much more cognitively taxing on participants than in-person meetings.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?

  1. It can be hard for new employees to join a team and establish a sense of community with the rest of the staff, especially if some of the team is onsite and others are remote. It can take longer to form relationships and establish trust in an all-remote or hybrid environment.
  2. It’s important to approach new employee onboarding with intention to make sure new staff are properly supported and know who to go to. It can also be helpful to connect with them with a peer to serve as their go-to with questions as they ramp up so that they establish a connection with another team member and not just their boss. Having a place where employees can connect and chat, like Slack, and having channels or groups around common interests is also a great way to foster human connections across remote teams.

I had a client who moved to an all-remote team a few years ago and she was concerned she’d be lonely. But, because of their active chats and interest groups, she said she was able to get closer to her peers faster than even in some live workplaces.

  1. Project management is more complex in a remote environment because you can’t just pop in to someone’s office to get a quick update.
  2. It’s important to implement project management systems and increase structure in your processes to keep everyone in the loop and on top of joint efforts.
  3. Many employees find it harder to establish work-life balance or set clear boundaries when working from home because their office is in the middle of their living space. This can be especially hard for employees who live alone.
  4. It’s important to set regular working hours for your staff so they don’t feel like they need to be available at all hours of the day and night. Also avoid sending e-mails after hours as a culture so they don’t feel they need to log back in to check on things after the workday ends.

For employees, it can be helpful to also set regular working hours so that you don’t start too early or work too late on most days. Setting a strict schedule and a “log-off” time helps. After you log out, put your laptop away or power-down your desktop so that it’s harder to pop back on to check e-mail. Also, remove work e-mail from your phone so you aren’t tempted to take care of things after hours.

I have a client who leads teams in the US and in China and often works early in the morning to meet with US teams and then continues to work throughout the entire day, only to meet with teams in China for a couple of hours each night. Because of this overworking, even from home, he’s looking for a new role where his time will be more respected.

  1. The opposite can be true for some employees as well. Without the pressure of the commute and “clock-in” time, some people have trouble adjusting to the looser routine of remote work without a strict schedule.
  2. The same things for people who over-work can be done for people struggling to stay on track. Setting regular work hours and expectations can help give these employees the structure they need to plan their day.
  3. Zoom fatigue is real and with the rise of remote working, people are spending more and more time in video calls and meetings. According to a recent study published by Stanford in the journal, Technology, Mind and Behavior in 2021, they concluded that video conferencing is much more cognitively taxing on participants than in-person meetings.
  4. The article cited that just because you can meet by video doesn’t mean you always should. This means that not every call has to be a video call. Sometimes it can just be a phone call, especially if it’s a regular one-on-one call between teammates where there is no need to have several people together or to establish a human connection with a new client or prospect.

Let’s talk about Career Development. Can you share a few ideas about how you can nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues?

It’s important to make sure you stay visible and advocate for yourself. This can be by sending regular updates to your boss about your progress for the week/month. Also, make sure to speak up in group meetings, as it’s harder to get one-on-one time if you can’t pop into your boss’s office.

Many larger companies offer mentorship programs, even for remote staff or you increase your visibility across the organization by joining employee resource groups or committees in areas of interest.

The most important thing to remember is that professional development is not solely your employer’s responsibility. Take ownership of your own development by seeking out online training programs, certifications, and conferences, as many of these options are low-cost and fully remote.

Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?

An essential first step to helping teams or employees with career development is understanding what they need and want. Find out what their career goals are, where their interests are, and what growth opportunities or knowledge gaps exist.

From there, create a development plan together to get buy-in and make space in their workload to complete the additional training, courses, webinars, conferences, etc. A comprehensive development program will not be successful if the employee doesn’t have time to complete it or it adds stress to their work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could inspire a movement, it would be to end the stigma of employment gaps. This would allow people to take extended time off to stay home with their kids, care for a sick family member, focus on a passion project, travel, or anything else they want to do in their lives without fear. Currently, it’s very hard for people to return to the workforce at the level and pay they left, which is especially detrimental to women’s careers and lifetime earning power.

This means that many people either don’t take the time off that they need to or are forced to face the consequences for years after returning to the workforce.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/debraboggs/

Website: www.dsprocoaching.com

Twitter: @DebraBoggs_DS

Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.

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