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Remote Career Development: Jamie McCormick Of Betterworks On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely

An Interview With David Liu

Something I recommend to my team is setting work hours and communication norms/expectations. Setting a schedule in your work calendar is helpful so other team members know when you’re available and when you’re done for the day. I’ve also read that creating a practice at the time you’re logging off every day helps your brain shut down and transition to home, which I’ve recommended to my team as well. Setting communication expectations is equally important. Having agreed-upon norms for the company or a department, such as knowing when to send an email, schedule a meeting, and/or send a Slack message, can help with burnout. If someone is working off-hours to flex their work-life balance, I ask that they send notes without urgency in the subject line or to schedule sending so the receiver doesn’t feel obligated to respond. Ultimately, if it’s not urgent it can wait.

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 Jamie McCormick.

Jamie McCormick is an Human Resource (HR) professional with over 13 years of progressive experience gained across multiple industries. She holds both SPHR and SHRM-CP certifications. In her role as Director of HR at Betterworks, she is responsible for the global employee lifecycle. In addition to her human resources experience, she holds a Master’s degree in International Studies from the University of San Francisco and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from San Francisco State University. She also serves as a mentor to University of San Francisco and San Jose State University students seeking to pursue careers in the HR field.

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”?

Like most HR professionals, I didn’t go to school for human resources but stumbled into it. I started an HR internship in college to make some extra money while I studied international relations. My dream was to go into international development with the hope to make a difference in the world. After receiving my masters in international studies and working for a few international non-profits, I quickly realized I made more of an impact in people’s lives in HR and decided to continue my career in it. Every day, I get to solve problems and advocate for employees and seeing that impact is what excites me about HR.

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

In 2011, I did an internship with the State Department in Geneva, Switzerland at the US Mission to the United Nations. It was during the Arab Spring and Secretary of State at the time, Hilary Clinton, was visiting to attend a UN Security Council meeting. I was one of the few interns that quarter and we were asked if any of us wanted to support the CBS news team that was travelling with her. I volunteered and got the opportunity to meet her and watch her speech front row at the UN Security Council.

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?

During my master’s program, I worked part-time as an evening receptionist for a law firm in San Francisco. Late, one evening a visiting attorney asked me to order dinner for the group and he said he needed food for roughly 25 people. The only restaurant open at the time was an upscale sushi restaurant and when I asked what they recommended for 25 people they said a few platters would be sufficient. When the food arrived, there were only about five attorneys and one platter had enough food to feed 25 people, and I had ordered four. There was so much leftover food we didn’t know what to do with it!

That situation taught me to be more detail-oriented and to always double check when my gut is telling me something may seem off.

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

“All great changes are proceeded by chaos.” — Deepa Chopra

This rings especially true for employee relations and performance management situations. In my experience, there has to be disruption to bring the issues to a head in order for resolution. Throughout my career, I’ve found that managers have a hard time working someone outside of the organization who isn’t a fit. They want to give them multiple second chances and make excuses for their poor performance. I always tell these managers that not explaining failures to the employee is stopping them from learning a life lesson and will send them into their next role with the same issues. It’s our job to work with that employee and if it doesn’t work out, leaving the organization may catapult them into something that is a perfect fit for them.

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

One piece of advice that I give often to managers is to stop relying on their high performers for everything. It’s a habit for us to rely on the people we know will get the job done but that means these individuals also run the risk of burning out.

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?

I would say some of the main benefits of working remotely are no commute time, a more flexible schedule, better work/life balance, and higher levels of wellness. Working from home allows employees to take care of personal tasks like laundry or taking their car to get serviced during the day which increases productivity and focus because they aren’t pre-occupied with getting their personal to-do list done, but can integrate it with their work life. A flexible schedule also allows employees with children or older adults in their homes to serve as dedicated caretakers while continuing to get the tasks of their job done. Lastly, no long commute allows employees to regain what can be upwards of three hours back into their day.

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

Extended Work Hours

Lack of Cross-functional communication

Longer Response Times

Zoom Fatigue

Technology Fails

Unfortunately, in some cases working remotely can extend work hours. I’ve found that during the pandemic, the blending of work and home meant that meetings started earlier, and emails and Slack messages were coming through later and later into the evening. Additionally, I noticed that there isn’t an opportunity for organic cross-functional communication that would happen regularly at the lunch table or passing through the hallways.

It also takes considerably longer to connect with colleagues and to obtain the answers you may need to get your work done. In the office, you could just stop by someone’s desk in-between meetings. However, if you work remotely, you’ll need to schedule a meeting or send an email/slack message and wait for a response that can delay the completion of a task. Working from home also requires a heavy reliance on technology which isn’t foolproof. Who hasn’t had their internet go down in the middle of a Zoom meeting? Speaking of Zoom, video conferencing fatigue is another downside to working remotely.

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?

Something I recommend to my team is setting work hours and communication norms/expectations. Setting a schedule in your work calendar is helpful so other team members know when you’re available and when you're done for the day. I’ve also read that creating a practice at the time you’re logging off every day helps your brain shut down and transition to home, which I’ve recommended to my team as well. Setting communication expectations is equally important. Having agreed-upon norms for the company or a department, such as knowing when to send an email, schedule a meeting, and/or send a Slack message, can help with burnout. If someone is working off-hours to flex their work-life balance, I ask that they send notes without urgency in the subject line or to schedule sending so the receiver doesn’t feel obligated to respond. Ultimately, if it’s not urgent it can wait.

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?

Absolutely! Most people think of seminars, conferences, and certifications when career development is discussed. While these are great options, most people neglect to think about on-the-job career development. What project can you work on that would expand your skill set at your current job? Who can you connect with at your current company who can teach you something new or a quicker way to do your job? I encourage employees to have career conversations with their managers and vice versa. These opportunities are free and are a great way to increase employee engagement.

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

Same tip as above. Have career conversations with your team members and know what they’re interested in working on. I also recommend hiring someone that hasn’t done everything in a job description that way you ensure that there is something for that person to learn and develop. I also recommend setting aside a fund for career development opportunities. Employee engagement increases and that employee brings new ideas to the table.

I also recommend promoting from within and a succession plan. Create career paths for your departments with clear objectives and competencies so employees know what the next step is and how to get there. A somewhat unpopular opinion of mine is to let an employee go to another company when there isn’t a position at the company that’s the next level for them. It’s better than having an unengaged employee and creates the opportunity for a boomerang employee who will bring new tips and tricks with them from their time away.

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. :-)

Mandating the golden rule and assuming good intentions — we truly need to start giving each other the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong and treat each other as we want to be treated.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can connect with me on LinkedIn to check out my other published works and to see what webinars I’ll be paneling.

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

Thank you so much!

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David Liu

David Liu

David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication