How to Work from Home (Part- 2): Telecommuting

Dilbert © Scott Adams, Inc./Dist. by UFS, Inc.

Dilbert © Scott Adams, Inc./Dist. by UFS, Inc.

Many big employers in India are now offering policies and programme to assist their women employees through crucial milestones of life. Companies are making an effort to retain women in their workforce by providing them the option of working from home. Employers are recognising the need of a work environment that supports a good work life balance and in many cases it actually increases employee availability, productivity and retention.

Technology companies took the lead in India by introducing mobility suite of IT applications that allow access to office IT infrastructure from anywhere. This enabled work from home and flex time. Companies now offer various flexible working models to cater to different segments of employees who have diverse needs and priorities.

Work from home programs are blessing for women who have to take care of personal and social responsibilities along with their job. Such flexible work options help women to continue with their careers at critical life stages like child birth or elderly care.

Many employers generally are reluctant to hire a new employee who wants to work from home from day one. A better and feasible arrangement is to work from office for initial months to familiarise with the company’s work culture and later switch to working from home. It’s an understanding between employer and employee if she would prefer a temporary work from home arrangement or would like to work permanently from home.

Work from home does not hinder ones’ career growth directly, but employees working from home have to work harder than their in-office peers to increase their visibility, showcase their contributions and to network. It takes lots of discipline and hard work.

In India, a common dilemma for employees is that working from home affects their career prospects and lower the chances of a promotion.  It is partially true however here are few tips to make remote working work for you:

-Self Discipline: Do not take work-from-home for granted. With liberty comes responsibility- you have flexibility on your time but deadlines should be always adhered to.

-Time Management: The success of telecommuting depends on effective time management. You need to decide your working hours and communicate it to your colleagues too. Mixing up work and home responsibilities will only increase your stress.

-Be in Touch: Do not isolate yourself. Stay in touch with colleagues at work so that you are aware of what is happening out there, attend office parties and get-togethers. If possible, plan to be in office for sometime (ideally no less than once a week).

-Effective Communication: When you are not physically present in a meeting, effective communication becomes quiet critical to help you in making your presence felt.

In the end, flexibility must lead to increased productivity to make remote working successful.

How to Work from Home (Part-1): Freelancing

Work from Home

Work from home broadly defines two scenarios: Either a person working for a company opts to work from home (telecommute) or a person works from home independently as a freelancer (self employment). Focus for this post is freelancing.

Freelancing is a good choice for those who prefer versatility and flexibility. Certain skill sets like designing, writing, translation, accounting, photography, social media, apps development are more apt for freelancing. Many freelancing sites in India are not legitimate thus searching and identifying the right freelance projects is not easy. There are plenty of good global websites that can help you find suitable projects worldwide as a freelancer for a small fee.

Below are key pointers to help you establish as a freelancer:

-Showcase your skills: Build an online portfolio, a blog or a facebook page as per your expertise. References from previous clients are a big plus.

-Research your client: Distinguish between legitimate work from home jobs and stay away from scams.

-Build Your Network: As a freelancer you will be working alone most of the times. Try to network with people in your domain by attending seminars, conferences etc.

-Use Social Media: Promote your offerings on social media like LinkedIn and Facebook.

-Know your Worth: Depending upon your experience level and expertise decide the amount you will be charging for your services.

Though it might be difficult to find well-paying clients at the beginning but start small and build your credibility gradually as a freelancer. Freelancers need to decide the optimum price of their services. Your earnings depend upon your expertise and the amount of work you undertake. For freelancers it is also important to keep themselves up-skilled in their domains. So they should consider re-investing a part of their income in their career growth through various trainings, courses and conferences.

Check Your Cover Letter- 5 Essentials

cover letter

“Dear Hiring Manager, I am applying for xyz job that I came across on abc website” 95% of cover letters have a similar beginning and unfortunately a similar end-landing in a big pile of HR database.

Cover letters are like movie trailers. They are teasers for our big story (our career). Teaser has to be engaging and interesting to drive the audience (hiring managers) to watch the full movie (your resume and interviewing You).  A well written cover letter has power to distinguish you and help you stand out in those thousands of resumes.

Have a strong opening line- preferably your elevator pitch.  Stay away from the standard opening lines. Write something that shows you are eligible and enthusiastic.

 “I’m a graphics design professional with 12 years of experience and I’d love to bring my expertise and passion to your growing creative team.” 

Keep it small- Your cover letter should ideally be one or two paragraphs and never more than a page. Remember, this letter needs to be customised for each role you are applying for and must highlight the skills you possess related to that role.

Do your Homework: Research the company and the job opening you are applying for. Read the news related to that company/industry/domain. Find the common grounds and then mention in your cover letter how you can contribute.

Use Keywords: Keywords are vital part of a cover letter and should be used judiciously to enhance the impact of your offerings. Analyze the job opening and look for keywords that define you best.

 Analyzed, quantified, planned, programmed, designed, created, built, mentored, taught, trained etc are some talent defining keywords.

To show your achievements result oriented keywords like increased, reduced, redesigned, upgraded, initiated, implemented, reformulated, generated, and produced can be used.

In addition to these highlight your recognitions by keywords such as- honored, awarded, promoted, selected, lauded for, received a bonus for, recognized, chosen and credited.

Reflect your Personality: It is important to give that human touch to your cover letter. Do not write it as if you are a robot with certain set of specifications. Reflect your enthusiasm- write why you would like to work for this particular company, why you are a right person for this role.

And once again the most important task is to customize your cover letter for each and every job role you are applying for.

Spruce up your cover letter and see how this single page document can lead you to wonderful opportunities.

Build Your Confident Persona

Confident Woman

Most Indian Women are taught to be subservient, not confident. We are told that we need to listen, not speak up. I see many professional Indian women with hunched shoulders, not making eye contact in a meeting, not standing tall and not speaking up. Also women don’t ask for raises or negotiate for their job package. We need to get our voices heard to get what we deserve and to get ahead.

Being in a male dominated software industry, I started working on a persona that will get me heard despite my petite stature and soft voice. Here are five steps that will help Indian women build that confident and successful professional persona:

Think positive to start with, never ever think or say negative things about you or about what you are doing. We all have things which we can improve on, but focus on things you are really good at and that you enjoy doing. It doesn’t mean that you stop evolving as a person and start ignoring things to work on. Don’t use sentences like – ‘Sorry to take up your time’. Instead say, ‘Thank you for your time’. Don’t say – ‘I am terrible at….’. Instead say, ‘I am working to be better at….’. There are always two sides to a coin, try to focus on the positive side. A positive attitude goes a long way in bringing out a confident persona.

Our great scripture, the Bhagwat Gita, states, “Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani.” It means, do your task without being attached to the result. This detachment gives you additional confidence when you are doing your best but you don’t sound desperate for results. It helps you to be in the moment, to be present. When you are in your confident career woman persona – don’t think of the past, don’t worry about what will come next but be your best in the present moment. Give your hundred percent to it.

Develop body awareness – Stand tall, make sure that your shoulders are not hunched. Here are some simple yoga postures to bring out the confidence in you:

1. Standing on your heels with arms stretched above you, make yourself as tall as possible. Come back down after you have taken 2 deep breaths. Repeat twice.

2. Plant right foot firmly on the floor, raise the left foot and put it somewhere on your right leg (except the knee). Balance. Slowly outstretch your arms above you in a V shape. Stand tall and grounded like a tree but be ready to sway when needed so you don’t fall. Take a couple of deep breaths and focus. Repeat on the other side.

Practice, Practice, Practice – Practice your communication skills in front of the mirror or with trusted friends/ family members. Develop your professional voice. Bring out the voice that is confident and firm. Try not to ramble, but communicate in a way that is clear, concise and confident. Practice your listening skills so you don’t cut off others but come across as attentive. Find toastmasters in your area. They can really help with practicing your verbal skills.

Absorb it in: For a few minutes every day, find a quiet place, close your eyes and imagine the most confident you – either speaking at a public forum or asking for a raise or giving the toughest interview – whatever your situation might be. Say to yourself – ‘I am confident’, ‘I am successful’ or choose another affirmation that works for you. These positive affirmations will help in building a confident and professional persona that is necessary in today’s world.

Just one last thing, find a professional attire that works for you. It could be a saree, pant suit, jacket or anything that speaks to you about the confident professional woman you are about to become. Anytime you want that added confidence, put on your professional attire, like a superwoman ready to take on the world and bring out your confident career woman persona.

Go ahead – make that presentation to your CEO, present your idea to a VC or ask for a raise. Whatever your goal maybe, get closer to it!


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