Many people have asked me recently how to build your personal brand and get positive visibility when you work remotely and no one can see you!
Organizations are changing so much and so frequently that many people have never met their boss or their peers. Many companies right now have zero-travel policy for internal travel.
So many people find themselves trying to build their credibility and their career without every getting face time with their stakeholders. If you are a remote employee trying to exert your influence on the business, you can feel invisible, isolated, and powerless.
And no one can see how truly impressive you are in your slippers.
The big issue is presence
Any leader needs to make their presence felt — in the room or from afar. If you want to build credibility and influence you need to build up your personal presence.
It’s harder as a remote employee, but not impossible. And it’s even more important.
Face time first
OK, so there is no substitute for face time.
Every time I have had a remote assignment or managed a remote employee I required a 2-4 week break-in period where the person begins the assignment in the office with the team.
If you “live” with people for awhile first, you’ll do MUCH better later. You will build up some social comfort with each other, and then remote is not nearly as distant. I would not accept a remote assignment if this was not how it began.
With travel budgets frozen, it’s not always possible to spend time with the people you work with. Consider footing the bill for your air travel yourself.
Find someone to stay with. Tell your manager that you are going to be in town for personal reasons (at no expense to the company) and that you’d like to work at the main office for a couple of weeks while you are there.
This is a very worthwhile investment you can make in your career. After you get the face time, you will be more effective and respected forever after.
If you can’t establish the face time, the additional ideas below are even more important.
Don’t hide on conference calls
Don’t dial in five minutes late, do your email, and fail to speak. Instead, dial in five minutes early. Greet everyone who joins.
I knew a guy who worked remotely who took a picture of himself every day, and when ever he was on a conference call with the group at headquarters, he would email the picture of himself with a note that said something like, “thought you would want to see what shirt I was wearing today.”
It may sound silly, but he was exerting his presence. He was well known and respected. Exert your presence in words too.
Tell them about the weather where you are at and what you have been working on. Learn about their life. Then don’t check out during the call.
Participate, interrupt, contribute. Make your presence felt. Make people feel like you are “in it.”
I have to say that I am blown away by Skype video.
I have clients around the world who I have never met, but after a few hours of conversation with them over Skype video, I feel like they are colleagues and new friends that I know personally. Unfortunately many corporate firewalls do not allow Skype.
If I were a remote employee, I would encourage all of my key colleagues and stakeholders to take a Skype call with me from home once in awhile (convenient in their time zone), so we could connect “in person.” It makes a huge difference.
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If you can’t arrange Skype, try sending a video mail once in awhile. It’s easy and it’s free.
Google “free video email” to find options. Eyejot.com is one that I have used and it works well. A 30-second video can exert way more presence than a bunch of email.
Step forward when things need to get done. Take the lead. Put yourself in the center of a project even though you are not there.
Of course it needs to be something you can succeed at remotely, but don’t fail to ever take the lead just because you are remote. If you want to be relevant — be relevant!
As a remote employee, you miss the company lunches and the discussions around the coffee machine. But you don’t need to miss connecting with people.
Identify people in the company you need to have a relationship with, and build a relationship with them. You should spend at least two (2) hours a week (if not a bit more) just connecting and talking with people at your company. Live connections = presence.
Reach out to people. Get to know them as people beyond the work discussions. Learn what they care about and enjoy. Contribute things of interest.
Where you have key relationships with people, invite them to connect with you on Facebook. Keep yourself current and present in their thinking. When you become a full person, you are far more visible than when you are just a work conversation.
Share your ideas and knowledge
Become a thought leader in your area of expertise. Consider writing an internal blog. Share interesting news that people at corporate don’t see.
Seek out external information relevant to your business and be the one to share it. Have a point of view.
Just because you are remote, doesn’t mean you need to be invisible.
Don’t wait for people to find you
Be the one to exert your presence, build relationships, share information, and engage. You can build a strong personal brand, even if you are not there.
This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.