When Remote Work Is “Experience”
For the first time in 15 years, I found myself actively looking for a job. My resume needed a definite upgrade (made easier with Canva), I made some tweaks to my LinkedIn prifole, and made sure my portfolio was polished. At that point, it was applying, applying, applying.
I knew that I would only consider jobs that were 100% remote. After all, I have been a remote employee for 15 years. I can’t imagine going into the office during the day when I have become quite comfortable working from home. I hit up sites like WeWorkRemotely, Remote.co, Remote.io, and RemoteWoman regularly, on the hunt for a job that might be the right fit.
As I would peruse the “desired skills” from potential employers, I knew to take the requirements with a grain of salt. Some employers were clearly looking for a unicorn. Others had required hard skills that I did not possess (I applied anyway, and here’s why). But I noticed one skill that came up repeatedly from some employers, one that I had never considered to be a “skill.”
Prior remote experience preferred.
Some companies were clearly new to remote work as a result of the pandemic, while others noted that once the pandemic was over, they expected the employees to return to the office. But others — companies that clearly had always been remote or been remote for a long time — were aware that candidates with experience working remotely have a “leg-up” over others.
I have hired and onboarded remote employees myself. Most came from a background of never having worked remotely before. It was challenging. It took extra effort to build rapport. Remote employees have to be self-motivated, sometimes in a way that they don’t even realize when they accept the job.
They think that working from home sounds amazing and like a dream job, without actually understanding what it takes. It is about balance between the needs of your job and the needs of the employer — and figuring out how and when to attend to both.
I’ve worked with newly-remote employees that ran the gamut. Some would tell me that they needed to “step away from their computer” to run and pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. Others seemed to disappear, and no work got done in that timeframe. Still others never seemed to have a handle on their workloads and would miss meetings and deadlines constantly.
So when I saw “prior remote experience” listed as a skill, I knew exactly what the employer meant. It meant “you’re going to have enough to learn with this job — we don’t want the added task of teaching you how to work remotely also. We want to assume you know how to do that and need to only acclimate to our culture.”
With every cover letter, I emphasized my remote experience. I expressed that I know that being a remote employee is about accountability, transparency, and results.
And while I would like to think that my other skills made me stand out as a candidate, the “prior remote experience” certainly didn’t hurt.