Talent   //   July 15, 2022

How to stand out to leadership if you’re entirely virtual

While lots of companies are asking employees to return to the office, there will always be a segment that can’t because they live too far away or have an immunocompromised family member they don’t want to expose to Covid-19. 

So while their hybrid co-workers are sipping rooftop cocktails with the team for Wind Down Wednesday or popping into the boss’ office for an IRL chat, virtual employees may need to work harder for the spotlight. They must strategically set themselves apart from their in-person colleagues — especially with a recession looming and employers tightening the reins. After all, no one wants to be out of sight, out of mind. 

One way to increase your exposure to leaders is volunteering for assignments outside the parameters of your job description. Camille Fetter, CEO of the executive search firm Talentfoot, was recently impressed by a young associate who works virtually from Canada when he volunteered to reevaluate the company’s customer relationship management. 

“It gave him tremendous exposure to me, and I got to see him lead in a way I never would have if he hadn’t volunteered for that special project,” said Fetter. “It impacted his rapport with me. I got a chance to get to know him much better.” 

Along the same lines, she recommends volunteering for committees like employee resource groups (ERGs), planning social activities or diversity equity and inclusion steering committees. Leaders tend to know the people who head those organizations and it exposes members to colleagues across functions. 

That’s another bit of advice: Network outside your immediate team. If asking a stranger to a virtual coffee seems awkward, frame it as you’re new and trying to understand her role and how your job fits into the bigger picture. The goal is to see how your work impacts them and how their work impacts you. 

“It’s too easy to be heads down and focused on your specific role and your relationship with your manager and your team,” said Lydia Frank, vp of marketing at Chronus, a mentoring platform. “The people who succeed within organizations have broad networks that extend beyond their immediate team. It’s thinking about your future at that organization and who the people are that you need to form relationships with.”

Once you understand the lay of the land, communicate your achievements without being boastful. Focus on the actual work accomplished — think, KPIs and other metrics — and how it benefits the organization. If that seems uncomfortable, consider this perspective from Frank: “They hired you to do a particular job in order to have a particular impact. If you aren’t calling out that you’re being effective in that role, they might not know.”

“It gave him tremendous exposure to me, and I got to see him lead in a way I never would have if he hadn't volunteered for that special project. It impacted his rapport with me. I got a chance to get to know him much better.”
Camille Fetter, CEO of the executive search firm Talentfoot.

Use whatever format your team uses to track metrics such as a dashboard or even the weekly Slack updates.

“I was just talking about this to my team,” Frank said. “We’re the marketing organization, and it’s our job to communicate, but we think so much about our external communication that it’s easy to forget internal communication. We need to make sure we’re communicating the impact of our work back to the organization.”

When highlighting those achievements, make sure to focus on how you made the company money. That comes in many forms including through more efficient operations. It could be through growing sales, increasing margins and saving on resources. 

For those that want to rise through the ranks at their company, Fetter encourages people to do the job they want to be promoted to. That way managers can see that you’re capable — and invaluable. 

“We just spent two years showing our bosses we could be productive while working remotely,” said Jeanniey Walden, chief innovation and marketing officer at the on-demand pay company DailyPay. “Now that we’re on the edge of a recession, present the results of your work in a way that demonstrates how you’re helping the company improve their performance.”