How to get promoted when you’re working from home

If getting promoted was already a challenge pre-Covid, things are now a bit more complicated. The biggest hurdle is that it’s much harder to build a human connection when you’re not in the office, according to leadership coach Bianca Riemer.

“There’s a lot more you could do in the office to stay on top of minds. For example, picking up something from the printer near [a decision maker] and walking past their desk, small talk by the water cooler, a quick ‘hello’ with a smile in the elevator, walking past the boss’ boss office and telling her about today’s win with a client, etc.” she says.

But challenging does not mean impossible. “Now that’s all gone. So you need to be a little bit more creative.”

The key is identifying the people who are going to play a role in decisions about your career development, then focusing on raising your personal brand remotely. “Make sure those decision-makers know who you are, what you do, and why you should be promoted,” says Riemer.

“Many people don’t get promoted because the decision-makers don’t know them.”

Ready to kick off your internal PR efforts and get on the fast track to scoring a promotion while working from home? Here’s how to do it.

Ask questions

According to Riemer, asking performance-related questions is paramount. Don’t start guessing.

“Find out the date that promotions are discussed, who will be in the room, and what they will talk about. Don’t make any assumptions, ask,” she says.

“Too often my clients tell me they don’t understand why they didn’t get promoted when they thought they had ticked all the boxes. When I get them to ask the right person what’s actually discussed in the room, they realize that the day-to-day metrics they thought were important aren’t even discussed in those meetings and that it’s often factors they weren’t even aware of.”

Be extra thoughtful (but genuine)

There is a fine line between being inauthentic and having an agenda and being extra thoughtful. But if you manage to strike that balance, a kind but appropriate gesture towards your bosses can go a long way.

Riemer recommends keeping up to date with key stakeholders on social platforms like LinkedIn. “See what’s going on in their life, and find a way to help them. For example, if they’re raising money for charity, donate some money and leave a really thoughtful message that will make them want to find out who you are. If they post on LinkedIn, again, comment with a very thoughtful, genuine message or share their post,” she says.

“If their son needs a tutor and you happen to know a tutor, put them in touch. What you want to do here is be top of mind. Since you can’t do it via face-to-face interaction in the office, you’re doing it via online interaction. The most important thing here is to stay professional, of course.”

Celebrate your team’s wins

When working remotely, it’s critical to embrace the art of the hidden brag. Before you cringe, remember that if you don’t give visibility into your contributions they’ll very quickly go unnoticed — especially when you’re working from home.

Riemer suggests sending a simple email to share a team win. “Rather than bragging about yourself, brag about your team instead. It positions you as a true leader — somebody who gives out gold stars rather than collecting them.”

Use social proof

It’s also OK to ask others to help you get acknowledged for your hard work.

“If a client or colleague gives you positive feedback, say thanks and then ask them to send an email about you to at least one of the key decision-makers without copying you in, so that it doesn’t look like you’ve asked them,” says Riemer.

“This is incredibly powerful. These decision-makers likely get tons of messages from other people who want to get promoted, and this makes you stand out because it’s not you who’s sending the feedback and ‘bragging’ but it’s your client”

Just make sure you only use this tactic when you’ve actually really crushed it.

Avoid gossiping

Gossiping was never a good thing in the office, and it’s still not a good thing when working from home. “It never reflects well on you and could be held against you, especially if there is a paper trail if you’re using the company’s systems,” says Riemer.

Just hold your tongue and stay professional on company messaging apps.

Stay professional

You also want to maintain a professional demeanor during Zoom meetings. “Although the dress code may be relaxed, you are still expected to look and behave professionally. Be aware that the screen amplifies everything you do, every little facial expression, and people will notice it,” says Riemer.

Get out of employee mindset

This tip holds true whether you’re trying to move up the career ladder in an office or while working from home — and it’s often underutilized: Stop thinking of yourself as an employee and start acting like a business partner.

“Don’t wait to be given assignments, take the initiative. Read industry publications and form your own opinions about what could grow your business. Collect data and opinions, then create courage and present your idea,” says Riemer.

No need to aim for perfection here. “Perfection kills progress. Ask for your boss’s feedback. Volunteer to take charge of progressing the initiative. Ask for connections. Network. This takes courage, but it’s the one thing that will accelerate your career so much faster because nobody else is prepared to do it.”