Out of Sight and Top of Mind: Tactics to Make Working Remotely actually WORK
Today we’re sitting down with Beth Gupta, a long standing fixture on our permanent team and now a pioneer of our expansion into the Atlanta market! Beth has been with Clarity since 2009 and has been a senior leader here for much of that time. As a veteran of Team Clarity, Beth began working with us out of our New York City HQ. After several years in New York she had an opportunity to return to her southern roots and work as a remote employee. While we knew we’d miss Beth’s physical presence in the office every say, we felt confident we could make this new ー and unprecedentedーremote arrangement work out. We also knew that if anyone was capable of setting a precedent and making sure her team still felt connected without her physically being near, it was Beth! Are you considering making a move to a remote role, expanding your remote work options, or currently working remotely? Learn more from Beth on her transition, how she made it work, and how she continues to make it work while taking a leading role on expanding our business into the Atlanta market. We hope Beth’s story, recommendations and tactics can help you find the perfect balance in your role!
Communications Team: We know you’ve been in the recruiting world since day one of your career which is so impressive! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the field.
I stumbled into recruiting, initially, like many of us do! I graduated college with a psychology degree and wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to “do with my life.” I had so many possible areas of work that interested me, but I also knew that, as a new grad, there may be options out there I hadn’t even thought about. So I looked up recruiting firms in my area of Birmingham, found one that seemed to fit me, and made an appointment to meet a recruiter who could hopefully expose me to opportunities with their clients. After I met a few of their recruiters, they let me know they had a position within their own office, and I liked the people in the firm so much that it was worth a shot. I started as a receptionist, moved into a support role, and about 6 months in, I became a recruiter. I was with them for about 4 years until I made an international move, and it was a wonderful start in the industry.
Since the opportunity sort of fell in my lap, I’m so grateful that I got the chance to explore the recruiting world, and I often look back and ponder “What made this fit so well for me right away?”. I think it comes down to two main aspects: One is that agency recruiting hands you the reins and gives you the chance to make your desk whatever you want it to be. I truly get to be my own driver of success, and that is a motivating and powerful spot to be in. The second aspect is that it takes advantage of a natural desire to understand how people think and what makes people act. I find people’s behavior so interesting overall, and this job is most successful when you can really connect with a candidate, care about what makes him/her tick, and use those tools to find the best possible fit for that particular person. I love that I’m putting my psychology degree to use in a way I had never considered I would!
Communications Team: Sounds like you were a natural! How did you end up at Clarity?
The story of how I found Clarity is quite similar to how I found my first recruiting agency! Apparently, I’m one for repeat behavior 😉 After I left my first company, I was abroad for a 2-year period with my husband, and we picked NYC as the spot to land upon returning stateside. Given I had been outside of the traditional professional landscape for a couple of years, and was so new to this city, I turned to the same resource that worked so well for me the first time: a recruiting agency. I researched firms in the area, and Clarity’s website was full of life. I went in with the same original mission: have these recruiters assess my capabilities and skills, and hope they’ll be able to introduce me to great opportunities with their clients! The story continues to repeat itself when they, too, had the ability to bring on someone for their internal team. When I met everyone during my interviews, it was easy to see that their website was right: This team was full of life, smart, fun, and good at what they did. I started off temping with them first to make sure it was a good fit on both sides. It was, and I haven’t looked back.
Communications Team: How did you end up developing into management?
When I entered Clarity, I joined the permanent placement team, and that team around me was SO generous with their time and knowledge, which gave me a very solid foundation to begin building a path here. When other people continued joining our growing team (we were smaller then!), it was always such a joy to hand down that same generosity and be part of mentoring new members. I loved answering their questions and helping them navigate new situations that come up; it was an incredibly fun part of the job. When Moira (then Permanent Placement Director) took on a new role as the Head of the NY office/Managing Partner, I snatched up the chance to step into her old spot overseeing the daily functions of the permanent placement team. There’s something so gratifying about seeing the light bulb go off over someone’s head when something “clicks,” celebrating with them when they close their first deal, and watching them work hard from a place of CARE for their candidates and clients. You can feel their energy and it’s so cool to see someone’s training wheels naturally come off, so to speak. I had been mentoring more junior employees on my own volition for so long, officially taking this new management opportunity on was a natural progression for me.
Communications Team: When you decided to move, how did your role change?
I was with Clarity for about 4 years in NYC before I began mulling a return to the South. It was the right thing for my family, but I loved working at Clarity and I loved my team, so I sat down with my boss to discuss options. Luckily, she was of a “the globe is shrinking, and we have technology” mindset and was all about trying out a remote-work option with me. The wild card was that I’d be the first employee to move away but stay with the firm, so this was uncharted territory since recruiting can be a bit of a team sport at times. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little (okay, a lot) nervous, but I also didn’t want to look back and wonder “what if?”. It just didn’t feel like it was the right time to leave Clarity, despite it being the right time to leave NYC.
Fortunately, my boss turned out to be right: It was actually no big deal! I’d established really strong relationships with my clients and candidates, and I was happily surprised at how those relationships were able to continue without missing a beat. It’s been 5 years now that I’ve been working remotely, and it absolutely does not feel like it. I’m happy I listened to the pull of family to return to the South and grateful for my boss and team making it feasible for me to stay on my path at Clarity. It was one of those “get comfortable being uncomfortable; see what happens” moments, and it was absolutely worth the “discomfort.” And now, we’re using that same motto to branch into the ATL market and start building out a small team here! It’s another chance to stretch and grow and see what happens, and just like last time, I’m excited and grateful for it.
Communications Team: What are your top tips for remote workers, and more specifically, remote managers?
Oh goodness, I have so much to say about this, haha! Here are some of my most valued practices that have really helped:
Take advantage of technology: Technology was, and still is, my saving grace: we have an ATS (Bullhorn) that updates in real time, we constantly use Slack for running internal conversations, and we do Hangouts for team meetings. Google docs/sheets are where we keep each other updated on what’s going on with the current openings, and again… the automatic real time update factor makes all the difference. There are so many tools that let us feel like we’re “together” and collaborate even when we’re in different states and, sometimes, different countries!
Harness Hyper-Responsiveness: I strive to be incredibly responsive. My fear has always been that if I don’t respond to something immediately, it’s easy for someone to say “Oh, that’s because she’s working remotely. She’s probably just off wasting time or doing something besides work.” Because of that fear, I’m HYPER aware of managing my team’s expectations correctly: If I’m going to be stepping away to grab a snack, I tell them. If I’m going to yoga during my lunch break, I block it off on my calendar. If I’m turning off slack notifications while I’m on a string of calls, I let them know. If you’re out of sight, you’ve got to make sure the people that depend on you know they are NOT “out of mind” to you. I want them to always feel like and know that I’m still “right here,” even if I’m not there physically.
Don’t Lose your Voice: Just because you’re out of sight, doesn’t mean you have to be out of mind. Another big thing to realize is that you have to be a lot more vocal than you would be otherwise. If everyone else is sitting in the same small space, they have the advantage of taking in information just by hearing what’s happening on phone calls or in internal conversations. If you’re not in that same small space, you have to ask a TON of questions and constantly check up on things. I’m sure there are days that I’ve sent out 150 messages on Slack just to make sure I’m always on top of what’s happening, which can probably get annoying to my coworkers. 😉 But it’s necessary, and I’m certain they would agree that the good outweighs the bad on this.
The Devil is in the Details: From a remote management perspective, it’s all about making sure you have ALL of the details before you provide guidance. The person coming to you has to be willing to walk you through the entire scenario and the conversations that have gone on, and the manager has to be willing to take the time to hear it all the way out. Since you aren’t privy to the natural conversations that may go on about a situation along the way, both sides have to be willing to start at the beginning and go through the play-by-play. It’s always worth it.
Optimize Your Outside Perspective: I’ve actually found it sometimes EASIER to offer management advice from an outside perspective; if you’re not actively watching the situation play out in live-feed form, your emotions don’t become part of the thought process. This allows you to receive and offer advice from a truly “unbiased” perspective that’s hard to achieve when you’re in the middle of the action.Some things are easier about working remotely (I get WAY more done since I’m not distracted by the fun chatter that goes on in the office… even though I do miss it!), and some things are a challenge since I’m required to go the extra mile to stay on top of key conversations I’m not automatically privy to, but what I’ve found out is that with the right team, mentors, and self-discipline/drive, it’s 100% feasible. I know that I would not have been able to find success in this arrangement without the support of my Team, and the worth ethic I had developed earlier in my career prior to this transition.
Communications Team: Thank you so much for your advice and recommendations, Beth! We look forward to hearing more news from Clarity Atlanta in the coming months, and seeing you up in New York soon!