Nicole Godek began working remotely long before anyone ever uttered “Zoom” or worried about Wi-fi capability for a home office. But working remotely was the obvious choice for the graphic designer when she returned to Gove County in Northwest Kansas more than 13 years ago.
“I had gone to Kansas State University, then lived in Omaha, California, and then Colorado,” Godek explained. “When my Dad passed away, my Mom still lived out on the farm and my sister was in Grainfield, too. It was getting really expensive to be in Colorado. With being a graphic designer, I knew I could work remotely.”
Once back in her hometown, Godek continued to advance her career through freelance work while enjoying the benefits of living and raising her three children in a small community. But when the COVID pandemic forced many of her regular clients to slash their marketing budgets, her workload stalled. It was about that time someone suggested Godek reach out to Rural & Remote.
She had clients with addresses ranging from Florida and Texas to California, so Godek wasn’t looking to learn the basic facets of working online when she signed up for the Master of Remote Work Certificate in early 2020. Instead, needed a new focus.
“It wasn’t until I dove into the classes and everything that I realized I was ready to move out of being a freelance graphic designer with my own customers to working at a company as an employee,” she explains. “I never thought I would go back and work for a corporation again. But in one of the classes, they specifically ask you to do some soul searching and when I did that, I discovered that working remotely for a company was what I wanted to do.”
The learning didn’t stop with that epiphany. Godek’s remote work had been rich in day-to-day experiences, but light on the technical side.
“I had learned a ton of stuff, but I didn’t realize the different ways you could communicate and the different platforms you could use, and what’s useful about those different methods,” she said. “I got so much more comfortable on Zoom – I had never had to do that before. But, truly, it’s so important with remote work because talking face to face is the best way to make a connection.”
With the courses complete, it was time to secure that longed-for employment. And, that’s where Rural & Remote stepped in with invaluable information once again. Gretchin Staples, Northwest Kansas Regional Coordinator, not only guided Godek with tips to strengthen her professional profile, she offered to serve as a sounding board and interview coach.
“She was always there for me when I had questions and when I had an interview coming up with a company, she offered to role play,” Godek said, noting the feedback didn’t end at interview questions. “I was in a session when they were talking about LinkedIn and how to get noticed on there. It was truly eye-opening … their advice is one of the reasons I got hired on with the company that employs me today.”
That advice? Post work examples on your LinkedIn profile and be able to explain your creative process and problem solving capabilities. For Godek, the act of processing her portfolio resulted in an additional edge.
“Having to post my work, explain it, talk about it by putting it out there gave me a boost of confidence,” she said. “I could sit back and truly embrace the fact that this company was looking for an art director – and here was my work. I could see it for myself and say to myself, ‘I have that experience, and I can be that art director they’re looking for.’ I am an artist, so I don’t communicate verbally as well as I do visually. Having to write out about my work process helped me understand all that I had done, and made me work through and understand my creative process leading up to those interviews so I was ready to communicate that more effectively.”
Two weeks after that work was posted, Godek landed an interview. The response was flattering, however, she kept perspective, knowing it could take additional time to find just the right fit. So, she wasn’t surprised that she was still looking nearly four months later.
“Patience is a good virtue to have,” she said, noting her past experience with remote work had taught her to ‘hang in there’ during job searches. “But, I will say that this time it was completely different. Before, at some of the other sites, I went through it completely on my own and it was horrible. There was not one point of interest. With Rural & Remote, I was able to get the membership to the Flex Jobs site that really helped to narrow the search and I did the work. You have to set a schedule and get out there and actively search. You can’t just wait for it to come to you.”
The work, patience, and perseverance more than paid off when Godek was asked to join Enterprise Management Associates, a company based in Boulder, Colorado, with whom she’d previously freelanced overflow work.
Now, she’s a full-time art director, living in her hometown, still working remote. And, she’s still happy.
“Balance is huge to me,” she said. “With two kids in high school and one in junior high, I need a flexible schedule and that’s exactly what I can have. It means so much to be here and be with my family. We live a simpler life here because it’s rural.”