A reader emailed me, asking for advice on finding a job with a dispersed team. While I can’t claim to be an expert on the subject, I’m happy to share what I know.
Start a Telework Movement at Your Current Job
While I’ve never tried to do this myself, some people are successful lobbying for a telework policy at their current place of a employment. This will only become more common as new government regulations and the financial realities of collocation force more and more organizations to consider the remote option.
Be Visibly Awesome
For many employers, hiring a remote worker can seem like a risky venture. Employers need assurance that you are worth the risk. That’s why I recommend that you start your job search at home, by picking a niche that you love and doing whatever it takes to stand out in that field. I believe this is what Seth Godin calls being a “linchpin“.
For me, as a software developer coming from a government contracting background, this meant becoming active in my local software interest groups; cultivating skill in an emerging technology (Ruby/Rails development); getting involved in Open Source projects; and blogging about everything I learned. Since all of these activities are also highly rewarding in their own right, it was a win/win.
Avoid the Mainstream
Large corporations tend to be set in their ways, and suspicious of change. If you want to find a company that is open to remote work, your best bet is to focus on small businesses and startups. A scrappy little startup that works with emerging technology is a lot more likely to be willing to take talent anywhere they can find it – especially if hiring remote means controlling costs. Check job listings at sites like Startuply that focus on small, innovative companies.
Consider Going Freelance
While freelance work is potentially less stable than a full-time job, clients of freelancers are much more likely to accept – or even expect – remote work than are direct employers. There is a wealth of information online about getting started as a freelancer.
Define yourself as a remote worker
Be up-front about the fact that you intend to work remotely, and emphasize that you understand the challenges involved. Don’t give potential employers the idea that they’ll be able to convince you to move on-site eventually – such an employer is all too likely to accept your remote status only grudgingly. Don’t treat telework as a special perk in return for which you are willing to make concessions. Instead, emphasize the fact that as a workshifter, you are able to work from a space in which you are maximally effective.
Network, network, network
Finally, this can’t be emphasized enough: build your network any way you can. Get on Twitter and LinkedIn. Attend conferences and local interest groups. Join a local coworking group, if there is one near you. All of my jobs have come from personal connections rather than job listings. Your social network is perhaps your most important asset when it comes to landing a dream job on a wide team.
The world of distributed teams can seem ephemeral and hard to break into when you are just getting started. But the truth is there are a large and growing set of organizations who are willing and eager to hire a motivated remote worker.
What about you? What advice do you have for someone looking to land their first job on a dispersed team?