Remote Career Development: A Holistic Approach to Professional Growth

remote career development - Virtual Vocations telecommute and remote jobs

Consider your remote career development plan. What was that? You don’t have one? Rest assured, you’re not alone. Read on to learn the importance of planning ahead in today’s dynamic work environment as well as the significance of incorporating a holistic planning approach for professionals who have decided to work remotely.

Remote Career Development: A Holistic Approach to Professional Growth

Developing a career plan is rarely at the top of anyone’s education or job priorities. Beyond sessions with our high school counselor or ad hoc conversations with our parents, you may not have thought very deeply beyond what major to enroll in, or your general career direction. However, taking a comprehensive approach to your career development is more important now than ever before. This is true for everyone, however, it is especially true for remote workers.

One reason for this growing importance is the increasingly temporary and changeable nature of both our jobs and our career paths. In the not-so-distant past, careers were thought to develop in a predictable and linear fashion. People looked for and accepted positions with an anticipation of job security and a variety of health, insurance, and retirement benefits. They expected promotions and perhaps a few job changes to get ahead, taking their retirement savings and reestablishing benefits with a new corporation.

Today, for better or worse, these assumptions no longer hold true. This is due to several factors including the rise of new technologies, changing economic circumstances, globalization, and evolving social values.

Modern career paths more closely resemble the journey of a roller coaster with plenty of twists and turns, rather than a steady linear progression.

Not to mention, if you’re a professional committed to working remotely, you have even more to take care of than today’s typical office employee. This means that in addition to taking into account potential career steps and directions, you may also need to take into account your financial planning, healthcare, training, living arrangements and travel, social memberships, and more.

While remote work opens up a whole new universe of possibilities, it also means taking personal responsibility for all aspects of your life.

What Is a Holistic Approach to Remote Career Development?

So now, you may ask, what constitutes a holistic approach to career development? According to Merriam Webster, holistic can be defined as, “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.”

With this definition in mind, a holistic approach advocates incorporating all aspects of your life when developing a career development plan. You might want to call it your ‘human career’ or your ‘life development’ plan. It involves taking a big-picture look at your life, deciding what you want, and developing a plan to get you there, with your work as one element of the overall plan. This approach acknowledges that there is more to our lives than how we make money, while also opening to the opportunity of adding meaning to our work.

Which Areas of Your Life Should You Consider in Your Holistic Approach?

Depending on your agreements or contracts with your employer(s), you may be left to define and allocate resources to areas of your life that you have not really thought of before. Gone are the days when your workspace, office hours, and lunch breaks are pre-determined and aggressively enforced. Just like when the fasten seatbelt sign on the airplane turns off, you are now free to move about the cabin.

But with what will you replace all your former rules and structures? Have you thought ahead to what life as a remote worker looks like to you?

How do you define success? What are your priorities? Are you going to recreate your former office at home and stick to your routine, or are you going to explore what makes you tick? What arrangements will make you productive and happy?

While taking control of where you work does not necessarily change the nature of your work (although it might), it changes pretty much everything else. In fact, you may be lost as to where to start. How do you even start at deciding what you want your whole life to look like? As you consider these questions, contemplate the different areas of your life that you now have more control over.

1. Career steps and directions

While you always have control over this area of your life, you may want to consider this from a different perspective now that you’re working remotely. For example, promotions may not be as readily available as in an office position, what is your new vision of success? Are there other careers associated to yours that you can explore in case you need to change course quickly?

2. Financial and retirement planning

This is a big area that requires considerable thought and planning. If you are a freelancer, you need to manage the natural ebbs and flows of your earnings. In addition, many are used to an employer automatically deducting retirement savings, maybe even matching it. Employers also typically have group life and disability insurance plans that you can get signed up for as well. This planning may all fall on you now, especially if you are a contractor or freelancer.

3. Health and wellness

Securing your own healthcare insurance is the big one here. In addition, the stereotypical picture of a work-at-home employee lazing in their PJs while working on their laptop can be uncomfortably close to the truth. Extra effort needs to go into developing a fitness and healthy eating regimen to keep yourself from being too sedentary.

4. Education and training

It’s also up to you to look ahead to identify when and how you need to upgrade your skills. No more onsite training or lunch bag lectures for you. You need to roll with punches and get the certifications and complete the training courses that you see as necessary to stay ahead of the curve in your profession.

5. Living/working arrangements and travel

If you always want to work remotely, how do you make that happen? Do you need to stay in a certain position? Perhaps you want to give the digital nomad lifestyle a whirl and travel the world. Other options include subscribing to a co-work space, creating a home office, or surfing the local coffee houses. The world is your oyster. Where do you want to go today?

6. Family and social memberships

One of the biggest complaints of remote workers is loneliness. The second is that their kids are always underfoot when they’re trying to work. Both of these situations can be addressed with a little bit of planning. For example, avoid loneliness by getting a part-time subscription to a co-work space or join a professional association. Too distracted? Establish work hours and a workspace that allows for separation from your kids, while being flexible and enjoying new opportunities to spend quality time.

remote career development - Virtual Vocations telecommute and remote jobs

7 Steps to a Holistic Remote Career Development Plan

So far, we have considered the different areas of your life to include in your holistic career plan. But, if you haven’t worked remotely before, you are not going to know what will work for you. Romantic ideas about juggling work and parenting, or expanding your network at a cool co-working location, don’t always mesh well with the reality of a situation.

Also, everything changes; therefore, your plan needs to be flexible and you don’t need to stick to anything that doesn’t work. Just enjoy the path you choose and look forward to new forks in the road.

How do you pull all of this information together into a holistic career development plan?

One way is to apply the Hope-Action Model approach to career development developed by researchers Drs. Spencer Niles, Norman Amundson, and Hyung Joon Yoon. This is a practical model that promotes developing the following seven competencies in order to optimize what researchers call “career flow.” In addition, these competencies can do double duty as a roadmap to follow when you are developing and following your career development plan.

1. Begin from a place of hope

The researchers present hope and positive thinking as central themes to an individual’s ability to achieve their goals. Without hope they say, there is no motivation to move forward.

2. Undertake self-reflection

This competency and career stage involves examining your current circumstances honestly, objectively, and without judgment. What are your current beliefs and behaviors regarding these circumstances?

3. Achieve self-clarity

At this stage, you can turn your attention to more practical matters. What are your interests, values, skills, and motivations? Having a clear understanding of yourself will guide you to identify what is working and what is not working in your current situation.

4. Envision your future

You will never get where you want to go if you can’t envision your future. Brainstorm future possibilities for your career and life in order to identify your desired outcomes. Set your imagination free!

5. Set goals and develop a plan

Take what you have learned about yourself and your circumstances and compare that with what your vision of an ideal future. How can you get there? Identify specific steps you can take to achieve your goals.

6. Implement your plan

Follow the steps you have developed. Yes, now!

7. Adapt

The last stage leads us back to the beginning. Take all the new information you have learned about both yourself and your circumstances to adjust your goals and plans as necessary for future success. Changes may be needed due to both changes in yourself and in your circumstances.  Remember to encourage yourself by reviewing your successes as well as your mistakes!

This model enables us to take an iterative approach to our remote career development plan. It facilitates the flexibility we need in our ever-changing world. A holistic career plan is not a one and done deal. It will require constant updating on a continual basis throughout our lives. However, undertaking this important life planning will facilitate our abilities to live intentionally and proactively. Rather than simply reacting to our circumstances, we will be able to take advantage of our new-found freedoms to achieve our full potential.

Will you try this holistic approach to remote career developmentConnect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us about your career goals. We’d love to know what you have to say! 

iStock Photo Credit: 1. swissmediavision; 2. marchmeena29


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