After over a decade in HR and talent development for Fortune 500 companies like Avon and PepsiCo, Sarah Aviram decided to shake things up and travel the world, without sacrificing her career. She has some great advice for young people beginning their careers remotely.
Two years ago, HR leader Sarah Aviram had to make a presentation to her boss about what the future of work would look like. Her research into the increasingly popular remote work trend led her to pack her bags and embark on a journey that would change her life. She spent a year travelling the world, while continuing to work her NYC job remotely. 12 months later, she had lived and worked in 12 different countries and decided to share her wisdom through her book Remotivation: The Remote Worker's Ultimate Guide to Life-Changing Fulfillment. Then came a global pandemic that shuttered offices around the world...
Do you think the coronavirus pandemic will change the way we work forever?
SA: A lot is going to change and a lot has already changed. The pandemic has made organizations that never considered remote work before realize it actually works for them, and every organization is adopting remote work differently. But one thing we need to remember is that working from home during COVID19 is not really a true experiment of what working from home looks like. In the middle of a pandemic, you can’t hop out for lunch or take a break and go to the gym while working remotely. People feel Zoom fatigue and depression to a greater extent and struggle to work remotely when they have kids home from school who need tending to - all those factors wouldn’t necessarily be at play if people work remotely during normal times. So, even companies that think they know what they’re going to do in the near future may change their minds as this experiment continues to unfold.
You experimented with long term remote work fifteen years into your career. But the past year has seen new graduates and students who have never worked before begin their careers and internships entirely online. What advice would you give them?
SA: Communication is key. If you join an organization in person, you can expect your manager to present you with an onboarding plan to help you acclimatize. That shouldn’t change, just because you begin a job remotely. It’s really important that you take the reins and ask for the resources and help you need when you join, whether this takes the form of setting up introduction calls with members from other teams or knowing where to access online learning resources.
What tips do you have for new remote workers when it comes to building relationships in the workplace?
SA: When you’re new to a company and working remotely, there are social interactions that are missing like water cooler conversations or even running into someone in the bathroom and chatting. It’s easy to fall into the habit of being transactional and only contacting people when you need their input on something. You want to do little things like signing into a Zoom call three minutes before it starts, just so you can have a personal conversation. Think of it as entering a conference room early, before a meeting. I’ve also tried setting up co-working hours with colleagues, where we keep our videos on, but do our own work independently. It’s about creating that office vibe that encourages spontaneous interactions.
How would you advise remote workers, especially interns, to approach online training and webinars?
SA: When I worked in HR, I specialized in training and development and if there’s one thing I can say, it is that people who take advantage of these opportunities are always able to build much better networks within organizations than people who don’t.
Aside from what you actually learn, when you attend a workshop, even remotely, you end up interacting with people in your organization that you don’t normally interact with. And that helps you build connections that could really pay off for you later. If you want a project with a different team and already know someone there, or if you interned at a company and are trying to lock down a full time role, then suddenly you have a whole group of people from within vouching and advocating for you.
As an intern, interacting with senior executives is an important way to make an impression and become memorable. How can an intern do that remotely?
SA: Be vocal with your ideas. You were hired for a reason. Bring your fresh thinking and new ideas to the virtual table. Whether it’s a technical solution to a business problem or a virtual team-bonding idea. Don’t be shy to say, “Have we ever considered this approach…?” or “ I’ve tried this ice-breaker game before and it’s been a lot of fun - I recommend it for our team.”
A lot of students have seen their in-person interviews shift online over the past few months, because of the pandemic. But remote work and interviewing is likely to become the new normal. How should young people be preparing for remote work interviews?
SA: You want to be just as professional on a video call as you would be in person. Wear the appropriate business attire, prepare your answers to the top 5-10 questions you think you may be asked (use the STAR formula to tell these stories/answer questions: Situation, Task, Action, Result). Don’t forget to write down the questions you want to ask your interviewers (information that you can’t find on their website). Also, download the appropriate video platform software in advance that you’ll need for your interview. Remember that forward thinking companies who want to attract the best talent, will be open to giving employees the flexibility to work remotely, regardless of where they live.