After spending close to 15 years working in remote or virtual workspaces, and on finishing my undergrad degree (also earned remotely, but more on that later), I wanted to share some of my experiences, struggles, and advice I have to offer from this time.
I’ll start with a bit about how I got here. Professionally speaking, of course.
My former career focus was business administration. I had, over the course of 13-odd years, worked in a variety of Executive Assistant, Office Manager, and Personal Assistant roles, as well as spending a number of years as a high-level temp admin. I was usually contracted to write EOIs or tender responses, or as relief to senior administrative positions. Because I was skilled, professional and flexible, I was in high demand, and this enabled me to choose only the roles that interested me. I chose a diverse array of workplaces and roles, long and short term assignments, which kept it interesting and rapidly built my skillset and professional reputation.
I remember this one morning, a few days before xmas, I was called with an offer for emergency relief work. Usually after a longer contract expired (eg compiling a tender response which was usually about a month’s work) I’d go ‘on call’ for emergency executive support for a few weeks for variety. I’d get up and dress for a work day so I’d be ready to go in case of a call for a job that could be almost anything, and I liked the adventure of it. One year I spent a week before xmas answering the phones for Coles loss prevention, and as the phone rang no more than twice a day, I spent the time reading the store detective files, and how stupid people got caught shoplifting. But his year I wanted that week off so I’d registered as unavailable, and was still in my pyjamas at 7.45am when my agent called. They needed someone at my level and she had negotiated a rate that she hoped would get me in the car. It did. The only other problem was that they needed someone who was experienced at PowerPoint to do an emergency presentation. This story took place in the early 90s, and PowerPoint was around, but the kind of roles I chose weren’t usually ones where it was an essential skill. Consequently, this was one of the few areas I was lacking in.
So I got ready in record time and drove into the city, thinking the whole way about how I could get around the fact that I would be fumbling my way through a presentation. I arrived and this cranky dude with a heavy French accent complained at how late I was (it was 8.45!), gave me printed information about the presentation, said he’d be out of the office until the following afternoon and would like it finished by then.
Lucky. Anyway he seemed to like the presentation and I earned enough in those two days to take an extra week off after xmas as well. Christ I miss the 90s. Those jobs were in plentiful supply.
My final role in that career field was also a contract job, which came with paid maternity leave on the birth of my child but no contract renewal after that. I had been building digital skills to extend my existing set of administrative ones during this time, including html/css and front-end graphic design principles. I used the same tactic that I had in my previous career – look around at the industry (this time online businesses), see what they suck at the most, and develop any skills required to fill those gaps. These led me into a few different areas, such as selling ebay templates and managing the content and design of small online stores. I’ve also been working on a BA (Internet Communications), due for completion this summer. I’ve focused on professional writing & marketing in my electives, and the core units offer a complex understanding of the interrelationship between people and technology, which is a massive advantage to marketing today, as well as to understanding the multitude of issues surrounding working remotely and supervising others who do.
Right now, my primary industry is content marketing consultancy. I migrated towards that area as it is one where businesses struggle to adapt the most, as front-end design skills become more plentiful for the amateur (side note: please hire professionals to build your website. Look at their portfolios and references. It’s really important that your major form of presentation to your customers is professional). As social media platforms become more and more clogged with content, so more and more businesses are failing to attract the right attention for their market.
This type of work is made for me, as I’m adverse to structure and routine, as well as being responsive and flexible in my attitude towards work. I believe it’s something that more people should have adopted by now, and it has caused me to look at the bigger picture and at why the idea is failing to adapt to the modern Australian workplace. Particularly in a country such as ours, more flexible working arrangements would solve a number of our issues, such as traffic congestion, town planning, employment outside of cities, as well as potential environmental benefits, even if it’s just less vehicle pollution giving us a bit more fresh air. Remote working can save businesses money, but the potential for it to instead be costly if mismanaged, is a very real problem. I plan to address these areas in upcoming posts, and if anyone happens to read them and would like specific advice, please let me know.