Have you been searching for a remote job with no success?
Searching for remote work is a new territory for many of us, and traditional job search tactics don't always apply to the virtual setting. You have to know how (and where) to look and how to stand out as a stellar remote candidate.
Read on to find out 5 tips to optimize your remote job search so you can land the role of your dreams in 2022!
1. Remote proof your resume. First things first: make sure your resume is remote-friendly. Adding remote keywords can let recruiters and hiring managers know that you're comfortable working on a distributed team. If you have no prior experience working remotely, you can highlight skills that show you're capable of that undertaking. Check out some examples below!
Common high-demand soft skills on remote job descriptions include:
- Critical thinking
- Emotional intelligence
- Great written and oral communication
You'll also want to make sure you include productivity tools that are commonly used by remote teams. Some common examples are:
- Google Hangouts
2. Polish your professional brand. Because remote workers don't have the benefit of making a first impression in person, it's crucial that your online presence speak for itself. Make sure your personal social media accounts are clean and your professional accounts on sites like LinkedIn are updated and polished. Click here for more information on how to make your LinkedIn profile stand out. You may also want to consider having a professional website or digital portfolio where you can showcase examples of your work.
3. Network, network, network. You've probably already heard this one. Networking is THE MOST important factor in job hunting. When searching for work with global, remote companies, it's not always feasible to go to in-person job fairs, mixers, or other networking events. Our advice is to use the power of the internet to your advantage. Join online networking events like PowerToFly's virtual summit or try attending a virtual job fair (we also host one of those every month!). Click here to learn how to stand out at a virtual event.
4. Apply to the right jobs. If you've been applying to remote jobs, but haven't heard anything back, it's possible that you're not applying to the right jobs. Consider making a list of the types of roles you'd like to apply for and the experience that qualifies you for those roles. When you see a job description, make sure your qualifications match up with at least 50% of the requirements. Applying to roles that are more aligned with your experience and desired career path will inevitably be more successful than applying to every job you see. (P.S. PowerToFly currently has over 5,000 remote roles available — go check them out!)
5. Hone your interview skills. Now that you know how to make your application stand out, it's time to talk about interview skills. Generally speaking, remote companies have a multi-step interview process. You'll likely meet with a recruiter before meeting with the hiring manager, and perhaps you'll have more chats with other stakeholders in the company. Don't be overwhelmed! The best way to do well in an interview is to do your research!
Go on the company's website to understand what they do and their mission and values. You can also check out other sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Glassdoor to learn more about the company and their application process. Once you've done your homework, think of some questions that they could potentially ask you. Practice answering them with concrete examples and try to align your responses with the company's values.
Here are some example questions to practice and tips to help you.
Are you ready to kick off your remote job search? Check out PowerToFly's open remote roles!
Insight from Elastic's Stacey King Poling
Stacey King Poling knows that tornadoes don't really sneak up on you.
Growing up in Texas and living around the west, including in Oklahoma, Stacey knew what to look and listen for regarding the powerful storms: the National Weather Service warnings, the emergency sirens, the regular instructions on where to go and how to protect yourself. All that preparation and advanced warning helped Stacey and her family live through the 2013 El Reno tornado, the widest tornado ever recorded, and escape unscathed.
If only burnout had the same warning system.
With a 25-year career in engineering, Stacey, who is currently the Director of Engineering for Cloud Productivity at Elastic, has worked on her fair share of high-stress projects. She loves solving hard problems and always found herself energized by them, even when they required long hours of intense effort. A few years ago, though, she started to realize that her energy and motivation were dropping.
A perfect storm of tons of work, a lack of personal boundaries, and a neglectful boss had been brewing, but Stacey didn't see it coming. She burnt out right into a layoff, and only recovered when her next job forced her into an office with clear start and stop times. When COVID hit and sent everyone back to their home offices, where work and life balances blurred, she was back where she'd started.
We sat down with Stacey to hear more about her experience, including why she decided to join the Elastic team and what she's doing there to ensure her engineers don't have the same experience she did.
Finding Her Passion—and a Way in the Door
Stacey knew she wanted to work in technology the day she saw the movie Tron. "From that moment I was like, 'Oh, that is my life. I need to be part of this. I don't even know what it is, but it's awesome,'" she remembers.
She learned how to program in BASIC on her parents' Commodore 64, eventually winning an award for her first video game, which she coded when she was in the seventh grade. She went to school to become a mathematician, but didn't have the money to finish her degree, so she started taking database and tech support jobs as she could find them.
"Not a lot of people wanted to give me a shot," says Stacey. "I had to push really, really hard, above and beyond anyone else in my peer group, just to get in the door."
After a string of temp jobs, she applied for a contractor position at IBM. She thought the interview went terribly, but when she got home, she had a voicemail informing her she'd gotten the job.
"It opened a whole new world for me," says Stacey, who got down to work and says that she automated herself out of a job within the first few weeks. IBM was impressed, and had her move over to their web team, which is when she got the infrastructure bug.
"I thought I was going to go into software engineering, because that's where all the glamour is, but I liked the infrastructure side much better. It is so challenging and hard. There's so many areas you have to understand, all different types of systems work," she explains.
She loved her manager at IBM and loved the chance to learn about automation and to push technology forward. Until, eight years into her career there—with not a day of burnout in sight—she was laid off.
Entering the job market was different this time around. With IBM on her resume, she had an offer in two weeks, and began exploring different roles. She did a bit of software engineering and confirmed she didn't like it, then did some systems and integration engineering where she got very into application performance monitoring. "I found a memory leak that was eating up enormous amounts of resources, and it was like, 'Holy crap, I'm good at this.' It's kind of like being a detective, and I really liked it," says Stacey.
She basically created a dev ops function before that function existed, going so far as to speak at tech conferences about it and winning an industry award—her first since the certificate she'd earned for her seventh-grade video game—for her contributions.
As her career grew and advanced, so did her responsibilities. Though Stacey had long been committed to staying an individual contributor, she started to absorb management responsibilities, too, taking on one team, then another.
She kept herself sane by rationalizing that the people she was managing didn't report to her in Workday. "I didn't have official responsibility over them. And there's something about the officialness of that responsibility that changes the game," says Stacey.
But that was just a formality: she was still in charge of hiring, firing, performance reviews, and capacity management. She also had a full plate of technical lead responsibilities to juggle alongside it.
It was just a matter of time until she burned out trying to do it all.
Backing Her Way Into a Burnout Diagnosis
"I'm a super workaholic, right? I'm passionate about what I do. I love it. I could do this all day and all night and be super happy," says Stacey. "That's why I didn't know I was getting burned out."
She paints the picture: Stacey was working her regular hours, which started when she woke up and ended when she went to sleep, which was never for long. She hadn't taken vacation in years, even when her mother was dying. If she woke up during her few hours of sleep, she'd decide to log on and get a little more work done, to push her team a little further along.
"I started getting really uninspired. My motivation levels were dropping. I know everybody has their off days or even weeks, but I wasn't picking up; this was going on for weeks," she says. "I knew the work was important, I thought the work was interesting, but I couldn't get excited about it."
When there was a round of layoffs at that company and Stacey's next role required her to be in the office, everything changed. After years of working from home and having little to no division between her personal life and the demands of her work, having to be in the office—and to leave the office—at a certain time each day shrunk her work day to a manageable eight hours.
"It really gave me the rest that I needed. I got a good routine going, doing workouts and getting my weekends back and seeing friends and family. It really refreshed me, and I didn't realize how important that was until hindsight," says Stacey.
Then the pandemic hit.
Back in her home office, Stacey found herself slipping into old patterns. But this time it was even worse, because she had just taken on teams and projects distributed between the U.S. and Shenzhen, so she'd stay up until late at night to talk to her team in Shenzhen, then hand things off to her counterpart there so she could sleep for a few hours before logging back on and picking it up again.
"I was so tired. I started seeing other people dropping like flies, and I was like, 'There's got to be a connection to why I feel the way I do and why I don't wake up and get excited about my work anymore,'" she says. "It's amazing how those old habits will come right back if you don't protect your time."
Why Elastic—and Stacey's 2-Step Guide for Creating a Healthy Culture There
Even knowing she was prone to burnout, Stacey couldn't stop herself from sliding back into it. Looking back on it now, she attributes some of that to the toxic management culture she had there.
"The CIO was the type of person that said sleep was for the weak and really was extremely demanding," she explains. "It would have been nice to have somebody who would set the example for me. So I wouldn't feel guilty [for not being online], you know?"
She knew that no amount of personal boundaries could change a toxic culture, and that it was time to change companies. She'd used Elastic's products before and liked them, and after seeing they had a role open on LinkedIn, she started to investigate their culture.
Their Glassdoor reviews were "outstanding," says Stacey, and she loved how their recruiting process gives applicants a chance to schedule time to chat with someone of a similar background at Elastic. She ended up talking to a guy named Dan, who had also spent time at IBM.
"I was like, 'Give me the real juice, you know?' And he was like, 'Seriously, I'd tell you if it wasn't, but it's a great place,'" remembers Stacey.
The cherry on top? Elastic's tech-first leadership. Part of why she burned out at her old company was because they didn't recognize the weight of being a combined people manager and technical lead—they usually divided those responsibilities, and Stacey was the odd one out for having both.
"But Elastic is a technical company first. They have demands and expectations that all of their leadership are very technical," says Stacey. In other words? "You have to know your shit."
That was "game-changing" to Stacey, and she decided to apply. She'd gone from being curious about another role to being sure that the role at Elastic was the one for her. Luckily for her, they agreed.
Six months in, she's quite happy with the move. And she's quite committed to making sure she creates an environment where her engineers can succeed—without burning out.
It's a two-step process, explains Stacey. First, there's setting an example of stepping away and taking rest. That looks like visibly being offline herself, as a director.
"You have to be really, really careful because you can get bored of playing any game if that's all you do," says Stacey. "I sign out and step away so that people don't see me online."
It looks like encouraging people to take vacations and breathers when they need them.
"If they want to push through and do a twenty-four hour push, that's awesome. But I better not see them for two days, either," says Stacey.
And it looks like respecting people's time off and not bothering them during it.
"I have a lot of regrets about the time that I spent with my mom and didn't get to spend with my mom, and I never want anybody to go through that. There's no single thing at work, big picture, small picture, that will ever be more important than that," says Stacey.
The second thing is all about giving her team the credit for their own wins.
"I try to make sure that they have ownership of the work that they're doing, that they own the success of it, that they get acknowledgement, because a lot of times in engineering, people don't get the credit for it," she says.
The combination—a healthy approach to time off, and healthy appreciation of the effort put in during working hours—is allowing Stacey to create the kind of place she wishes she'd worked in before.
"I want every single person on my team to know that I know who they are, I know the work that they're doing, and I appreciate their work, because I want them to be proud of their work and love what they do."
Sara Garvey has always been inquisitive and reserved—so much so that her father once left an application form for MI5, the UK's domestic counterintelligence and security agency, on her desk as a joke.
"I called his bluff and got through three rounds of interviews before calling it off, as I couldn't see myself living in London!" shares Sara, who hails from Armagh in Northern Ireland and currently works in Belfast as a Security Researcher at Contrast Security, a leading provider of enterprise application security offerings.
Sara studied computing at university and did her thesis on intrusion detection systems. She loved the work and realized she'd found her passion. "Beyond the technical side, I love that security allows a creative, analytical side—having a hunch about something, and tugging at the thread to see where it leads," she says.
We sat down with Sara to talk about how she broke into the security industry, what her day-to-day looks like working with a distributed team at Contrast, and the career advice she has for other introverts for whom "just ask for what you want" isn't particularly useful.
Progressing despite gatekeeping
"One of the reasons tech, and more specifically, cybersecurity, is so difficult to get into is the initial hurdle you have to get your foot through the door with obtaining all the necessary certifications," explains Sara, who notes that such certifications are both timely and expensive. "Straight away, that eliminates a subset of people."
Sara went a different route. She got her first job in tech as a software engineer, where she learned development practices, how to code in different automation frameworks, and how to collaborate well. She continued to build her security-specific knowledge with online courses and Capture the Flag events (CTFs), which are cybersecurity competitions where teams collaborate together to solve complex security and coding problems.
She was feeling frustrated in her role and was browsing job postings when she saw a listing for a Security Researcher at Contrast. "It had everything I was looking for," she says. "The job spec was really, really appealing to me. I thought I was more than capable of doing it, there was no bias in the language, and it seemed like a really good opportunity."
Sara applied, and despite not having a long list of certifications, got the job. "Thankfully, Contrast took a chance on me and took me at face value with my practical experience," she says. A year and a half at Contrast has "solidified my reasoning that this is the career path I should be on," says Sara, and her team agrees; Contrast's Vice President of Engineering, who nominated her for this profile, called her "an exceptional security researcher" and highlighted that her involvement in Contrast's CTF team has been "instrumental in making us better."
She's seeing more companies follow Contrast's lead and reduce their emphasis on formal certifications, favoring practical experience instead, and she thinks that will be key for leveling the playing field for talent of all backgrounds. "Cybersecurity is notoriously understaffed, yet so hard to get into," she says. "A lot of people don't have the means or time to obtain those [certificates]. Not everyone wants to study for four years, or can."
For other women struggling with tech's (and cybersecurity's) gatekeeping, Sara offers some practical advice: "Have side projects on GitHub, continue online learning, write blogs, and be active in CTFs and Bug Bounties to make your CV stand out and to obtain practical experience to talk about in an interview."
Finding success on a distributed team
Sara was one of Contrast's first hires in their Belfast office, and she worked there with several coworkers until the coronavirus pandemic sent everyone home. "I don't mind working from home, actually," she says, smiling. "I always want to control the aircon."
Even when she was heading into an office, Sara was collaborating with teammates across time zones, as Contrast's team is distributed around the world. They make it work, says Sara, because the culture is built on flexibility and trust.
"The culture is more casual. I can't think of anyone, right up to the top level, that I couldn't approach here," she says. "One thing that I really love is that there's a lot of trust. My current manager is in Iowa, so I've met him twice weekly, but there's a lot of trust and independence in my work. There's no micromanaging at all." (There is some occasional teasing when Sara can't remember the names of American football teams—"especially around Superbowl time, which I don't get," she jokes—but that's not so bad.)
Introversion at work
One of the main reasons Sara likes Contrast's culture so much is that it allows her to be herself.
"A lot of career advice is just for one type of person, like 'opportunities will pass you by if you aren't loud about it,' but it's not one-size-fits-all," says Sara. "I think one of the most important things is to have a manager and teammates on your side who understand your personality type."
She's found that at Contrast. "I got pretty lucky with my manager, and the entire team, actually," she says. "My manager likes to sometimes force me out of my comfort zone for demos and speaking opportunities, which is good; he doesn't take it too far."
Having a supportive team is half the battle—but here's the other advice Sara would share with fellow introverts:
- Think of the long term. "Promotion or salary discussions have never been easy for me. But I have learned that if you don't state your intentions and fight for yourself, who else will? I approach it as a few minutes of uncomfortableness for long-term gain."
- Go into negotiating conversations with data. "Research your market value, present goals you've achieved. It can make an uncomfortable conversation much shorter and takes the emotional element out of it," says Sara. "There's no reason an introvert should be left out or not compensated enough just because that's their personality type."
- Set up a goal-based performance review system. Sara likes how Contrast does performance reviews, where she and her manager both rate her work against a set of previously-determined goals in regular one-on-ones. "There's really no awkward conversations or debate that way; compensation is earned from that track record."
- Take advantage of virtual meetings. "You can jump in a bit quicker, and it's easier to make your point," says Sara, who also recommends communicating with the meeting host prior to big meetings to make sure you'll have a chance to speak. Better yet, see if your company will consider assigning moderators for large virtual meetings, as Contrast does, to make sure people don't talk over each other and that everyone has a chance to be heard.
If you're interested in working with Sara or learning more about how Contrast Security's culture encourages employees to be themselves, check out their PowerToFly profile here.
Thriving in a Distributed Environment: Advice and Encouragement from Elastic’s Janica Lee and Sophie Chang
When we sit down to interview Janica Lee and Sophie Chang about their experience working at Elastic, the company behind the Elastic Stack — that's Elasticsearch, Kibana, Beats, and Logstash — we do so over Zoom.
That's par for the course for us; PowerToFly is a fully remote team, and we're used to conducting business over video-conferencing software. In the last few months, we've talked to plenty of our partners and clients who aren't usually fully remote but have adapted to be so during this pandemic, and enjoyed hearing about how it's going for them and offering our guidance where appropriate.
But when Elastic was created by its three founders, each from a different country, it was fully distributed from the start. So this time around, we're the ones taking notes as Janica and Sophie walk us through their roles at Elastic, what they look for when hiring for remote-first jobs, and what they've figured out about thriving on a team distributed around the world and across time zones.
Finding coworkers all around the world
Sophie is the team lead for Elastic's machine learning team. She's based in London and works with 25 engineers who are distributed around the world.
Janica is a solutions architect, serving as the technical lead in sales cycles. She's from Toronto and now works out of London, collaborating with team members and customers all over the world.
"The company grew up with a distributed engineering team," says Sophie. "We've never been anything but. When COVID happened, we all had homeworking setups and the software and tools we needed." She notes that their "head start" in successfully working remotely means that they really know what values matter when it comes to finding people who will do well at Elastic.
"We're looking to find people who have an awareness of what it's like to be working in a remote and distributed organization," says Sophie. That doesn't mean they have to have experience working remotely, she adds, but they do need to show that they're aware of the challenges and can adapt their working patterns to best fit.
Successfully onboarding, training, and collaborating within remote teams
Janica started her role as a solutions architect right as the pandemic hit. (She'd previously worked as a business analyst, a cloud sales specialist, and a sales development representative, all for Elastic.)
Even though she was used to collaborating with coworkers located in various countries and across various time zones, Janica still went into a physical office pre-COVID and was hoping to have the opportunity to turn to her coworkers to ask them questions about her new role or organize a quick in-person whiteboarding session to dive deep into complex technical concepts. "At first, it was quite scary for me," she explains. "I had to be super diligent with making sure I asked questions when I had them, and not avoiding that learning path just because there's a screen in front of me and I have to Slack someone or email someone or jump on a Zoom."
Janica and Sophie have the following tips to share on how to onboard and work remotely successfully, whether you're the new employee or the manager of the team they're joining:
- Set up a regular communication cadence. "It's easy to lose [connection] if you're not seeing each other face-to-face every day," says Janica. Her favorite hack is having recurring one-on-ones set up with various coworkers—including and especially ones who aren't on her current team—to feel connected and build relationships.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions—and create an environment where they're welcome. "You've got to get over that internal hurdle [to ask something you don't know,]" says Sophie. "The great thing about the culture at Elastic," adds Janica, "is that everybody is willing to help, whether I'm pinging Sophie to ask her a question about machine learning or reaching out to someone based in the U.S."
- Set and encourage boundaries. When Janica worked on a team with coworkers who were based eight hours behind her, she struggled to set boundaries. "I'd often find myself working quite late into the evenings," she says. Sophie's advice: "You don't have to stay awake just so that you can speak to somebody in a different time zone; you don't have to cancel that dinner engagement just so that you can join a meeting. It's okay to be strict with yourself in order to be kind to your personal life."
- Get comfortable with asynchronous communication. That means recording video meetings so people can watch them later, when they're awake; sending questions to groups rather than just one individual whenever possible; and budget in extra time for decisions where you need everyone's input, says Sophie.
- Take advantage of the flexibility. "If you have a gap in your schedule and want to go for a run in the afternoon, just go for a run. There's no expectations that you're working a nine to five with an hour for lunch in the middle," says Sophie.
Reaping the benefits of remote teams (and avoiding the pitfalls)
"One of the advantages of recruiting globally is that you just have this enormous diversity of people that have come from very different educational backgrounds and very different working cultures," notes Sophie. "That really helps a team be creative."
Those diverse ways of thinking have a chance to really pay off at Elastic, explains Sophie,. "There are traditional engineering environments where it's very top down. When you are distributed, it makes a lot of sense—and it's a lot more productive—to think bottom-up. You're trusting your engineers to deliver and to make decisions on the ground as they're solving their problems at the keyboard."
For that structure to work, there has to be a lot of trust on both sides. Sophie notes that she struggled to be okay giving up control when she joined Elastic after working in a more top-down culture. But then she realized losing control wasn't quite what was happening: rather, she was gaining leverage. "The reality of it is you're building a team with great skills that can deliver more through trust and through empowerment than they would through the bottleneck of a small leadership group defining what gets done next," Sophie says.
Working together to set and execute on priorities allows individual teams to get to know each other, but community at work ideally goes further than that. A common issue among remote teams, including the fully distributed team at Elastic, is finding a way to expand upon that community despite not seeing each other in real life.
"[Team members] need to feel a sense of inclusion and engagement at work and this is harder to achieve in a distributed organisation. It helps if you are proactive in building connections with people who are in your time zone for example, who aren't necessarily in your team," explains Sophie. "That's quite an important thing to do. You can't just be focused on your own coding problem. You do have to have some "positive" distractions to give you extra energy in your day!"
Janica tells us that Elastic has a wide variety of Slack groups, from bicycles to breadmaking and bad jokes to hummus ("I highly recommend it!" she adds). Sophie chimes in with the fact that at one point, Elastic had more Slack channels than they had employees. It's clear, watching the two of them interact on our group Zoom via their respective home offices, that Elastic's distributed culture is strong and will continue to develop new bonds and strategies as the company grows into a (possibly) more distributed future.
If you're interested in learning more about jobs at Elastic, check them out here.