Continuing to improve your skills whilst working from home
For some people, working from home is a great way to be more productive – there are arguably fewer distractions and more opportunities to focus on the work itself. Whilst others may find the solitude difficult to cope with and miss the company of co-workers and the buzz of the office.
We previously talked about how you can remain productive whilst working from home. As we start to come to terms with the fact that remote working may become a long-term priority, you may be concerned about how this could impact your career development. It may sound frivolous to be concerned about career development amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, but having something positive to focus upon can have huge mental benefits.
With this in mind, we’re sharing our insights into how you can continue your career development from the comfort of your own home. We’ll look at how you can continue to impress your boss, support your colleagues and upskill your learning whilst the lockdown is in effect.
Moving away from performance reviews – how to impress your boss
For many years, the dreaded annual appraisal has been seen as a relic of a past era. In fact, according to Gallup “only 14% of employees strongly agree their performance reviews inspire them to improve”. But despite this, many employers focus solely on annual appraisals to tie in with pay-related updates and/or promotions.
If you work for an employer who undertakes annual performance reviews rather than facilitating regular feedback, then you may be concerned as to how your boss will be able to monitor your performance if you are not sat closely together. But there are ways you can continue to show your skills.
Firstly, showcase your communication skills – make sure you’re in steady contact with your boss and other team members when you work from home. This may be via email, phone or video link or it could be through a project management tool such as Basecamp. Showing that you’re continuously available (in working hours) shows that you are still able to deliver the same levels of success as when you are working within the office.
A second tip is to make sure that you retain high standards – it may be tempting to cut corners when you’re working independently at home, but you should retain the same professionalism that you’re known for. Your boss may be using HR software to track your performance, or they may be relying upon trust – you need to show that they can rely on you.
If you can continue to show your worth and dedication whilst working from home, your employer will be able to see who is performing efficiently and will take this into account when it comes to performance reviews.
Taking the time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses
If you are affected by enforced downtime (perhaps you’re working in a sector which has been hit hard by the coronavirus) then use this time wisely to consider how you can improve your skills.
This tumultuous period may see new ways of working become the norm, new jobs may emerge, or we could see the creation of new skills gaps as society responds. If you’ve been considering a change of job role or a new career, then now may be the right time to implement these changes.
We know that job hunting can take much longer than you may think – in fact, 1 in 10 people may still be looking for a new role after 12 months so why not use any downtime to strengthen yourself as a candidate? If you can establish what your biggest strengths are, identify areas for improvement and act accordingly you may become significantly more employable to other companies. A good tool to use is a personal SWOT analysis – this will allow you to see how you can improve your skills and what opportunities and threats could emerge.
Of course, using a SWOT isn’t just beneficial for those who are looking to find new roles; understanding what you’re good at (and not so good at) can improve your performance within your current workplace. You can use your own self-reflection to talk to your boss about ways to upskill yourself and you can collaborate with your managers to identify ways to combat the threats that you may have pinpointed.
Proactively identifying learning and development opportunities
Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, then you can start implementing solutions to turn them into strengths. Whilst you are working from home it may be much harder for your line managers to identify training opportunities – particularly when many face-to-face training workshops and conferences have been postponed. However, you can use this opportunity to seek out online variations which could provide you with new skills.
A search through sector-bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD), the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) shows an array of online training workshops which can be completed at a time that suits you. You could also look into free training courses which may upskill yourself in new areas – for example, if you work in marketing, you may wish to complete Google’s free Google Analytics training or you could seek out some SEO training. You may want to talk to your employer about their future business strategy – if you can spot any emerging trends then you can start upskilling yourself ready to meet these new demands
If you’re looking for ‘softer’ skills, then why not take advantage of many of the free tools and resources which have been released following the closure of the schools. For example, many learning providers are providing free online courses/tutorials/video lessons which are teaching vital skills such as British Sign Language, other spoken languages or even basic coding. You may find that these could not only aid you in your existing workplace, but they could differentiate you from other candidates when it comes to job hunting.