I started working remotely for the first time in November of 2016. Since then, I’ve worked in Encinitas, California; my hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Florianopolis, Brazil and currently, Medellin, Colombia.
Welcome to the life of a remote worker, where you get to choose your own hours and work from wherever your heart desires, whether that’s on a beach in the Philippines, a rooftop in Morocco, or the comfort of your very own home.
Surely you are already aware of the many advantages that come with remote life, or you wouldn’t be reading this. You might be wondering: That’s all nice and dandy, but how can I find that? How can I actually land my dream remote job?
Well, before I started working remotely, I was just like you. Let me give you a little context.
I was first infected with the travel bug at the age of 16, but it wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I really spent a significant amount of time abroad. After living abroad, I discovered that for me, the real reward of travel comes from spending a significant period of time in one place and really getting to know the country, the customs, the language and the people. I longed to find a job that I loved that would also afford me location independence, so I would be able to do that sort of thing. Unfortunately the whole 9-to-5-office life, with two weeks of vacation a year, doesn’t really allow that.
It took many job applications, emails, and a whole lot of perseverance, but I ended up finding not only a job that grants me that location independence, but a job that I love doing (content marketing) and with a team that I love working with.
While more and more companies are allowing their workforce to work remotely, the competition for remote positions is fierce. Here are some of the things that I learned in my job hunt, so that you too can hopefully land that dream remote job of yours—whatever (and wherever) it may be.
1. Familiarize Yourself with Remote Platforms
Remote workers rely on a wide range of online platforms for their success. So before even starting your search, you should get acquainted with (at least some of) these platforms. Chat applications like Slack and Google Hangouts are essentials for our team to stay in touch with one another. Asana, Teamwork, Basecamp and Trello are a few project management platforms that many remote teams rely on (we use Basecamp and Teamwork). Create an account and start to play around with these applications. That way, when the hiring manager asks if you are familiar with these platforms, you can at least respond with a “yes.” And if you tell him or her that you have no professional experience with the platforms, but have experimented with them on your own, they will be all the more impressed.
2. Improve Your Skillset
Whether you are a skilled developer, a content marketer or a freelance blogger, there are always ways that you can improve yourself. Take some courses on Udemy or Lynda. Improve upon and expand your current skillset. So if you are a developer, continue building those programming skills of yours, and work on building your skills in other areas. Perhaps you could take a design course to learn the basics of design. After all, since developers tend to work with designers on a daily basis, it might help to have some background knowledge of design.
3. Create an Online Portfolio
These days, if you don’t exist online, you might as well not exist at all. Having some sort of online identity is essential to finding a job. No work experience yet? Even if you have just graduated from college, you could create a portfolio illustrating your academic work and accomplishments with an “About Me” page dedicated to discussing your career ambitions and skillset.
A portfolio is a way of branding yourself. It’s a way to show off to the world how great you are—because let’s face it, all of that greatness is not going to fit on just one piece of paper (your resume).
4. Know Where to Look
When I was job-hunting, I either stuck to exclusively remote-based job sites or filtered my search to include only remote jobs.
AngelList is a website where start-up companies post jobs and look for funding. You can filter by everything from size of company to compensation to job type to location (including remote).
There are many other websites out there devoted just to remote jobs. Check out RemoteOK, Hubstaff Talent, Remotive, FlexJobs and We Work Remotely to name a few. Bitwage is another site that posts remote jobs, with all listings aggregated from Twitter and Reddit.
And don’t forget about social media. LinkedIn allows you to sort by remote positions. There are also many Facebook groups out there that cater to digital nomads, where many people post about job openings. I happened to get really lucky and find my current job with SUCCESS agency this way. Check out the “Digital Nomads Around the World” Facebook group, which currently has over 41,000 members.
5. Stand Out from the Crowd
When you’re competing with hundreds, potentially thousands, of candidates, how can you make sure that you get noticed? Here’s a little trick: put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter or the person receiving the email. What would make you interested? What would stop you in your tracks and grab your attention? Would it be some generic, run-of-the-mill cover letter and email saying that you are interested in the position? Or would it be an email that goes above and beyond to explain why you are an exceptional candidate and what exactly you can bring to the team? I think you’ll probably agree with me that the latter is a more effective approach.
If you are applying for a more creative role, you could demonstrate your value by showing how creative and resourceful you are. For instance, AdWeek gives an example of one person who sent a targeted Facebook ad that read, “You work at Deutsch. Can you introduce me to Pete?” with a photo of Pete in the ad. This sort of thing was simple and easy to do, but clever—and proved that the candidate knew his way around social media advertising.
In another instance, a man named Sandar Saar created a mock Kickstarter page called HireSander. At the time, KickStarter was a newer platform, so he impressed hiring teams by showing that he knew how to use the platform—and in a more innovative way. He ended up getting 15 interview requests in the first day alone.
Bottom line: Hiring managers are looking for someone who can really bring value to the team. Sending a box of donuts or flowers, while nice (and a bit over-the-top and brownnosed, if you ask me), doesn’t prove how you can bring any value.
If you really want to prove your value, why not perform an audit of some aspect of the company that you’re applying to work for? If you’re a designer, you could write up some recommendations on what you think isn’t working well and how you would improve things if you were hired. If you are a content marketer, you could take some time to review the content (emails, social media accounts, blogs and website copy, for instance) and come up with some suggestions on what you would do to change things if you were hired. Write out a six-week plan. Doing this sort of thing without even being asked will show that you are hard-working, passionate and proactive—all desirable qualities in a remote worker.
6. Show Your Personality
Hiring managers not only look for people who can get the job done (and get it done well); they look for people who will fit in well with their team. They look for people with personality. After all, who wants to work with a robot?
So whether it’s in your cover letters and emails or in the interview itself…don’t be afraid to let your amazing personality shine through. That doesn’t mean you have to tell a joke, if that’s not in your nature. But be friendly. Be yourself. Try to find a way that you can relate to the hiring manager on a more human level. As my father always told me, the key is to make a friend.
7. Be Modest
To many hiring managers, there is no greater turn-off than arrogance. Yes, you want to be confident and show off your abilities. But be humble—and brag about the right things. If you created a mobile application that finds local restaurants nearby, then you have bragging rights to mention that. If you increased social media following by 200% in six months, then that is also something you should mention with pride. If you went to an elite Ivy League university, I wouldn’t use that fact to attest to your abilities. For example, someone who sends an email with the subject line “Princeton-educated Developer” and then proceeds to mention multiple times in the body of the email that he or she went to Princeton…sounds like an arrogant snob. Not exactly qualities that hiring managers tend to look for in a team member.
8. Don’t Give Up
Job-hunting can be extremely discouraging. You send out email after email and get only rejections or dead silence. You go on interview after interview and can’t seem to make it past the first or second round. I’ve been there. Most of us have. Rejection simply comes with the territory when applying to jobs.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you take my advice and if you’re truly persistent, you will find that dream remote job of yours.
And remember: all it takes is one. One hiring team that recognizes how great you are. One job offer.
And from there…you’ve got your one-way ticket to freedom.