Professional development strategies for remote workers

AboveBoard | Feb 28, 2024

Tips and best practices for remote career development

Working remotely can be a boon for work-life balance. But it also can be a drag on career growth.

For many workers, time spent in-person at the office is valuable for building connections, a sense of camaraderie, and mentoring relationships, to name a few. In fact, research shows that workers who come into the office spend as much as 35 to 40% more time in mentoring activities, including mentoring another person or being mentored themselves. Furthermore, the data also shows in-person workers also spend about 25% more time on "career development opportunities." 

What does this mean for remote workers? Growing your career through professional development is possible. It will just require much more intentionality and strategy. In this article, we'll outline some of the top ways to grow your career as a remote worker.

Professional development strategies for remote workers

Capitalize on connection opportunities

Virtual happy hours or book clubs may sound cliché, but the underlying point of these events is often deeper than literature or mixing and mingling: these virtual events create space for remote teams to connect. If you're able to hop in on a virtual happy hour or sit in on a book club discussion, it's likely you'll form connections that wouldn't have otherwise taken place over an email or conference call. More importantly for professional development as a remote worker, the more opportunities you have to connect with leadership, the better. Even logging into a regularly scheduled meeting a few minutes early to chat with colleagues can be an excellent connection point. 

Why does this matter? 42% of managers reported overlooking remote workers—"not for punitive or intentional reasons…but because they simply forgot about them." (Researchers call this proximity bias.) Make up for some of the missed water cooler chatter or in-person face time by making the most of virtual connection opportunities.

Make a direct connection

Getting more face time with your virtual team is an excellent way to stay connected with leaders and colleagues. Keep doing it. And if you want to make even more of an impression, ask your direct report about what the best way to stay connected/updated may be. Perhaps a monthly or biweekly check-in call would be beneficial for both parties. For example, these check-ins could be a great time for you to ask questions, learn, and even see about other tasks or responsibilities you could take on. It also allows your team lead or colleague an opportunity to provide feedback on what's working and what isn't. Regardless of what the connection looks like, and whether it happens at all, asking about it will show that you care about the work and the team. 

Pursue mentorship or sponsorship

Mentorship and sponsorship are two professional development avenues open for remote and in-person workers alike. But for remote team members, cultivating these types of relationships will take more intentionality. 

First, what's the difference between mentorship and sponsorship? Whereas mentors primarily function as guides along your career path, sponsors take professional development a step further by connecting you directly with opportunities at work for growth, learning, or more responsibility. Sponsors typically have positions of power or influence that allow them to unlock such opportunities. 

Samantha Saperstein, head of JPMorgan Chase's Women on the Move, recommends three general approaches to finding a sponsor: 

  • "Be the expert." Mastery and leadership in your field can not only help you stand out, it can also make potential sponsors more willing to work with you and for you.
  • "Be indispensable." One way to show knowledge and capability? Take the initiative to fill in gaps, steer projects, and assume more responsibility as needed. "When a sponsoree steps in to fill a void – especially without prompting – it shows attentiveness, drive, and ownership," according to Saperstein.
  • "Connect over shared interests." Don't discount the value of getting to know a colleague or manager outside of their job title. Shared interests—from bonding over simple things like sports, books, or music to connecting on shared life stages, career aspirations, etc.—can actually be a boon for both mentorship and sponsorship connections. These insights into your character, passions, and personality can help potential sponsors or mentors identify your "intrinsic qualities" and how "these strengths will make [you] successful in other roles."

Find professional development outside of the workplace

Demonstrate your initiative and investment in your career by seeking out in-person conferences, webinars, classes, and other means of professional growth. Share these opportunities with your leadership team to see how they can support you in these endeavors. Not only will this help you stay abreast of developments in your field, it also shows leaders and colleagues that you desire to keep learning and growing. Plus, you'll get to make invaluable connections within your specific industry or field.

Does remote work level the playing field? 

In some ways, remote work contributes to more equitable work environments, leveling the playing field by reducing certain biases. “Opportunities for bias that exist in-person — dress, weight, height — just aren’t as present in a remote environment," Diana Brown, Head of People at Eco, told Forbes. "With everyone working different hours in different cities—including our leadership team—work cliques become essentially nonexistent. And no one is receiving extra benefits from facetime or proximity bias. Most importantly: because we don’t know when people are working, we’re not rewarding effort or long hours. We’re rewarding output and outcomes.”

Remote work levels the playing field in some areas as noted above, and it also comes with its challenges too, particularly as it relates to professional development. Still, with a focus on strategy and a willingness to put yourself out there, it's possible to keep growing your career while enjoying the perks of flexible work.

Join AboveBoard's expansive community

At AboveBoard, our mission is to level the playing field so all executives, especially those historically excluded, have a fair chance at premier opportunities. Whether you're an in-person or remote worker, AboveBoard is here so you can be the driver of your own search processes. We offer unprecedented access for executives so they can discover and pursue new opportunities with ease, agency, and confidence. 

Transparent access to senior leadership and executive roles.

Join today for access to career opportunities and helpful resources.


AboveBoard is an executive hiring platform that connects qualified executives with board and full-time opportunities. We are expanding access for underrepresented groups of executives—particularly Black, Latinx, and women. To join visit

You Might Also Like