Career development is an important factor in your overall success and well-being. Whether you’re looking to change career paths, level up in your current job, or just gain new skills, here are five tips to help you plan a successful journey of career growth.


Set Clear Goals

Having clearly defined goals is an essential part of career development success. Outline the type of job and position you want to achieve, as well as any learning objectives and skills you need to accomplish along the way. Setting effective performance and professional goals will help you stay on track and improve your chances of success. Break down these goals into SMART objectives (i.e., specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely), so that they are manageable and achievable. 


Short and Long-Term Career Planning​

Short-term and long-term career planning can help you understand what you need to do each day and how to achieve your professional goals. Use tools such as networking, career action plans, training and development plans, or job shadowing to get an understanding of how your goals can be achieved in both the short-term and long-term. Building strong relationships with professionals who have knowledge of the clearances you need or information about specific job openings is also key for career advancement.

Career Planner and Education

If you are looking for an easy way to start, check out Hardly’s free career planner


Enhance Your Learning and Education​

Staying up to date with the latest trends and knowledge in your chosen industry is an important component of successful career development. Read books, attend seminars and conferences, take professional education classes online or at nearby colleges, and/or join a professional association. These activities can help you keep up with changes in your field, stay current with best practices, show potential employers that you are willing to go the extra mile to acquire new skills, and make connections within the industry.


Establish Professional Connections & Networks​

Networking is an important part of career development, as it can help you make contacts in the industry, open doors to new opportunities, and keep your skills sharp. You can meet other professionals at conferences and events or join a professional or alumni organization. Connecting with peers and mentors online through social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can also be beneficial. Additionally, participating in online forums and discussions related to your industry can help establish yourself as a thought leader.

Hardly’s events are an excellent way to meet other people! You never know which workshop could give you the right connection to launch your career forward.

5 Strategies for Career Development

Search for Mentors & Role Models

Identifying role models and mentors is a great way to learn from the success of others. Mentors are people you can look up to, admiring their achievements, while learning from their experiences. Observing or talking with them can provide insight on how they’ve achieved success in their fields and help you find your own personal approach. Additionally, mentors can be powerful advocates who will champion you and your career aspirations.

Check out Hardly’s career coaches to get expert guidance!

Want to pursue a lucrative career in 2023? There is a good chance that you will be hired if you pursue any of these 10 careers— all of which pay over $100,000. These are the fast-growing careers where hiring is most urgent and growth is most rapid. This data is sourced from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, so you know it’s legit.

Software Developer

Software Developer

A software developer’s job is to design, develop, test and deploy computer software. They may work on a variety of projects, from developing new applications to maintaining and improving existing ones. A software developer must have strong problem-solving and technical skills, as well as be able to work effectively in a team.

This job also has the advantage of being highly entrepreneurial. So if you are thinking about freelancing for most of your career, being a software developer is a good option.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and Health Services Manager

The Medical and Health Services Manager career offers the security and money of a medical career, but is also ideal for those who prefer to work at a desk that is far away from sick people.  You will be responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating healthcare providers’ business activities.

Your days will be filled with pushing papers in the medical office and meeting with doctors, but you’ll still have time to cash your $101K salary check at the bank.

Financial Manager

A financial manager is responsible for the financial wellbeing of their organization. They create financial plans, direct investment activities, and oversee financial risk management. Financial managers work in a variety of industries, including banking, insurance, accounting, and financial planning.


The role of a financial manager is not a new one, and most of this increased need is due to people retiring or leaving the workforce. 

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioner Career

The “hero career” is no surprise to remain in the top growing careers for 2023. You’ll bring home $121K per year and be recognized for saving lives. Nursing practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and midwives are all known as advanced practice registered nurses. Their responsibilities include coordinating patient care and providing primary and specialty care.

Prepare yourself for companies to start chasing you once you get your Master’s degree, but don’t get too excited! There is one more step to complete—obtaining your state’s license and APRN certification.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Information Career

The job of a computer and information systems manager is to plan, organize, and coordinate the activities of workers who design, develop, test, and maintain computer software and systems. They also oversee the installation of new systems and ensure that existing systems are compatible with new software and hardware. In addition, computer and information systems managers consult with other departments to ensure that their computer system needs are met.

You can work in a variety of different industries— including government, education, or private businesses. To read more about being a Computer and Information Systems Manager, check out this article from Chron.

Prepare yourself for companies to start chasing you once you get your Master’s degree, but don’t get too excited! There is one more step to complete—obtaining your state’s license and APRN certification.

Health Specialties Teacher

Health Specialties Teacher

Health Specialties Teachers’ job is to instruct various subjects like human anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology to healthcare students. They also prepare students for their future roles in the healthcare field. 

The majority of health specialty teachers are employed by colleges or universities. Some of them, however, work in medical hospitals, trade schools, or junior colleges. Additional licenses and certifications may be required based on the field you teach in.

Information Security Analyst

Information Security Analyst Career

This job is also called the “White Hat Hacker” job and reminds us of all those hacking scenes in movies. Information Security Analysts are responsible for the overall security of an organization’s information systems. 

They work to identify and mitigate security risks, and are responsible for developing and implementing security policies and procedures. Information security analysts must have a strong understanding of computer networks and systems, and must be able to think critically to identify and resolve security issues.

Data Scientist

Data Science Career

This job is also called the “White Hat Hacker” job and reminds us of all those hacking scenes in movies. Information Security Analysts are responsible for the overall security of an organization’s information systems. 

They work to identify and mitigate security risks, and are responsible for developing and implementing security policies and procedures. Information security analysts must have a strong understanding of computer networks and systems, and must be able to think critically to identify and resolve security issues.

Bonus! Here are some other high-growth careers:

  • Marketing Managers
  • Sales Managers
  • Veterinarians
  • Human Resource Managers
  • Dentists
  • Pharmacists
  • Computer Network Architects
  • Computer and Information Research Scientists
  • Industrial Production Managers 
  • Electronics Engineers

How do you know which of these is the best career for you?

All of the jobs on this list pay well, but you shouldn’t choose one of these careers solely because of the paycheck. Sign up for a free Hardly account today and you can use our tools and assessments to understand what you need and want in your career. Want to take it up a notch? You can chat with one of our coaches, who will be able to guide you through understanding yourself in the context of your career. 

It is your life and your career that you will invest much time and energy into. A rewarding career choice will give you energy, passion, and joy.

A career coach is there to help you figure out what you want to do, explore opportunities for professional growth, and support you through a job search. But… It takes time and money to hire a career coach, so you should do your homework to figure out if working with one will help you reach your career goals. And if a career coach is for you, what kind of coach will be the best? Here are five reasons you might consider hiring one.


Career Plan

It's hard to know what to do next.

When family or friends try to help narrow down your choices, their advice may not always reflect what resonates with you; it may be based on what you’ve done in the past or what’s the “easiest” career or job. Your coach can help you consider career and job options that are different from what you’ve done previously or that you hadn’t considered.


Career Coach

You had a bad experience at another job

If you have or have had a job that caused you anger, sadness, or anxiety, you may be trying to move on from that experience. A lot of people think the next job will fix their negative attitudes, but it doesn’t work like that. A career coach can help you move past those repeated unpleasant experiences and review your assumptions, which may not only impact your job search but also your daily motivation and family life. 


If you are unsure that you should leave your job, check out our article on 10 Signs It’s Time to Leave Your Job

Career Resume

Creating a simple, yet substantive resume is challenging.

To qualify for a job at the level advertised, resumes must demonstrate the correct skills and abilities. It’s important to position your skills in the context of a potential role – particularly transferable skills that don’t match perfectly with the job description. Despite how great an accomplishment may be, not every accomplishment belongs on a resume. By focusing your resume and LinkedIn into one message, a career coach can help you better position yourself. This will help you attract recruiters’ attention by determining which experiences are relevant to the job for which you are applying.


If you want a quick fix that isn’t as thorough, look for tools like Enhancv— which will automatically scan your resume and suggest updates. 


Interviewing Career Coach

Interviews have gone well, but you haven't landed the job.

Not making it past the recruiter screen? You may need assistance when it comes to connecting your experience to each job. Otherwise, you may continue to make it to the next round but you won’t get past the hiring manager. Practicing with a career coach will help you polish your executive presence, answer common questions, and prepare you for interviews.


Promotion Coach

You’re not moving up in your career.

A career coach isn’t just for finding a job. There are lots of coaches around who can help you figure out why you’re not advancing. You can work with a coach to conduct an objective evaluation or review your performance feedback to determine which behavior you should change to move ahead in your career.

Hardly gives you free tools to answer your big career questions.

Career coaches can be extremely helpful, but that one-on-one time comes at a cost. Before you take the leap and pay, test the waters with our interactive quizzes and forum-style career coaching. That way, if you do choose to meet with one of our career coaches, you’ll have your motivations, priorities, and career path ready to be discussed. 

Career Coach
5 Strategies for Career Development Success

5 Strategies for Career Development Success

Career development is an important factor in your overall success and well-being. Whether you’re looking to change career paths, level up in your current job, or just gain new skills, here are five tips to help you plan a successful journey of career growth.

Read More »
career coach

When do you need a career coach?

You should do your homework to figure out if working with a career coach will help you reach your career goals. Here are five reasons you might consider hiring a career coach.

Read More »

We’ve all been there. When Sunday evening rolls around and you suddenly feel your eyes rolling back in your head. The dread of going to an unfulfilling job is something that makes us all feel isolated and unified, simultaneously. But in the world of the great resignation, you have choices! It’s never been better to be on the hunt for a new job, or even a new career. That’s why we have some handy questions that you can ask yourself to find out if it’s time to say “sayonara” and look to new horizons.

No promotion

Sign #10: You've been asking for a promotion... for years...

You may love your company, so it’s time that you hear some tough love. If you’ve been talking to your manager for years about a promotion or a change of role within the company, you are not getting it. In their mind, you are glued to a specific type of position and they will never see you differently. If you are certain it is time for a change, you’ll be more likely to get it somewhere else.

Coworkers gone

Sign #9: All your work BFFs have already left

Once upon a time, you were surrounded by an amazing group of friends at work, every day. Slowly, those have trickled away finding jobs somewhere else. The new coworkers? They are fine, but you know how work used to be.

You’ll always be comparing your current coworkers to your former work-BFFs. Always. And no one deserves to live in the past like that. It’s time to update your resume, and get going. Plus, doesn’t it mean something if everyone is leaving? If you need a way to track your happiness at work, check out our article on Career Journaling for Success.


Sign #8: You aren't learning anything

Nothing sucks your soul out like stagnation. If you don’t feel challenged on a regular basis, or you feel like you are a hamster on a wheel going nowhere, it’s time to ask for reassignment or a new challenge. If management doesn’t listen to you, then it’s time to leave.
Mission Driven

Sign #7: You don't believe in the mission of your company

Of course, everyone relates differently to their company’s mission, and this is more important to some people than others. But for most professionals, their values need to align with their company. A mission represents where company leadership steers to in the future, and you want to be moving forward on the same road, right?

Want to see if your values align with your organization? Try our free quiz here.

Tired and Overworked

Sign #6: You are overworked, tired, and relief isn't coming anytime soon

This one makes me tired just thinking about it… For years, I was stretched so thin that I couldn’t breathe. Some days I had to hold my pee for hours because there wasn’t time to run to the restroom between meetings. Don’t wait until you burn out like I did. It took me a solid year of depression to drag myself out of the rut I put myself in. If you are overworked, you’ve expressed how little time you have to your manager, and patiently waited for them to do something about it, NEWS ALERT: they aren’t. And it will probably take you leaving for them to realize how much was on your plate.  If you are a manager, check out our other blog post on improving employees’ wellbeing.
Unnecessary Rules

Sign #5: Company management has unnecessary rules

Some rules are put in place just to express power. If you’ve ever been chastised for breaking a rule that shouldn’t exist in the first place, consider what other unnecessary tasks they have you doing without your awareness. For example, no one should be controlling your free time. If your company has a rule that you can’t leave during your lunch break or you can’t watch funny youtube videos while eating lunch at your desk, time to leave your job. You’d rather roll-out than get controlled-out.
New Manager

Sign #4: Your new manager is your arch-nemesis

I think everyone has a story like this. You’ve spent a few wonderful years at a company and maybe even outlasted a few of your managers. Company leadership didn’t loop you in at all when they interviewed your new manager, and lo and behold, your new manager is a Karen. Not just a Karen, but a controlling, micro-managing Karen who makes your skin crawl when you see them. You’ve paid your dues there and if they didn’t feel like they should loop you in on the new hire, they obviously don’t respect you or your contribution to the company. Time to leave your job.
Passion for work

Sign #3: You are passionate about your job, but no one else is

You show up every day energetic and with fresh ideas, and you tackle every challenge with your full heart. You don’t understand why everyone else is dragging their feet or not as excited as you. This is a sign you are too good for your company. Passion is priceless! Your determination should not be wasted on others that don’t see the value you bring. Leave your job, and don’t look back
No Trust

Sign #2: You don't trust management to have your back

Speaking of not looking back… Your manager is RIGHT BEHIND YOU.

Just kidding. They aren’t (at least we don’t think so).

But seriously, you spend 33% or more of your time at work. If you don’t trust your manager or company leadership to take care of you behind closed doors, that’s a sign that you should leave your job for better opportunities. At the end of the day, you need to look out for yourself, but it’s best if you can trust that your boss isn’t going to screw you over.

Sign #1: You’ve given feedback and no one is acting on it

We put this at Number 1, because this is sadly what we hear all the time. You filled out a survey, expressing your feedback to management. You also told them the same feedback at your yearly review. And maybe you’ve mentioned it to others at the holiday party. Every time you express your feedback, you are met with nodding heads and complete agreement, yet no one is doing anything about it.

Leaving in these circumstances can be the most freeing! You’ve tried your best, and that is all you can do. Take your great ideas to another company that aligns to your vision of the future, or better yet, create the company you want. Because if the past couple of years has shown us anything, it’s that you have no time to waste on someone else’s bulls*&#.

Allison Braund-Harris

Remote work is definitely not going away any time soon and we’ve seen some benefits to it as well: less commute, which means more time to catch some zzz’s or hang with the family. However, it can also pose some challenges as we mentally and physically face our new norm. Over the last couple of weeks we have been talking about individual physical and mental wellbeing. If you are a manager, you may be thinking this all sounds good and dandy but “how do I promote employee wellbeing when my team is remote?” Sit back and relax because I’m going to share a few tips that can help boost the wellbeing of your team today.

Not only will your employees appreciate your active stand on ensuring their wellbeing, but it actually helps with team and company productivity!  As stated in a Forbes article, studies have shown that supporting your employee’s wellbeing positively impacts a company’s performance. Now you got to give it a try since it’s good for the bottom line. Am I right?

Let’s start with getting in the right mindstate, a relaxed one. A deep breath in for one, two, three, four, and hold for four. Breath out for one, two, three, four. Now, don’t you feel better? A quick and easy way to calm those nerves. Share with your team! Now that we are nice and calm, let’s dive right on in.

Champion Flexibility

Employee wellbeing, Hardly

While many of us have been working from home for some time now, it never hurts to reinforce flexibility on your team. As a leader of your team, you help set expectations and influence team morale. As such, it is important that your employees and team members feel comfortable stepping away from their laptop. What this pandemic has shown us is that more than ever, people need to think about their physical and mental wellbeing. Ensuring your team knows you are a champion for flexibility goes a long way and demonstrates that you trust them.

I remember when I first started working remotely some years ago, I was so paranoid to have my instant messenger status say “away.” I felt like I had to always be on since there was no way for people to see me in the office. I also didn’t want people to think I was taking advantage of working remotely. It wasn’t until my leader shared that it is okay to step away, take a breather, go for a walk that I felt comfortable. I felt such a sense of relief, like a weight was taken off of my shoulders.

Up until then, I didn’t realize how much it actually affected me. Stepping out to go for a walk around the block when I need a break from the screen has been huge. Make sure you not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. Employee wellbeing will increase when yours increases.

Check-Ins (no agenda needed or required)

Employee wellbeing, Hardly

When you are in the office, it is easier to pick up on cues that a direct report may be going through something or just that they are not 100%. In this remote world, it is more difficult to see that. It’s not like we can just swing by their desk and check in. It takes more of an effort now. Check in with your team outside of team meetings just to see how they are doing. It doesn’t always need to be business so these check-ins can be to catch up, reflect and have non-work related conversations. No agendas are needed,  just what is on someone’s mind. Feel free to do this as a team or individually. As Ryan Lynch, managing partner from Beardwood & CO, says:

“When you are talking to any of your team, it’s important to be truthful, specific, and positive. Remote working has made this even more applicable.”

This is a small effort as a manager or leader, but can impact your team in a good way. Sometimes we just need to talk about non-work related items. While these don’t need to be long, these check-ins can also impact your relationship with your direct reports, improving team morale.

Set Boundaries and Expectations

Employee wellbeing, Hardly

While working from home can be so beneficial, it can be quite difficult separating work life and your personal life as it’s basically the same four walls now. I no longer have the hour-commute, but there goes that separation from being in the office to a home setting. As many of you, I have found myself working longer. This can lead to fatigue and burnout.

As your team’s leader, take it upon yourself and set those work and personal boundaries for your team. Let them know you don’t expect them to always be on. If an email comes in after hours, you don’t have to answer it right away. A healthy balance between work and personal life is needed, especially now. Let me tell you, burnout is real and setting those expectations with your team helps alleviate the stress of needing to constantly answer those “off hour” emails or calls. Encourage those boundaries and set expectations for “off work” hours.

With flexibility, open communication, setting expectations you can easily and actively  help your employees thrive in a remote environment. Let us know how these work tips work out for you and what strategies you put into place that puts your team’s well-being as a priority. 

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Earlier in 2020, there was an inflection point when we all shifted from a mindset of “I just gotta get through this” to “This is my new reality. What can I do to maintain my mental wellbeing?” 

Mental wellbeing, Hardly

We all reached this frame of mind at different times, particularly when we each individually moved up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from the bottom two rungs to the top three. Or whenever we decided to stop hoarding toilet paper and canned food— whichever came first.

Being “OK” in the madness of 2020 involves taking care of yourself mentally and physically. We all know this is important, but why? AND HOW?

With work, I’m all about maximizing my productivity and making every minute count. But when it comes to taking care of myself physically, I’m the worst. While I watch others running 10 miles a day, you will catch me and my sweet tooth scooping ice-cream into coffee when I run out of oat milk. I’m not one to workout. In fact, I have always hated it. While I may not be the best example when it comes to physical wellbeing, I’m an honest one! And if I can work in a few small ways to take care of myself, then you can too.

TIP #1

Take a moment to breathe

Do you have 30-seconds to spare? Damn right you do… you are reading this blog post. I encourage you to take a break from reading after this paragraph. Set a 30-second timer on your phone, put yourself in a comfortable position, let your hands drop naturally, and breathe in and out— deeply and slowly.


Don’t you feel better? That’s because you just shifted your body closer to its “rest and digest (R&D)” mode and away from “fight or flight” mode. In R&D mode, your body is able to focus better, since you are supplying your brain with the necessary oxygen to work optimally. Apple Watch has a built in app to remind you to breathe, or you can check out Headspace, which has a section specifically for work. 

TIP #2

Encourage yourself with repetition

Repetition is powerful. Just think about all of the actions/words that you repeat on a daily basis: inputting passwords, looking at your homescreen, texting loved ones, etc. These tiny things really add up toward maintaining mental wellbeing.


A month ago, I switched my passwords to be encouraging.


Obviously, I’m not going to share what they are with you (duh!), but sometimes it is nice to type something like “YouMakeYourOwnLuck47” instead of your standard run-of-the-mill password. Think about what you need to hear often— affirmations, a mantra, whatever. Typing it regularly will help train your brain to believe it.

TIP #3

Do what you can stick to

Do I wish I loved jogging and yoga? Definitely.

Am I going to wake up one day and do one of these? Yes. Maybe!

Everyday? Hell no.

But you know what I can do everyday? Walk.

Sometimes it’s more important to do something consistently rather than your ultimate goal sparingly. I try not to beat myself up about not doing more, and instead concentrate on the things I can do. If you do something for 21 days consistently, it becomes a habit.

What is something tiny that you can commit to every day?

Here are some ideas:

  • — Take 5 minutes to have your coffee in silence before starting your day of meetings
  • — Before you go to sleep, read a few pages of a book
  • — Reconnect with a different friend each day through text. They’ve been in your phone for 10 years, so you may as well!
TIP #4

Double up on good vibes

Grab a friend

My husband and I have been really strapped for time lately. Though we are working and living in the same house it is hard to catch any time to just be us without distractions. We decided to start taking morning walks together so we can encourage each other to be more active, and have some time to just talk.


Reframe chores

I had a workout coach that told me she lost 30 lbs just dancing while she did chores. Since then, I’ve been trying to find productive ways to stay active and maintain my mental wellbeing. My favorite productive workout is gardening. You can easily get plenty of squats, lunges while gardening, and if you are lifting, your shoulders and arms can get in on the action too.

TIP #5

Focus on the things that you can change

We are all in different situations— some of us feel comfortable and in-control and some of us (probably most) feel completely out of control. It is painful to watch the news, provide and care for your close family, and stay in touch with the rest of your family and friends, meanwhile staying productive in your day-to-day.


Wherever and whoever you are, there are things within and outside of your control. Check out this article on Toptal for some simple things to better your remote work experience.


One of the most helpful books I’ve read for my own mental wellbeing has been The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I’m the type of person who cares too much about most things, and whenever someone asks me to do something I tend to go way too overboard. In the past few years, I reached a breaking point of what I could care about. Mark Manson helped me reframe my brain to focus on what really matters to me and only truly stress about the things within my own control. So now, instead of watching 40 documentaries on animal welfare and beating myself up about using chicken broth in a soup, I choose to reduce my meat intake to 1-2 days a week. That is the level of f*cks that I can give and still maintain my own sanity.

See, all it takes is a few steps here and there to do what you can to destress and not burn out.

Luckily, we have others on the Hardly team that are way better at taking care of themselves than me.


Let us know what you do to not burn out!

Allison Braund-Harris

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5 Strategies for Career Development Success

5 Strategies for Career Development Success

Career development is an important factor in your overall success and well-being. Whether you’re looking to change career paths, level up in your current job, or just gain new skills, here are five tips to help you plan a successful journey of career growth.

Read More »

Over the last several years, I have worked on many distributed teams, meaning my team has been spread across various different states and not necessarily co-located. I was never in the same location as my boss, unless I flew into that office or vice versa, which used to happen quite often. 

Coming from an institution where everyone was colocated in the same building/ area to joining a company and team that was so dispersed gave me some anxiety at first. With only a few team members in my office, and my boss elsewhere, where is the employee connection? Well, my boss was a mastermind at keeping the team engaged. She had individuals across three states and three time zones. She found ways of engagement where she would hold weekly video conference calls with the team and then hold weekly to bi-weekly calls one-on-one. I was also on constant calls with my teammates in other offices. It didn’t feel like we were so spread out. 

Since then, I had various different bosses. The video meetings stopped and so did the one on ones with my manager. I still had various calls and meetings with teammates throughout the day and week so I felt some sense of connection, yet it was different from before. Due to personal circumstances, my family and I decided to move. Luckily, I was able to become a telecommuter or remote worker. While the company has had remote workers, I was the only remote worker on my immediate team at that time. Slowly things started to change, where individuals didn’t want to make the two-hour commute to and from home, fighting traffic. More and more people would work from home a few days a week.

Now fast forward to 2020. I am on an entirely new team. I am one of two remote workers on my team and the only team member on the west coast. The time zone difference can be a little challenging at times, but I’ll save that for another day. I miss some things that would  have been shared during an office chat or a quick drop in. Having to pick up on cues and listen intently on team calls is a critical skill that I’m developing. I need to interject often so individuals realize that certain things that are discussed in side conversations are best for team calls. Then COVID-19 happened. Everyone went remote. The silver lining to all of this is that my team members and managers now see the importance of communication and employee connection beyond the office walls. Remote work has changed the face of business and how we manage our teams.

Remote work has changed the face of business and how we manage our teams.

While remote working isn’t all rosy-posey, it does provide opportunities that are lacking from a face-to-face employee connection. I found that face-to face meetings can also feel intimidating for some, especially if they do not feel comfortable speaking up in a big team or broad audience setting.

Therefore, people’s thoughts and feelings may go underheard. Secondly, when you do try to put in a word, you may get overshadowed by the dominant speaker that may not pick up on the social cues that let you cut in and allow them to take a breather. Lastly, there can be budget constraints that only allow for some to attend face to face and some virtually. 

With many going virtual and the need to social distance for safety precautions, remote work has allowed teams to be connected on a different level than before, especially with the use of technologies like zoom, slack, and box and others.

Employee connections, Hardly

Finally be heard

Technology has truly provided a platform that connects others in ways that was somewhat inhibiting when we were all face-to-face. As mentioned by, “Thanks to a proliferation in communication technology, virtual teams tend to connect more frequently and on a deeper level than they would in person.” I was able to experience this firsthand last week when I attended our first ever leadership conference for my client group.

As I helped my client group prepare and restructure an event that was supposed to be in person, yet had to go virtual due to the pandemic, we were so worried that there would be a lack of energy and engagement, especially that it could allow people to multi-task and not truly pay attention.  I’m happy to report we were quite wrong and found that the connection was profoundly and surprisingly unique. 

We used Zoom Meeting that allowed for video and chat to take place all at the same time. It also helped that the energy from the presenters was off the charts. From the very start, people were not shy to share their thoughts and feelings in real time. There were so many “YESSSS”” and “100%” showing agreement or posting questions and thought-provoking messages that added to the conversation that the presenter was having with the audience.

These messages not only came from the vocal ones but from some that I have not heard from before and finally coming to the table. It somehow becameeasier to share your sentiments. I, personally, found myself contributing more than I normally would. While I’m not shy to share my feedback, I just couldn’t help engaging with others from all over. This virtual format just drew you in. 

When our Australian and New Zealand colleagues joined, the chat blew up welcoming them to the conference and the journey. Although it was 3am local time for them, their dedication and commitment were unparalleled. This virtual conference expanded its reach like never before and employee connection was strong.  

This virtual conference expanded its reach like never before

Employee connections, Hardly

“The most effective networks optimize virtual communication and productivity in tandem, bringing together skilled workers across states (and even countries) and allowing members to share tips and stories and forge connections with one another. These relationships simply wouldn’t happen outside of a virtual environment.”

Couldn’t agree more. We even had senior vice presidents who normally would jump in and out of the meeting or stay for a short period due to other in-person engagement, who stayed for the ENTIRE conference. Way to go team! Engagement was important and the video and chat functions allowed for you to converse with individuals from all over the world and all levels. The real-time response was phenomenal. Unlike holding your questions or feedback to the end, these virtual means allowed true engagement from the start. This virtual platform felt so intimate like I was having a conversation with friends and family and not necessary with our 250+ global attendees and across all levels of the company.

When we return to in-person events, we NEED to keep up this sense of real time connectedness. The virtual platform allows for a greater global audience to join in (even if it was 3am local time). Going hybrid for future events (in person and online) will be our next challenge. Thankfully, we have a year to figure that one out. 

Sticking to the budget

This option also illustrated a budget-friendly way to congregate. It was a record-breaking year of registrants and attendees. Not incurring a cost to fly and stay in a hotel helped fuel a bigger presence. Remote working has proved to be helpful in more ways than one; employee connection was on a deeper level, chatting and sharing ideas became easier and it was budget friendly all at the same time.

Lessons learned

What made this event and virtual engagement was the platform and speakers we chose. It is important to select a platform that provides an opportunity for individuals to engage, whether it is through a chat function or breakout rooms for smaller group discussions. As Forbes mentions, “It also creates the familiarity of engagement and is an attractive option for the introverts who may be overwhelmed by the larger virtual events.”

Additionally, the real-time feedback provides the ability for different individuals, whether you are the life of the party or a bit more hesitant to share what you are thinking.  Your audience is key so picking speakers that can energize a room, even a virtual one, with relevant topics in short bursts will go a long way. The more you engage your audience through communication and excitement, the more you will be able to keep them focused and follow along. This can be done with small and large teams. Ensure your team touchpoints provide an avenue for all members to socialize with each other and connect with the topic. The length of a virtual meeting will be critical and think about frequency. Finding the ideal mix of frequency, communication tactics, and topics is necessary and will enable successful employee connection. 

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On a bright day in 2015 (before working remotely), I put on my black long-sleeved dress and a denim jacket. I faced myself in the mirror and said, “Do I really look cool enough to be a brand strategist? No. But this is what I got.”

I had just graduated from my Masters in Branding program earlier that summer— a year of my life absorbing qualitative and quantitative research methods, brand strategy work sessions, creative voice, and business basics. I felt confident walking into that NYC coffee shop for the interview with… let’s call him “Daniel.” At first, he questioned why I was there because my resume was design-focused. I explained that my background was in identity design, but my real strength was in brand strategy and I had received awards for leadership in my program. (You know… the stuff you say in interviews).

And wonders beyond wonders, Daniel wanted to hire me. It started great! The onboarding process was fairly straightforward.

A month into the job, sh&% hit the fan. Daniel quit. He told me that the owners had promised that he would have the ability to better the company culture and hire a larger team to alleviate stress— and well, that never happened.

Suddenly, I reported to the company owners who, I later found out, didn’t really want me there. I was Daniel’s hire and not theirs, but they felt stuck with me. I went above and beyond to win over their favor— I started doing account work, design work, video production work, and strategy work simultaneously.

My plate filled up so fast that I started to drown in my own “yesses" in order to please them. 

Working remotely, Hardly

My 1hr subway commute to the office in the morning started to feel like a waste of time. On one especially stressful day, I called in and said “I have to stay home today.” And they said “Why!?! Are you sick?” “No, I simply don’t have 2hrs to spare for coming into the office today.” 

Though they complained often, most strategists at that consultancy worked from home at least once a week. But my string of remote working the next few months rivalled the month I skipped of my junior year Spanish class— at the end of which, my teacher said “Allison better show up with a broken leg or cancer.” (Sorry, I don’t mean for this to sound callous to cancer survivors…. or high school Spanish teachers… )

Why would I spend 2hrs in a train when I’m already not sleeping more than 4-5 hours a night? I had so much to do that sleeping felt like a privilege that I didn’t deserve. In that time, I learned I could be self-motivated at home, and if I really focused, I could get more accomplished. In the end, found out that I loved the quiet of it all.

2hrs each day x 22 workdays a month = 44hrs on the subway. The pros of working remotely vastly outweighed the cons to me.

1. No commute. 2hrs each day x 22 workdays a month = 44 hours. That’s a whole work week every month back in my grasp. Boom-shakalaka.

2. Ability to focus. Nobody asking me for quick favors or distracting me with small talk.

3. Fewer meetings. Magically, meetings that would normally be called during the middle of the day just disappeared.

4. I felt like an adult. Having someone literally (yes, literally) breathing down my neck while I was finishing a presentation made me feel like a child. By this point, I was 26. Yet somehow, I felt more like a child than I did when I was actually a child.

5. And, obviously, I could spend more time with my cats.

That was 2015! Now in 2020, it is easier to work from home. In the past few years, I went to another agency that swore up-and-down that remote work didn’t work for creative teams. But thankfully, they gave it a try before the 2020 apocalypse happened. 

There are tons of resources out there for creative teams working remotely and other types of companies needing to collaborate.

Working remotely, Hardly

Miro, a whiteboarding collaboration company, allows for multiple people to move images, text and other items around the screen. As the person who previously had to copy all the Expo marker scribble from the physical whiteboards onto the computer, I would like to send my personal gratitude to Miro for existing.

And dude, I started using Wrike a month or two ago. You can set up projects, create subtasks and assign to team members, designate priorities, automatically generate charts, and provide context around everything. Even *MY* chaotic brain gets organized when I put my tasks in there.

We have this incredible world of digital work at our fingertips. Did it arise out of a global pandemic and a year that has felt like being shoved into Satan’s armpit? Yes. However, I believe our growing knowledge of digital communication tools will positively change our work environments moving forward.

We have to fight to stay focused, and we have to fight to pull away

Hardly makes remote work easier for everyone, and ensures that work-life balance exists in a world where there is no physical separation between work and life.

I’m looking forward to starting this journey with you. Let’s do this.

Allison Braund-Harris

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