Remote Career Development: Melanie Musson On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely
An Interview With David Liu
Set rewards to help improve your focus. You might want to choose a method where you do your least favorite task first and then treat yourself to a cup of coffee. Or maybe after you work solidly for two hours, you let yourself take a fifteen-minute respite and do something fun. You have to be strict with yourself, but if you are, the rewards can be very motivating.
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 Melanie Musson.
Melanie Musson works remotely as an insurance consultant with Quote.com. She loves helping people understand their insurance needs and how adequate coverage can protect their financial stability both now and in the future. She and her family love to spend time in the great outdoors, taking advantage of all that the Rocky Mountains surrounding their home have to offer.
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 loved the outdoors. I grew up in Philadelphia, and if you haven’t lived there, you might not realize what an outstanding park system they have. We had walking trails through the woods and along a creek just a mile from my house.
My parents took my siblings and me to the park every day while we were growing up. Then, when we went on vacation, we’d spend time hiking and studying nature. We worked through junior ranger and junior naturalist programs.
Being outside has always been my favorite place to be, and then I ended up in the mountains of Montana which is an absolute paradise to anyone who loves the outdoors. I get to ski, hike, camp, hunt, and fish, all within a few miles of home. I love that I get to live in a region so rich with natural resources.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I found out that my boss, who lives across the country from me, and who I have never met, has a mutual friend with me. I met this friend in college, and my boss’s husband grew up with her. Finding connections is a big deal to me and helps make the big crazy world feel smaller and more connected.
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 thought I could work remotely with a laptop computer that was seven years old. As it turned out, I couldn’t even complete training because the computer was so outdated and slow that I couldn’t do anything I was asked. It was embarrassing! But, I got a new computer, and I learned how important it is to have adequate equipment when you’re working remotely.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
Obviously, I know that I can learn from my mistakes, and I strive to, but my goal is to avoid making mistakes in the first place. The best way to avoid making mistakes myself is to learn from others who’ve been in my shoes and have learned from their mistakes.
If I can do the learning and skip the mistaking, I want to do it.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
Help your employees understand the importance of time away from work. It’s harder to unwind and have dedicated family or self-care time when you live where you work. Make sure you do your part in supporting time away from work by not expecting your employees to respond to you.
Another way you can help your employees avoid burnout is to build a relationship with them. If they know you and feel comfortable talking to you, they’ll be able to express their struggles, and you can help them figure out ways to feel fulfilled in their job. Perhaps they need to partner with a different team, or they may need to switch up their projects, or maybe they just need some reassurance that they’re on the right track.
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?
When you work remotely, you save yourself the time it takes to commute to work. You also can save money on vehicle maintenance and fuel. Working remotely also gives you the opportunity to travel because you’re not tied to a physical office.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
#1 — Complacence. When you work from home, it can be easy to fall into a routine and become complacent in your attitude toward your job. You do what has to be done, and that’s it. But you’re never going to move ahead with that kind of attitude.
#2 — Lack of guidance. Without physical connections with others within your company, you miss out on advice from others who have been where you are.
#3 — Uncertainty. You may not know if you’re meeting expectations when you work remotely. You might not even know when you’re exceeding expectations. This can lead to a lack of confidence.
#4 — Disconnecting. Some people find it challenging to disconnect from home life and work, and then to disconnect from work life to be home.
#5 — Lack of focus. Some people struggle with focusing when they’re at home, and no one’s looking over their shoulder. Maybe they think they can do their work later, or perhaps they keep getting up to check the refrigerator. So many things can draw your focus away from your tasks when you work 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?
#1 — Be proactive rather than complacent. The first thing you need to do to advance your career when you work remotely is to amp up the quality of your work. Start doing the very best job you can. Next, look for classes to take, books to read, current events to follow, and any other way to keep yourself growing. Life has a way of opening up for individuals with a broad knowledge base.
#2 — Find guidance through a mentor. Find a mentor who can help you decide what steps to take to advance your career. A good mentor will help you identify your weaknesses to improve them and highlight your strengths to market them. You have to be intentional about finding one because it’s not likely to happen without you seeking mentorship.
#3 — Replace uncertainty with confidence. Start speaking up for yourself. Talk to your boss about advancement opportunities. Request feedback so you know where you need to improve. Advocate for yourself and always keep your eyes open for opportunities.
It’s a mindset shift that will make you a better employee and help you not to get lost.
#4 — Set a schedule to shift focus. Since you don’t have a commute to shift your focus from home to work and back, you have to adhere to a schedule to help you shift. You might even want to set a shifting activity into your routine. For example, you might need to take a walk outside to help the transition. You could also do a workout or even read a book.
#5 — Set rewards to help improve your focus. You might want to choose a method where you do your least favorite task first and then treat yourself to a cup of coffee. Or maybe after you work solidly for two hours, you let yourself take a fifteen-minute respite and do something fun. You have to be strict with yourself, but if you are, the rewards can be very motivating.
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?
Request that your employer schedule you for online seminars to challenge your skills and mindset. Online seminars allow you to learn from leaders in your field, and they also give you a place to meet others and network.
You can join social media groups with others in your same field to stay abreast of new technology and methods.
Read self-development books that will help you become a more confident and wiser version of yourself.
The key factor is that you push yourself out of your comfort zone. If you don’t take initiative and push yourself forward, you shouldn’t be surprised when your career doesn’t move forward, either.
Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?
Managers should always be on the lookout for online courses that would be a good fit for their employees. Investing in training is worth every penny if the training is a good fit for the job and the employee.
Managers should look for areas of excellence in their employees. For example, if one employee always finds a faster way of doing things, you can assume efficiency is one of the strong points. Then, if you’re a good employer, you’ll find ways for that employee to use their efficiency to advance their career and build your company.
Occasionally giving employees challenging tasks that force them to use new or different skills from the usual is another way to push career development.
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. :-)
I would love to harness the energy of the sun in a more effective manner than is possible currently. Solar panels and battery storage are incredible, but they’re only able to harness a fraction of the sun’s energy. If we could develop something more efficient, solar energy-powered homes would become attainable to everyone.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Check out my work at Quote.com.
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.