4 Ways to Keep Your Professional Development on Track

Lindsay Scott Headshot

Distributed teams existed long before the coronavirus. But now that virtual is the new norm, advancing your career requires remote control, too. Everything from job interviews to professional conferences to day-to-day engagement has shifted to online. With meeting and messaging apps more essential than ever, project professionals must pivot to stand out amid uncertainty. Here are four ways to keep your career—and performance—on track:

  1. Customize check-ins—and the applause
    Your team’s remote work is a reflection of your success. Yet there’s a fine line between holding virtual team members accountable and smothering them with check-ins. Tailoring the ground rules for engagement and oversight will build trust and ensure performance doesn’t skip a beat.

    Take time to determine how each team member best engages remotely, whether it’s a full video call or quick messaging chats. The payoff: They will feel more inclined to share updates and empowered to keep tasks on schedule. But mix up the format for team ceremonies so everyone’s voice gets heard and all milestones are celebrated. Virtual formats are perfect for promoting the team’s accomplishments—and your own leadership—with a wider audience.
  2. Break the networking rules
    Virtual conferences are all but certain for the foreseeable future. While absorbing presentations at virtual conferences is easy, meeting other attendees isn’t. One networking hack: Open the chat functionality on the video conferencing software to join real-time conversations during presentations. Initially, it might feel awkward to chat with others during keynotes or breakout sessions, but that’s the beauty of a virtual event. It’s the commentary from others and additional resource sharing that brings an extra richness to the experience.

    If you like what you’re reading from others, hop onto conference messaging to let them know and make more formal introductions. Do the same for speakers: ask questions, reach out afterward, describe which moments resonated with you the most and thank them. It’s an easy way to warm up the introduction you’ll make later via email or LinkedIn.
  3. Ace the virtual interview—and wear pants
    Job hunts have become a full-on digital pursuit. Becoming comfortable on-camera is a must, so ask a friend or mentor to simulate video interviews with you. As you rehearse, have the other person evaluate your posture, volume and response time to ensure you look in-command when the real interviews take place.

    Make sure you and your surroundings look their best, too. When your home is the setting, an errant sock, rogue pet or untimely ring of a doorbell can distract. Find a quiet, clean space for your background. Then take it for a trial run. Preview how it looks on screen—and be sure to adjust the camera angle so the focus is squarely on you. And dress for success, just like an in-person interview.
  4. Free time? Close the learning gap
    Any time you’re saving by not commuting can be applied to building new skills and studying how they fit within The Project Economy. That certification you were always too busy to pursue? Earn it now by devoting an hour each day to exam prep. Need to refresh or fine-tune technical or people skills? There’s a flood of free webinars and podcasts that can help with everything from estimating to empathy.

    Plus, many organizations are paving the way. For instance, PMI launched an online test for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification so you can take it from the safety and convenience of home.

    Not sure where to start? Conduct a self-analysis: Review your past successes and failures to identify skills gaps and carefully assess what you have to offer and where you have room to grow. In a time of uncertainty, focusing on professional development now will pay off down the road.