Suddenly Online? Tips for Telework and Professional Development from Home

Working from home

A lot of us are now working from home and while we may do it once a week or once a month, this is a brand-new experience for some of us. Here are five tips to make it easier.

#1: Stick to your schedule.

Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still get up at the regular time, take a shower, be as normal as you can. According to the Huffington Post, exercise and being active is important to stay healthy and reduce stress. If you have a partner and kids, try taking turns working and managing the family. If you don’t have a partner and you’re working with your kids from home, try to make sure they have a structured schedule, as well.

#2: Dress professionally.

Even if it’s just you and the cats, there’s something about dressing professionally to help you get in the right frame of mind, like dressing professionally for a phone interview. And, of course, you certainly want to look professional if you are videoconferencing with your colleagues or clients. It also helps you feel more normal in these abnormal times.

#3: Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

If you are a manager, make sure your direct reports are clear on your expectations working from home and what’s expected of them. Set realistic goals, regular channels for communication, and report outs. Try to use video as much as possible to help feel more connected. IVCi provides additional bests practices on how you can become a “Video Conferencing Rockstar.” Understand that your supervisor could also be feeling disconnected and probably doesn’t have a crystal ball. So try to communicate regularly with your manager on your projects and tasks on at least a daily basis. Stress comes from feeling a lack of control and anxiety from not knowing what’s going on. You can reduce everyone’s stress and anxiety through clear communication.

#4: Take breaks.

Just as you would at work, schedule breaks to keep yourself fresh. That doesn’t mean watching that documentary on Netflix you’ve been meaning to get in between meetings. Get up from your workspace, walk around, eat something nutritious (save junk food for evenings), get some fresh air, and then get back to work.

#5: Keep it light.

While you want to maintain your professionalism, these are stressful times. Look for opportunities to be kind to one another, to be supportive, and to maintain a sense of humor. Check out these ways people are adding a little humor into their daily lives. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Professional development from home

You can also use this time for further professional development, whether you are job seeking or employed, here are five things you can do to boost your professional profile.

#1: Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

Even if you aren’t job seeking, it’s important to have an updated resume that captures your most important accomplishments, summarizes your skills, and tells the succinct story of your professional life. The same goes for your LinkedIn profile. A strong profile reflects well on the organization for which you work as well as attracting recruiters for new opportunities. You can get a critique of your resume and your LinkedIn profile through our VMock and Aspire tools.

#2. Network through LinkedIn

Here’s an opportunity to reach out to some second-degree connections and organizations that you admire through LinkedIn. You don’t need to be looking for a job to do an information interview. Maybe there’s someone in a similar role who’s got some innovative ideas you’d like to learn more about. Maybe there’s a company that has really piqued your interest. Reach out and schedule either a phone or video chat. At this time, people are probably even more appreciative of connecting with one another. Check out the latest information from Candid Careers and the advice they offer on how to do an informational interview. You can also research alumni groups, professional associations, and other resources.

#3: Take free or low-cost courses

There are all kinds of training opportunities out there on the web. Whether it’s a MOOC, a webinar offered by your professional association, online training offered by your own organization, YouTube videos (instructional, not cat videos), learning a language or a tech skill, there are a plethora of resources out there and learning a new skill can only enhance what you have to offer an employer.

#4: Micro volunteer

Nonprofit and community organizations still need help. And there’s a lot you can do from home to both support your favorite causes and build your resume. Maybe a local dog rescue needs people to do virtual home visits to approve adoptions. Your local county probably has a volunteer board on their website and a number of opportunities are probably remote. Catch-a-fire is a great site posting opportunities from all over in a wide variety of fields. All of these are ways of helping while improving your skill set.

#5 Mentor and Write!

Do you have any particular expertise? Then write an article and publish it on LinkedIn. Offer yourself as a connection through Community Connect to mentor or be the subject for an informational interview. Develop a PowerPoint. Think about training materials you might need at your current office or standard operating procedures. What about a position paper? If you have time and space and quiet to concentrate, this could be the perfect opportunity to get some writing done.

Whether working from home, job searching, or both, the keys are to remain positive, focused, structured, and flexible. We will get through this!

For more information on the UMGC career resources and tools available to students and alumni, visit careerquest.umuc.edu.