How to find a remote job
From someone who just got one :)
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Not long ago, I reached out for input on what to write about next - huge thanks to everyone who responded! One of the most common request was “how do you find remote jobs?”. And, as I am, right in this very moment, signing a job offer to start my next remote gig (yay!), I thought it was a very fitting topic. So, let’s dive into this!
But, not before a disclaimer :)
My advice will be based on our personal experiences, and the truth is that the (American) tech sector is what we know well. This is also where I believe the largest opportunity for remote work is at. There might be other industries well suited for remote work, and some of my advice will be applicable to any form of job-hunting, but if you are not in tech please take my advice with a grain of salt. I have included some relevant info about our careers path at the end of this post in case you are curious.
As we all know, the pandemic changed the world in many ways, and one of those ways was showing companies that fully remote work is not only possible, but can actually be advantageous for a company. This fact dramatically increased the amount of companies willing to let its employees work remotely, and although this also increased the amount of people in search for those jobs, I think there is still plenty of supply to go around. For people like us, who don’t just want a remote job but for whom it’s an absolute requirement, I believe it’s been a positive shift.
Ever since I got my first fully remote job back in 2017, I knew the office life wasn’t for me. I am certain that as long as I can avoid it, I will never go back to one.
That said, I think it’s important to keep in mind that fully remote work is not for everyone. I know plenty of people who like going into the office and although they like the flexibility of hybrid work, they are uninterested in working fully remotely. Honestly, I get it, working remotely is not all rosy. It can sometimes be isolating, frustrating, and uncomfortable, but this is not a post about the positives and negatives of working remotely - though let me know if that sounds interesting to you! - it’s a post about how to find a remote gig! So, I will assume you are already on board with the idea and are just looking for a little push.
Without further ado, here is my advice when trying to find a fully remote job (in the tech sector):
Don’t overlook your current job, even if it’s fully on-site
I started working remotely several years before the pandemic, sort of by chance. I really wanted to work at a specific company but they were based on a different city. Fortunately, they were remote-friendly, so it just happened. It didn’t take me long to realize the potential of it, and I told Alan he better find a remote job too.
At that point he was working at Google in a sort of hybrid scenario, he went into the office a few times a week and worked from home the rest of the time. So, he started to push the envelop a bit, asking for more and more time away from the office, and he got it! The truth is that once you earn the trust of a company and specifically of your manager, you are in a solid position to request more WFH time and even to eventually go fully remote.
As a manager, I can tell you that retaining top performers and making sure my team was at its best was my most important job. If that meant letting employees go fully remote, then that is what it meant. Once I realized the full potential of remote work, not only for employees - duh, flexibility - but also for me as a recruiting manager - the pool is much larger when you cast a wider net - I became a huge proponent of fully remote work, and eventually built a team of remote employees, and also advocated for those on hybrid arrangements to go remote if that is what they desired.
My point with all of this is to not overlook the potential for remote work in your current position, regardless of what your work set up is at the moment or even what the “official policies” of your company are. No one wants to loose good employees, so don’t be afraid to be assertive about your wants and needs.
Take full advantage of your network!
I don’t mean you need to know how to be an expert networker. Although that is great, it’s not a must (we are not particularly good at it). What I mean is that utilizing your network when trying to find a job is the surest way to get noticed. Companies get many resumes for any position they post so it’s actually very hard to get noticed if you don’t have someone on the inside. As someone who spent a lot of time hiring people I can tell you that if someone I know recommends someone else then their resume goes to the top of the pile. Besides, if you know someone working in the company you are interested in, then you can also know whether the company is truly remote friendly, and all the other important details you wouldn’t get without having someone on the inside.
In my recent job search, I interviewed formally with seven companies. Four of these seven were for positions for which I was recommended by employees (people I knew) within those companies. Ultimately, I accepted an offer from a company that contacted me directly through an internal referral.
So, in practice, how do you take advantage of your network? Well, you reach out! The point is simply to connect with people that are either working for - or have worked for - companies you think would be a good fit for you, or are in an industry/role you want to learn more about. I use LinkedIn as my starting point, and I share more about this below.
Think of LinkedIn as your connector
One of the first things I did in my job search was to literally go through my entire contact list in LinkedIn and scan the companies people were working for. Anything that sounded interesting I’d look up, which you can do directly on LinkedIn to see if you have any other connections working there, learn more about the company, and even see if they have any job openings. (Note that you can’t just depend on that Linked feature as not all companies post jobs on the site, so always be sure to also check their Careers site).
If I found an open role that I liked within one of those companies, then I’d reach out to my contact and ask whether they would be willing to recommend me for it. (Don’t apply before doing this as depending on the company they might have pretty specific process for recommendations/internal referrals).
But, even if I didn’t see an open role, I’d still reach out to my contact(s) if I was very interested in the company! Managers are always on the lookout for good talent, even if they don’t have an open position just yet. If you come recommended and they know they need the skillset you can offer - now or in the future - then it can work out. I did this even with people I wasn’t directly connected to, through LinkedIn Premium InMail credits. More on this below.
Consider signing up for LinkedIn Premium
I took advantage of their “first month free” offer and, honestly, that was enough time. There are plenty of bells and whistles to it and I encourage you to research and play with it, but personally, I only found one feature particularly useful: InMail credits. Basically, it gives you the ability to message anyone in the network, regardless of if you are connected to them or not.
If I found a company or role I was very interested in but didn’t have any personal connections to, I would try to find whoever was in charge of the department I would like to work in (i.e. Customer Success) and write them. I did this a bunch and got several reply backs, and at least one (which didn’t even have an open role) led to a live chat with the department head and then to be fast tracked in the interview process when they finally opened a position.
Finding the “right” person is not complicated. Just go to the company page on LinkedIn (as an example this is the one for Microsoft), click on “People” and then search for the terms that would be associated with the department you are interested in, for example I would search for “customer” “client” “CSM” etc.
But, even if you don’t find the “right” person, go ahead and still send that message to whoever is most applicable, things can work out regardless! For the company I mentioned above that eventually led to an interview, I initially wrote to the “wrong” person but he still connected me to the the “right” one and we took it from there! Having initiative is seen and appreciated.
Get clear on your desired sub-industries and then focus your research on remote-friendly companies
Figure out the specific sub-industries you're aiming for. In my case, I had my eyes set on health-tech and anything linked to data annotation for machine learning. Plus, I made sure the companies I looked at had a social impact side to their work as this was really important to me. These are broad specifications, but deciding on them allowed me to really deep dive on specific industries, determine the major players, and decide which companies I would be interested in based on their impact and how remote-friendly they were.
Determining whether a company is remote friendly can be as easy as taking a look at their open positions. For example, if a company notes a specific city as the location for an open role then that is a bad sign. I am not saying you should completely dismiss that position, specially if you are really passionate about the company or role, but you should approach it more cautiously and be super upfront about your remote needs (which I expand on in a point below).
Fortunately, more and more companies are simply noting “Remote” in their role location, so my advice would be to focus on those.
LinkedIn has a “Jobs” section and in it you can set filters, including for “Location”, which you should of course set to “Remote”. You can then use all the other filters too based on what you are looking for and then set an Email alert so you get the newest positions straight to your inbox.
Use targeted remote job boards, and - you guessed it - LinkedIn
Sure, there are plenty of targeted job boards that you should absolutely use, but in my opinion there is truly no better tool than LinkedIn, period. Simply put, there is no website as ubiquitous as LinkedIn. Everyone and every company is on it and this can provide you with invaluable insights. As I mention above, I’d recommend spending time on their “Jobs” section and setting alerts!
But, still, also check out remote job boards and others that align with your sub-industry focus! Here are some focused on remote work: 4dayaweek , Remote.co, We Work Remotely, Power to Fly, Just Remote.
Highlight your remote experience in your resume
I'm not suggesting you simply mention that you've worked remotely before - thanks to the pandemic, most of us have that experience now, right? ;) What I'm getting at is showcasing how you thrived while working remotely or even because of it. Highlight specific successes you achieved while working fully remote. If you led teams from a distance, definitely highlight that. Also, emphasize if you recruited and got new team members on board while being fully remote, or if you were onboarded remotely yourself. These are the things that make a difference!
Be honest and transparent about your remote needs from the get-go
Once you have an interview, be upfront about your remote needs! Don’t wait until you are hired to have the conversation. Ideally, the job is already remote so you don’t have to make a case for that, but still, you should be clear about what your definition of remote is.
For example, where are you planning to work from? is it many different locations? inside or outside of the USA? would it be in a completely different timezone? You should ask yourself these questions and have clear answers before you - potentially - bring some specific and targeted questions to your potential employer. For instance, if you plan to work from outside the country but are unclear about whether the company would be open to you doing that, then it would be wise to clarify.
That said, I say “potentially bring these questions up” because you don’t have to bring up anything. As long as it’s clear the position is fully remote, the truth is that some things are better negotiated once you are on the inside. This is something you have to determine based on the context.
Also, be aware that a remote position is not the same as working for a remote-first company. This is important! It’s not the same to work for a non-remote company as one of the few remote employees than to work for a company in which everyone (or mostly everyone) is remote. In the former it might be somewhat harder to get your job done, and you might sometimes feel isolated and out of the loop. In the later, everyone is on the same boat, so people tend to be a lot better and more effective at sharing info and collaborating online. I wouldn’t discount working for a non-remote company as a remote employee, but if you have a choice then always go for the remote-first company (or at least remote-first team).
My last piece of advice might be the hardest to follow. Being patient, specially when you want/need to find a job, is not easy. The process to find any job, let alone a remote one, can be frustrating and painful. Timing is important and if you are searching at a weird time - like I was, close to the end of year - then things might be slower than usual and it’s easy to get impatient and think you better start applying to things that do’t really excite you / are not remote, or worse yet, consider accepting the first offer you get no matter the details. Don’t do it! Stay focused, present, and just know that it can take some time to find the right thing. I wrote this when I was in the middle of that funk, in case it’s useful.
Welp, there you have it. The above is basically what I did over the two months I was actively trying to find a job. It’s all quite simple and straightforward, but harder to execute when you just want to get on with it. Thanks for reading and best of luck on your search! If you have any questions, just reach out :)
About our career paths
Both Alan and I studied Computer Science and have more than a decade of job experience.
I started working 100% remotely in March of 2017. At that point Alan was working in a very flexible hybrid role, and eventually landed his first fully remote gig in 2019.
Alan has worked as a Data Scientist in the tech industry for most of his career, he is highly technical and has worked as an individual contributor as well as a manager.
I have worked in several roles and industries, but primarily in the tech industry (plus a few years in the Global Health space) and in non-technical roles (mainly in Project Management and Customer Success). The majority of my career has been in client facing positions in social-impact companies (either non-profits or socially conscious for-profits). Half of my career has been as a manager.
Where are we now?
We are on the road again! If you recall, we ended our 15-month sabbatical in mid-September when we landed in Tulum. There, we spent about two months at home. It was really wonderful to slow down, reconnect with things and people we love, and create new routines in a place we care deeply for. But the time came to move on again so we took a ferry to Cozumel and spent the last 10 days there, visiting good friends and taking it easy. We went snorkeling, ate good food, got back to living out of an airbnb. Honestly, it was lovely. And just last night we got to MEXICO CITY!! and I am so so excited to be here. I really love this city. What is even better is that I won’t start my new gig until Jan 15th (benefits of finding work at the end of the year ;)), so I got three weeks to explore this magical city before we move on again. Stay tuned!! Oh and send recommendations if you have them <3