Can I develop my career while working remotely?

While 2020 may just have been about professional survival, now’s the time to turn your attention to your professional development – preparing to take the next step on the ladder in a radically different working world. To help, we speak to entrepreneur and LinkedIn influencer, Somi Arian

Is it possible to develop your career while working remotely?
Yes, absolutely. Actually, now is probably the best time for people to start realising how the future of work is changing. The Covid-19 pandemic seems to be a practice run for what is really going to take place. For years, the world has been heading towards a more virtual environment, and it is probable that a few years from now digital lives will take over our physical lives. For me, it really isn’t a question of whether it is possible or not – it’s the only way to go forward.

Why is it important to do so?
It’s important to get comfortable working online because it’s the way in which the world is heading. Back in 2017, when I released my documentary, The Millennial Disruption, I talked about this question and many people didn’t see it as something that would actually happen. Yet here we are, three years later, adapting to this new normal. Nowadays, everything is online, and online shopping, marketing, meetings, etc. are no longer a complementary part of the workplace, but the main one. It is simple to see now, that the companies that didn’t take this need for building an online presence and infrastructure seriously, are mostly out of business or struggling to keep up.

What are the challenges of doing it?
The biggest challenge, looking at it from a learning perspective, is being able to motivate yourself. Oftentimes, people need the group environment, the competition, or the structure, in order to motivate themselves and have a certain level of self-discipline.

Another challenge is also being able to pace yourself properly. At university or the office, the pace is given to you, while working and learning remotely will be organised by ourselves. This is beneficial for a lot of people because they can work at times when they know they will be more productive, but it can also be a disadvantage for those who lack the self-discipline to do so. Gaining this self-awareness to know your personality and what kind of learner you are can be quite challenging for many.

And what are the opportunities?
From a learning perspective, online is actually so much more efficient because all the possible tools are available just a click away. It’s easier for people to adapt their schedule to the way of learning (or working) that’s best for them, while removing the commute to work automatically gives people at least an hour or two each day that can be used for anything else, such as studying or honing their skills on a particular subject.

Also, many employers are now looking for people who are able to do things, rather than people who have a specific university degree, and this means that there is less pressure on having to get a higher education because people can literally learn about anything they want from the internet.

What first steps can someone take?
You have to get to know yourself to ensure you’re aware of your personality traits, your self-discipline and what motivates you. This will allow you to organise your process in the way that suits you best so you can take full advantage.

What’s the most important thing to bear in mind?
The most important thing anyone can do in the current times is to work on these four uniquely human skills: mindfulness; contextual creativity; emotional intelligence; critical thinking. These skills will help you get better opportunities when combined with their set of technical skills.

In the upcoming future, with machine learning and AI just around the corner, people need to be able to supply something that machines still are not able to, and that is the human element.

Are there any myths you can debunk?
In today’s work environment, a lot of people have this notion that they should be learning a specific set of technical skills, like coding, for example. The problem is, they often get lost along the way because they lack the context for what they are doing. They focus too much on the technical aspects and forget about the reason why they need to learn this. It is important to keep the bigger picture in mind, and this is where contextual creativity becomes important.

What’s your essential piece of advice for anyone looking to take the next step in their career in today’s strange working world?
Make sure you gain the flexibility to go both wide and narrow, deep and broad. To be able to see the big picture but also not lose sight of the little things. In this world of digitalisation and AI, we need to set ourselves apart and give machine learning the context it lacks. Artificial Intelligence is narrow, it can focus on one thing and excel at it, but it needs us, humans, to connect the dots.

Somi Arian is a tech philosopher, international speaker, entrepreneur, award-winning filmmaker and LinkedIn Top Voice among UK influencers. Her work focuses on the impact of technology on society at large, the future of work and digital marketing.

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