If you’ve been working remotely since stay-at-home orders began, you’re probably a pro at some of the basics by now. But if your company is planning to keep its work-from-home setup for the foreseeable future or move to a hybrid model where you and your boss might not get much face time, you might be wondering how you’ll navigate big picture changes, like getting promoted or asking for a raise. How can you make the case for your professional advancement when you’re out of sight, out of mind?
Every office culture is different, but some of the basics apply across the board. For instance, it’s unlikely your boss will just offer you a promotion or a raise out of the blue. The onus is on you to ask for it. How?
First, assess yourself. Why do you deserve a promotion? If the answer is that you’ve worked in the role for a while, that’s not good enough. Consider what the value-add would be to the company if you were to get promoted. Are you doing higher-level work already, so a formal recognition would be an appropriate course of action that will not only retain you but also free up your time to do more of that valuable work once you don’t have to focus on lower-level work? Great! You’re ready for a promotion. But if you haven’t shown capability for a promotion yet, you’ll need to get on that ASAP. Take initiative by volunteering for more projects, offering creative feedback and notes, and finding ways to prove your value. Consider if there’s anything you can do that would streamline an inefficient work process or a new avenue you can identify to mine story ideas or an opportunity to expand the company’s network, and go for it.
But it’s usually not enough to do the work and sit back hoping someone will take notice. That’s true in an office, and all the more so in a remote environment. You have to make sure your boss knows you’re doing all this awesome work. Check in regularly, whether that’s presenting updates at your weekly department meetings or sending recap emails at the end of the day, week, or month, as appropriate. Working remotely means more managing up -- make sure you are keeping your boss informed of your progress on projects so that she can look good in front of her boss by showcasing how great her team is.
Additionally, log all your achievements so you can present them to your boss when you ask for the promotion. If you do email check-ins with your boss, this is easy -- just compile them and clean them up. Otherwise, keep a running document on your computer where you note what you’re working on and what you’ve achieved. When it’s time to ask for the promotion, you can email this document to your boss for review so they have a visual representation of how great you are -- plus, if they need to make the case to HR or their boss, they’ll have the ammo in hand.
When it comes to making the actual ask, you’ll have to be strategic. Gone are the days where you can gauge your boss’s mood, knock on her door, and ask for a sit-down. Well, sort of. If you have a regular one-on-one, email your boss in advance and ask if you can put some time on the agenda to discuss your performance. This will help your boss prepare for the meeting -- you don’t want her out walking the dog on a call when you’re trying to have a big conversation! Ideally, you’ll pick a check-in that is otherwise unclogged -- it’s not a good idea to schedule this conversation when you have a big deadline or lengthy agenda.
If you don’t have a regular one-on-one, that’s okay! You’ll similarly want to email your boss and ask if you can have a conversation about your performance. Be polite, and ask for a time that’s convenient for her (or if you’re an assistant, take a peek at her schedule and find a time to suggest).
Once you have the call set, treat it like a job interview. Imagine if you were in the office asking for a promotion -- you’d make an extra effort to look nice that day! This is even more important when you’re at home. Get dressed (head-to-toe, even if it’s just a phone call) and close yourself off from distracting roommates, kids, or pets. That will help you appreciate the moment, feel confident, and focus on asking for what you want.
Keep in mind that just because you ask for a promotion doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. But putting off asking for it until “the right time” or “you’re back in the office” or “the economy bounces back” is a surefire way to guarantee you won’t. So what are you waiting for?
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Have you ever sent an email to a work contact asking to reconnect, pitching a project idea, or requesting a referral, only to never hear back? You're not alone. Pretty much everyone has been work-ghosted at one point or another. But what do you do in this situation? Especially the ghost is someone you aren’t close with, it’s likely that you had an important or sensitive reason for reaching out, and getting ignored can trigger a lot of insecurities around your relationship. Your gut instinct might be to think they hate you and will never speak to you again.
The first thing you need to do in this situation is to avoid letting your imagination come up with worst case scenarios. The most likely explanation for ghosting is that the person didn’t see your email. Or saw it, meant to respond later, and forgot because it was marked as “read” in their inbox. This becomes more and more true as you reach out to contacts higher up the food chain. The number of emails department heads are getting each day is mind-numbing, so it’s no surprise that they miss emails frequently. And this gets even worse around the holidays or other busy times of year! You never know what’s going on, but be aware that if there’s a holiday or big industry conference coming up, it might not be the best time to email. Most importantly, don’t automatically assume they are ignoring you and write them off as a bad person. 99% of the time, the ghosting was unintentional.
If you haven’t heard back in a couple of weeks, follow up! Simply reply to the same chain and say that you’re checking in to see if they received the previous email and ask your question again. Most likely you’ll get an “I’m so sorry, I didn't see this email!” response pretty quickly. And you can continue the relationship from there. If you still don’t get an answer, this could be a red flag. If you’re trying to pitch a project or have a professional inquiry other than asking for a favor, you could try reaching out to a colleague of the person and explain the situation. They’ll probably be able to offer a reason that the other person couldn’t respond or get an answer for you. But it’s possible that the original contact doesn’t want to get back in touch. And if that’s the case, move on. There are plenty of other people to maintain relationships with.
One thing to note – none of this applies when it comes to job applications. It’s quite common not to hear back after you’ve applied for a role. Even when you’ve gone pretty far down the interview path. Is this right or fair? No. But it’s a reality we all have to deal with. You can always follow up with the recruiter or hiring manager every couple of weeks, but if you don’t hear anything, don’t take it personally. They were probably considering many other qualified candidates who all got ghosted as well.
The bottom line is: you have to give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t get too offended when you don’t hear back after sending an email. Instead, get comfortable with following up – a quick check in email is the best way to get an answer on something while maintaining the relationship.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
The assumption of the corporate ladder is that once you’ve figured out how to do a certain role yourself, you’ll be able to manage others when you get promoted. But managing people is a very unique skill set, and many people find themselves ill-equipped to manage a team when they first get that opportunity. Some people figure it out -- but a lot don’t -- hence the fairly common complaint about incompetent bosses and supervisors.
There are many different management styles, each with their pros and cons. And while it’s unlikely that you’ll be a super effective manager just from reading this newsletter, here are five things to keep in mind as you develop your managerial skills:
1. You have to do your job. Unless your job is 100% team oversight, don’t think you can let your primary responsibilities lapse because you now have a team eager to prove themselves. Delegating tasks is all well and good, but you still need to do your own job. It can be really tempting to pass along the tasks that bore you to someone below you who can’t seem to say no, but don’t take advantage of your power. You can encourage your direct reports to grow by allowing them to take on more senior responsibilities, but if something is above their pay grade -- i.e. at your pay grade -- don’t force them to do it unless you’re prepared to pay them for it! And make sure you’re still carrying your weight. Just because your development coordinator is great at giving notes on sizzle reels doesn't mean they should manage the whole slate -- you should still handle a few projects exclusively.
2. You don’t have to do your direct reports' jobs. We’ve all had micromanaging bosses. The kind of person who proofreads every email you send, who complains if your organization system differs slightly from theirs, who, when you ask, “How do you want me to structure this presentation?” responds with “Run with it! Let’s see what you come up with!” and then hands you a laundry list of very specific, taste-oriented notes. Don’t be that person! Give your employees clear instructions, answer their questions, and if the work is satisfactory but not exactly how you’d do it, let it go. If you let your team do their jobs, you’ll have more time to do yours -- and more time to lean into innovation and growth for yourself and your company.
3. Give constructive feedback. A major part of your job is helping your team get better at what they do and encouraging their own professional development, so you’ll need to give them feedback when they make mistakes or could use improvement. But not all feedback is created equal! One of the best ways to give constructive feedback is a compliment sandwich (a genuine one, or it backfires). Start by acknowledging something good about their work, whether it’s about the work itself (“I think this is a great first start to the sizzle. I like the pacing and tone!”) or about their approach (“I really appreciate you spending so much effort on this cut.”). Then, offer feedback. You may think “I statements” belong here so as to be non-confrontational, but they can actually come off as micromanage-y and evoke the response of, “So why didn’t you just do it yourself then?!” Instead, be direct. Something like, “It’s really important that this sizzle showcases all eight of the characters equally, and it looks like Jane Doe is getting less screen time, while John Doe is dominating the cut.” Or “We need to make sure we hit our deadline for the network. I’ll need to see a rough cut by the end of the day in order to have time to give my notes.” Then, end on something positive -- you can reiterate the previous compliment, add a new one, or offer an encouraging piece of advice. And always say thank you! For example, “As you think about cutting down John’s screen time, make sure you keep the moment that's 30 seconds in -- it’s gold, and I can tell you have a good eye for buttons. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to seeing the next round. Thank you!” or “It’s awesome that you want to get it done perfectly the first time, but no first cut is perfect. I’m impressed with what you’ve come up with, even if it's rough around the edges! Thank you!"
4. Manage the difficult situations. This is where the truly good managers separate themselves from the rest of the pack. As a manager, the most important part of your job is to step in when there’s a difficult situation that your employees can’t handle on their own. This could be a toxic person on the team who needs to experience consequences for their behavior or managing a client who is taking advantage of your employee. If your team is starting to complain about clients, workload, or expectations, it’s up to you to figure out what’s bothering them. Are you advocating for them to get raises now that your business has grown, and their jobs along with it? Are you standing up for them when someone in another department asks them for a “quick favor” that’s beyond their scope of work? Typically, your employees won’t speak up until things get really bad, and by that time, you’ll be seen as part of the problem. On the other hand, if you can anticipate your team’s needs and show them you have their backs, they’ll be happier -- and a happy employee is a productive employee!
5. Remember that your employees are human. You may find it frustrating that Sally needs a day off for food poisoning the same month she's scheduled for a week-long vacation. It might irk you that Mitch's kids keep interrupting him with virtual school questions. But as long as your team isn’t violating your company’s policies in a major way and they get their work done, let them live their lives. A lot of managers give themselves leeway once they reach a position of power and then get angry when their employees have needs outside of work. Some managers are the opposite -- they’re workaholics who expect everyone to put career first. But consider that most people work to live, and if they don’t have a good work/life balance, they’ll find a new job. If you have a good team, retain them by respecting them. And to that end -- company fun should happen on company time. If you want to do team building exercises or holiday parties, good on you! But don’t take away people’s weekends or weeknights with mandatory “fun.”
Overall, an effective manager knows how to read people and empathize with them. When in doubt, turn to the work version of the golden rule: Manage others as you would have them manage you.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
At Hollywood Resumes, we obviously value careers -- we know there's a lot of joy and fulfillment in working in a role and industry you love, which is why we love helping our clients prepare the materials they need to secure their dream jobs.
But in times like these, you may need to remind yourself that your career isn't everything.
It's fair to say that most people are facing some work-related challenges right now. To all the essential workers: THANK YOU. We know most of you don't get paid a typical "essential" salary, and we see you, appreciate you, and hope that this cultural shift will lead to greater recognition for the work you're doing. And if your work is considered "non-essential" -- let's dwell on that for a minute. It doesn't mean your work is not important or of no consequence, but the categorization is a good to remember that we work to live, not the other way around. Sometimes, it's okay to put your career on the back burner.
If you find yourself out of a job, you're understandably concerned. After you figure out the fundamentals of how to support yourself and your family, you may start to worry about your long-term career. If fear that your career has been completely derailed starts to creep in, take a deep breath. There's no benefit from worrying about things you can't change. When you're back on the job hunt, hiring managers will understand what happened -- the memory of coronavirus isn't going to fade any time soon. If you need to take a part-time job to pay the bills, don't worry about how it will look on your resume down the road or if it's good for your career -- take the job and pay your bills. If you have other ways to stay solvent, take this time to focus on other areas of life, like connecting with the people you love (from afar), engaging in your hobbies, giving back to your community, and practicing self-care. If having a career plan will help you feel calmer, you can start to research companies and roles that interest you and update your resume, but it's also totally okay if you're not feeling up to it -- the world has, in a sense, pressed pause on "career" right now, so take advantage of the time to focus on other things.
Similarly, if you're working remotely but have very little to do, or are still getting paid but can't actually "work" remotely, don't sweat it. You don't need to invent projects for yourself or find extreme ways to stay on top of your boss's radar. Everyone understands that certain jobs are slower now, and no one is going to blame you for the downturn. It's okay to do household chores, learn a new skill, binge-watch a show, and have marathon Zoom calls with your pals from college. And certainly, if you are sick or caring for someone who's sick, take the time you need to get better or care for them. You don't want to waste precious moments doing busy work. Save your energy for the things that matter most in life: your health and happiness and that of the people you love.
If your work is piling on and you're feeling up to peak performance, by all means go full steam ahead! But remember that just because you're working from home doesn't mean you're suddenly on call 24/7. You should make an effort to keep to your normal hours. And if you're not feeling up to peak performance, that's understandable, too. Take a close look at the work you're doing: Is there anything that's actually not that important? Would you really be doing every single project you're working on right now if you were back in the office? Make sure you're putting your health (physical and mental) first. Take sick day if you need one. If you're caring for a sick relative or have young children at home and you need to take on more errands/housework than usual, tell your boss. Even if if you're just plain overwhelmed by your proximity to the grimness of illness and death, give yourself a break. If you really think your boss would fire for you not being on your A+ game during a pandemic, it's probably time to question whether you still want to work there. Because now more than ever, career isn't everything.
Your career will still be viable when this pandemic ends. Now's the time to lean in to the more essential aspects of life. Put yourself first, and do what it takes to stay healthy and happy!