With more than two years of experience under our collective belt, remote and hybrid work have become key elements of the job search, for candidates at every level. And there are very good reasons to prioritize remote/hybrid work as part of a healthy work-life balance, including child care, elder care, and other family responsibilities.
Employers are ever more willing to look holistically at employees’ personal and professional needs, but as candidates put more focus on remote and hybrid work, we would caution that there are nuances and considerations they should not overlook.
Narrow workplace preferences in your job search can narrow your job and career opportunities.
In the previous piece in this series, which focused on employers, our colleagues pointed out that limiting workplace flexibility can dramatically narrow the candidate pool for organizations looking to hire. The same can be said for job candidates: if you’re only willing to consider remote work, you may be screening yourself out of potentially terrific career opportunities.
The reverse is also true: the more flexible you are, the more opportunities you will find.
It also needs to be pointed out that while many believe this is a “candidate’s market,” we’d amend that to say that we are currently in a “strong candidate’s market.” While all organizations are challenged to find talent, it’s the strongest candidates – those with long and proven track records of success – who may have the most leverage for negotiating workplace flexibility.
Mission alignment matters in your job search, not just for the employer, but for you, too.
One of our first questions to every candidate is: Why do you want this specific position, at this specific organization? If an employer senses that a candidate is primarily focused on the remote aspect of the role, they may be less interested in that candidate.
We see it often, when candidates apply for a slew of remote positions that have nothing in common except that they are remote. As the core of a job-seeking strategy, that approach may not work in the candidate’s favor. Employers prioritize mission-alignment and want to hear about that from candidates.
And while finding just any remote job may satisfy you in the short term, it won’t sustain and inspire you for years or decades, or when you encounter tough moments in your career, as we all do from time to time. If there is nothing keeping you in that role except the ability to work from home, you may be more likely to “job hop,” which does not look attractive on a resume.
It’s an important skill set: the emotional intelligence required to work directly with people in a complex environment.
Remote work may make it challenging to acquire the skills and personal growth needed over the long term.
No doubt, remote work offers many benefits in terms of work-life balance, but there may also be costs, especially for those who are early in their careers. Chief among them would be opportunities for personal and professional growth. Building relationships with your colleagues and managers is always easier in-person than remotely. It’s an important skill set: the emotional intelligence required to work directly with people in a complex environment.
Early in our careers, we were able to watch senior leaders manage complex relationships – see it happen in real time – and not just learn, but also practice this critical skill in the workplace. Right now, we are seeing that people in remote roles may not be acquiring important conflict resolution skills. It’s a key reason why, if we were mentoring our younger selves, we would recommend carefully considering all of the consequences of a fully remote role.
Career advancement may be affected by lack of visibility, as well as a limited ability to demonstrate leadership and other qualitative strengths.
It’s an open question, but a real possibility, that a lack of visibility may hamper one’s chances for advancement. And it’s an irony that the most successful, most senior candidates may have the most leverage in negotiating a hybrid work model, but at the same time face the highest demands for in-person relationship-building and organizational leadership.
A quantitative metrics-based environment can only measure so much in terms of performance – like numbers of prospects, numbers of solicitations, size of pipeline, etc. But what about the years of deft negotiating required to bring in a multi-million dollar transformational gift? What about being a great motivator and communicator? Or managing organizational risk and long-term strategic thinking?
It’s not a reason to get excited if your entire contribution to an organization can be measured in an Excel spreadsheet. And the more remote work one does, the harder it may be to measure and manage the qualitative aspects of the job, which are more and more important the more one advances in one’s career.
…help employers understand not just what you need to make your best contribution, but what that contribution actually is: what do you bring to the table that’s in their best interest?
Candidates need to consider an employer’s limitations and be a flexible partner.
It’s not uncommon for employers to face internal limitations on how much workplace flexibility they can offer. Sometimes it’s an equity issue with current staff – i.e., offering special treatment for a new employee would force them to rewrite policies for existing staff.
Other times employers may be legitimately tied to a region or work location. For example, a large national organization with multiple offices, or a large institution with a national donor base like a university, may have a lot of workplace flexibility. But a smaller organization with a highly localized donor-base (e.g., museums, orchestras) may have limited flexibility because they need to keep staff local, or at the very least easily accessible to the office and their local constituencies.
In other words, if you are on board with the mission, try to be flexible and understand the limitations facing the organization. It may open the door to opportunities that are extremely satisfying personally and professionally even if they don’t match your workplace ideal.
Remote and hybrid work are not a panacea – they are the start of a conversation.
There is so much long-term satisfaction to be had by a career in philanthropy that we are often disheartened to see candidates looking solely at remote work as the answer to all their dreams – applying for jobs they’re not really interested in, at institutions where they’re not focused on the mission.
We would suggest that, yes it’s important to be clear about what you want and the expectations that you have from a given role. But also understand that a career in philanthropy brings certain obligations and commitments. It’s a two-way conversation.
The best way to make the most of your potential, and your desire to work in this sector, is to help employers understand not just what you need to make your best contribution, but what that contribution actually is: what do you bring to the table that’s in their best interest?
You’re going to be much more successful in your career – and your pursuit of a successful workplace balance – if you can find a way to focus on your contribution, rather than just on your own desire to work remotely.
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Curious to learn more? Read the next article in our series here.
Anne Johnson, VP and Senior Consultant, Aspen Leadership Group
Michael Vann, VP for Search Management, Aspen Leadership Group
Coming on July 20…a candidate Q&A moderated by Anne Johnson: recently placed philanthropy leaders discuss their first-hand experience with how a Workplace “rethink” is impacting job candidates and their search process.
Coming in August… a wrap-up of the Workplace module with practical action items and behavior changes aimed at helping job seekers and employers make the most of today’s Great Rethink of the Workplace.
NEW! Also coming in August: a new arts initiative… We’ll be bringing you sector-specific leader Q&As focused on the arts, beginning with orchestras, symphonies, and other performing arts. We’ll talk with philanthropy leaders about whether changes in the nature of “Workplace” have brought particular challenges and/or benefits to these kinds of organizations.
Beginning in September… We open a new module in the Great Rethink series with an exploration of the concept of Inclusion. In particular we’ll be digging into ideas like “equal versus equitable,” “cultural fit,” and “diversity versus inclusion.” This module will run from September through December and offer a wealth of content for both employers and job seekers.
Coming this Winter… a new Great Rethink module on “Value”.