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Remote Career Development: Sara Hutchison Of Get Your Best Résumé On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely

An Interview With David Liu

While not impossible, it takes practice. Your company culture should dictate if you are expected to be “Available” on other time zones if your company has workers globally. If you need an answer to a problem, you may have to wait till the next day. Again, not a huge issue but it’s something to keep in mind.

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 Sara Hutchison.

Sara Hutchison is the CEO of Get Your Best Resume where she specializes in professional resume writing and career branding. She holds a Master’s in Career Counseling, is Project+ Certified, and has helped over 1200 clients to date. She has experience in every type of industry including those transitioning into IT and moms returning to work.

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”?

Do you know that person in your life who you would ask to look over your resume for you because “…they are good at this stuff”? That’s me. I’m that person in my circles. I have always loved to write resumes or help with applications in general, whether it was for scholarships or grants.

After college, I was recruited to work for the university in a full-time role where I would manage the program I helped build as a student. I oversaw a student staff of 10 per semester which meant a large part of my day was mentoring those students about to make that transition from college to career. This became the part of the job I loved the most. I chose to go to graduate school to get my Master’s in Career Counseling. When my family relocated out of state, I took the leap of entrepreneurial faith to see if this “side gig” of writing resumes could be full-time work. And it took off!

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

The most interesting part of my career I think has been the diversity. The roots of my career are in environmental science and sustainability. I spent the first years of my career learning a little bit about every type of industry there was both through resume writing and corporate social responsibility. I think this unique experience blended me into a great career coach because I have had a touch into so many careers. I understand how they work together or what makes people great in certain roles.

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?

Looking back on it now, I can laugh. But at the time, all I could do was cry. I, like so many other Coaches and Consultants, charged far too little when I first started. Or I did work for free in exchange for “a reference” or “exposure”. I cringe thinking about crying late at night after my kid went to sleep so I could work on a resume for $30 and the client was asking for endless changes.

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

My favorite quote is from Charlie Chaplin … “[Laughter] heightens our sense of survival and preserves our sanity.” I truly believe that a strong sense of humor (although my husband may disagree to the extent of how funny I am) is a key to success.

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

In my experience, the best leaders are those that recognize that we are all humans. Some of us with families and little ones at home. Some of us are grieving a loss or feeling unspoken stress. When a boss makes you feel like your worth and value are not diminished because you had to care for a personal matter, that speaks volumes to employees.

When leaders design processes to have the human element and rather than infinite resources of energy and motivation from employees, they will not be disappointed. Because we are human, and no one can fire on all cylinders indefinitely.

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?

The obvious ones are the lack of commute for people and the associated costs with physically be in the office. Whether it is the cost of time in the car or cost of dry-cleaning and gas. There is also the benefit of being available to your little kids if the teacher calls and say, “…Hey, your kid has to quarantine for 10 days…” (speaking from experience here!)

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

Working in remote settings myself and with clients, I believe the 5 main challenge for remote are:

  1. Socialization
  2. Motivation
  3. Unable to separate work and home
  4. Virtual Meeting fatigue
  5. Coordinating schedules in multiple time zones

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. Socialization — When we worked in the office, we couldn’t avoid chatting (even when we wanted to). We had obligatory birthdays in the break room or chatty vendors at the front desk…. The chatter was endless for some of us. When we transitioned to work from home, that becomes greatly reduced. For some, this is a blessing. Not everyone is an extrovert that feeds off great chatter. For some, that chatter drains their energy faster. So, socialization is a mixed bag. For some, it has been great to reduce but for others, they feel disconnected and unnoticed by co-workers.

For those that do want to socialize, schedule virtual coffees. Set aside 15 minutes to drink tea and have a Zoom call with a coworker. Some companies may even set up meetings at random so you can meet different people in your company each week. Creating those relationships and understanding the roles everyone plays in an organization is vital.

2. Motivation — for some, the motivation doesn’t come as naturally when their boss or coworkers are not beside them. This is like the idea of freelancers working from a coffee shop because working around others, even if not the same work, can be stimulating. How do you find motivation? Get inventive. Can you create a treadmill desk and work while getting your steps in? Can you jam out to some karaoke favorites? Can you set 30-minute Best Mode intervals and walk away from your desk, regardless of where you are, in 30 minutes?

3. Unable to separate work and home — This is a big one. Show of hands, how many others are guilty of lying in bed on the computer with one tab open to Facebook and another replying to work Slack messages at 10 pm? Me!!! Because there are no walls, you literally cannot leave work at work. This doesn’t hurt those needing to work odd hours, but others need more structure. If you are a leader that wants your workers to not work at night, turn off “active’ status on Slack and schedule your emails to send in the morning. Model the behavior you want them to follow.

4. Virtual Meeting fatigue — Yes, it’s real. Being in front of a screen all day is not odd for some. Before the pandemic plenty of people worked at the computer all day. But now, every meeting is on a computer, all the trainings, all the documentation — — — it’s all on the computer. This doesn’t jive for some personalities. And it’s physically tiring. Be sure to have the blue lens on your eyeglasses and make yourself take physical breaks away from your machine.

5. Coordinating schedules in multiple time zones — while not impossible, it takes practice. Your company culture should dictate if you are expected to be “Available” on other time zones if your company has workers globally. If you need an answer to a problem, you may have to wait till the next day. Again, not a huge issue but it’s something to keep in mind.

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?

Complacency can be a career-killer. Get yourself out of your comfort zone to stay on top of your career. Join a local meetup, whether in-person or virtually. Force yourself away from your computer to interact with others if you must.

Take a (free) online class. Check with your local library to determine if your membership includes subscriptions to LinkedIn Learning or other platforms with online courses and refreshers in new technology.

Is it time for a certification? A credential? Certifications that may be in your wheelhouse to up your professional development and possibly your salary.

Look at your resume! Penning your accomplishments on paper may help you see technical areas that are lacking or help you see which projects of the past have ignited your passions and you genuinely enjoy talking about them the most.

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

Encouraging them to do research on an idea on the clock and offering to reimburse for professional development are huge plusses for some. Detail what your company offers in terms of conferences and travel when making compensation package offers as well.

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 waive a magic wand and positively impact my industry, it would be to bring more humanity back to the job-hunting process. Treat job candidates as people, not ID numbers. If you’re a recruiter, send feedback after an interview that did not result in an offer. If you are a company promoting from within but you’re posting the job “because it’s a formality” — just don’t. Preparing a quality job application is tedious work. If you already know who you are hiring — just hire them. Don’t waste other’s time when they are already in a vulnerable position. Be an advocate in your workplace for fairer hiring practices.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/sarahutch or my website getyourbestresume.com

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

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David Liu

David Liu

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