“I’m graduating soon, and want to work remotely; how do I get a remote job?”
I’ve gotten this question for a few years, and quite a bit recently, so I wanted to write a few posts about my thoughts on this, and how they’ve changed over time. Part 1 provides some background context. Part 2 discusses getting a job for new graduates (remote or not). This is Part 3, where I apply that to a remote context and provide some other resources.
It can be much harder to get a remote job than an in-person job, even for someone with work experience. There are more applicants, typically, and the company can pick the best applicants from anywhere, not only from your city.
One of the differences with remote work compared to in-person work is the level of supervision; remote work is perceived as lower-supervision. There is a perception that a company can’t watch a remote employee as closely as an in-person employee. (We can argue if that is true or not in this era of virtual communication and monitoring, but that’s not the topic of this post!)
Because of this perception of lower supervision, many companies are hesitant to hire ‘junior’ level roles; they prefer to pay more to hire someone with previous work experience and previous remote work experience. This is one of the factors that makes a full-time remote job difficult for new graduates.
One option for you, recent graduate, is to get a traditional in-person job for a few years, than attempt to get a remote job. After a few years of work, you will have a bigger network and more signals you can send to a potential employer.
Another option, depending on what kind of role you’re looking for, is freelancing for a few years online before applying for full-time remote work. This can work well – it’s mostly the path that I took – but it’s higher risk. An in-person job provides a stable salary and consistency; freelancing, especially your first few years, will likely provide less income. You will probably grow more as a freelancer – there are more mistakes to make and learn from!
If you have a place to live (e.g with your parents) and can afford a year or two of very low income, freelancing can work well. Volunteering with a visible project – one that will give you work that you can use to demonstrate your skills – can also be valuable.
When you’re getting ready to look for a remote job, I believe there are two main things you should do: a) research the industry and role you want to work in, and b) build your network with other remote workers.
Industry/role research is fairly straightforward. Use a starting point like this one, which has more information than you’ll be able to read through. Then, go find the specifics for your role/industry – find conferences where companies in that industry have presented and watch their presentations; find blogs by remote workers in your role/industry; follow companies in your industry, especially their ‘how we work’ posts.
To build your network, start with friends who are doing remote work. Talk with them about their work, see if their companies are hiring. After that, you ask them to introduce you to their remote work network. After that, try finding remote workers in person – maybe a coworking event in your city, or some kind of business club in your city.
After you’ve worked through your network, and your friends’ networks, and local events and business clubs, you may need to reach out to existing remote employees online and ask them for advice. The informational interview is the best way to do this, as people are much more likely to respond. As a former employee of Automattic, a very-publically-remote company, I get a few messages a year from people looking at Automattic as a workplace, and don’t respond to most of them. Most of these messages are too much effort – they’re asking very general questions about remote work, and haven’t done their research about me or Automattic; it looks like they’ve sent the same message to 100 people. If you’re going to do this, use the information interview approach, and be very specific and targeted; make sure the person you’re messaging knows you want to hear from them, specifically, not just any remote worker.
That’s it for now – I wish you success in your hunt for a remote job! They’re not easy to get, but can be definitely worth it if you can get one.
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