So you want to work remotely…
What skills do you need to be great at that first remote job? What languages do you need to learn? What certifications may be helpful?
We hate to break this to you but those are the wrong questions to ask when trying to figure out if you’ll be able to succeed in a remote position.
Rather, we’re here to tell you that you probably don’t need to know as many advanced skills as you think you do to succeed in working remotely.
Don’t tune out on us on this one, but just like any old office job, soft skills are what set good team members apart from great ones.
Take two individuals of similar technical knowledge. Give one 3 of the skills below and the other none of them. Which do you think will succeed? (btw, that’s a rhetorical question – if you don’t know the answer, then you should probably nav back).
And you thought you could get by with just hiding behind your computer and pumping out lines of code all day.
Not gonna happen.
Here are the 3 skills you need to succeed in remote work. Surprise! NONE of them are technical.
Write Well and Write Often
The amount of written communication you’ll encounter as a remote team member is extraordinary. And unfortunately, an extraordinary amount of it will be extraordinarily horrendous. Seriously.
How useful is it to read only one line of text on an issue a coworker is working to solve or open up a repo and find that there are no instructions on how to get the application up and working? Not very useful. And guess what your employer is paying you to do? Be useful!
Writing in a structured, logical, and well-thought-out way is one way to separate you from other remote team members.
If you want to set yourself apart, learn how to do the following:
- Write great documentation
- Write great commit messages
- Write great progress reports
- Write great jokes on Slack (or just make great posts if you’re not the funny type)
- Write great meeting minutes
- Write great user stories
- Write great READMEs
If you can string two sentences together with style, you’re doing great. People who can write extremely well tend to be promoted faster than their peers. Is that purely anecdotal evidence? Perhaps. Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments — but make sure your argument is written well ;-).
Get Out of the House and Into IRL
What? Were you expecting us to say “stay cooped up and never sign off Slack”?
That just isn’t healthy for you and it’s not healthy for your work performance either.
Josh Pigford of Baremetrics recently wrote about how founders need hobbies. While we may not all be starting our own businesses, there are definitely some parallels between the working remotely and starting up. You’ll need hobbies to keep you sane and remind you that there is more to life than just work.
So go get a hobby.
Bonus points if it gets you out of the house.
EXTRA bonus points if it requires interaction with other humans.
Having something you’re interested in will make you more interesting in the eyes of your friends, your employer, potential mates (if that matters), your mom, and random strangers on the internet. People like interesting people.
Another benefit of having a hobby is that it will expose you to new people, new ideas, and new ways of thinking. Maybe you’ll even meet some people running into the same issues your team is having and learn about thow they solved them.
Don’t have a hobby yet? Here are some ideas that require little start-up costs, minimal athletic skill, and will help you interact with new people and therefore — new ideas:
- Going to the gym
- Attending meetups
- Taking art classes
- Group music lessons
- Joining a DnD group
- Going GeoCaching
- Mentoring someone in a professional org you belong to
- Checking out your local climbing gym
- Dusting off your bicycle
- Visiting every museum in your area
- Trying woodworking
- Entering into a homebrewing competition
- Getting involved in open source software
- Starting a board game group
- Taking an improv class
- Going to yoga class
- Volunteering for a cause you feel close to
Take IRL seriously. It’s easy to get lonely working remotely.
If you’re anything like us, you wished for a cloak of invisibility as a child. The simple act of being able to eat your cereal in peace or play your Gameboy without anyone peeking over your shoulder would be SO amazing.
But throw a cloak of invisibility over yourself at a remote job and you’ll either find yourself with either crippling loneliness or no job at all.
One key aspect of becoming and staying successful in a remote job is making yourself visible.
Like the scared hiker staring down a charging bear, you have to make yourself look bigger than you are.
Here are a few things you can do to be more visible:
- Just finished up something you’ve been working on for the last few hours? Leave a slack message telling others what you accomplished.
- Did you coworker create some great documentation in the team wiki for everyone? Let them know they did a great job and you appreciate their effort.
- Just finished up a week of work? Add your latest updates to a public team space where everyone can see them.
- Wrapped up a big personal project you’ve been working on for the last few months? Post an imgur album of the finished results.
Yes, a lot of this stuff may seem trivial, but it’s easy to be forgotten on some remote teams (especially hybrid ones, but we’ll touch on that in a separate article).
If you’re naturally introverted, this may not come easily to you. Sorry.
You can power through it. It will eventually become a habit.
Wrapping up this point…if you want to be first in mind when a new role you want opens up, it’s going to go to the person management knows. And management knows what management hears and sees. And now that you’re so great at showing your work – that’s you.
Ready to start searching for your first (second, or third) remote gig? Show that you can write well, be interesting, and show progress. You’ll be head and shoulders over all those _other_ candidates.