Amanda PoundsBy: Anne Maxwell
Amanda Pounds didn’t intend to wind up back home.
Following high school, she began her journey at Kansas State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business and finance, with a plan to see what doors might open in places other than her hometown of Beloit in North Central Kansas. It’s not that she didn’t love the community where she was born and raised. Like many twentysomethings, Pounds just didn’t want to ignore other options.
“I felt if I came back right after graduation, I would get ‘stuck’ here,” she recalls. “I thought instead I would go out, work somewhere else for a while, get some experience, and eventually move back.”
But shortly after graduation, she was approached about applying for an opening at a local bank in Beloit. She landed that job straight out of college and remained at the local financial institution. She worked hard and learned the business from the ground up, moving from the bookkeeping and teller areas to the trust department and finally compliance officer. She enjoys the work, but with staff changes due to retirement, her work load would increase.
“As time went on, I really began to feel burned out,” she said. “A couple of years ago, I really started to feel like this wasn’t for me anymore.”
The feeling as though she might be “stuck” without a lot of options in a rural community also came to mind. After seeing a few posts on social media about “Rural & Remote.” Her interest was piqued and she wondered if this could be a new path.
“Although I didn’t know if I wanted to continue long term in my job, I knew I didn’t want to move away,” she said of the small community where she has deep roots. “Over the years, my five siblings have all relocated back here, my parents are here, and this is home for me and my husband. I didn’t want to
leave, but I thought my options were slim. I saw the ‘want more information?’ link on the Rural & Remote, went on and I enrolled.”
She initially began the Master of Remote Work Certificate Course in August of 2019, but had to put it on hold as things were too busy at her bank job. She says she had thought the course was self-paced and wasn’t aware of the deadlines for study and coursework.
“I didn’t think that was clearly communicated up front, so I reached out and talked to them about how I hadn’t realized there were such hard deadlines and I was too busy with work to meet those,” she said, noting she appreciated how Gretchin Staples, Northwest Kansas Regional Coordinator, responded to her candid feedback. “I was able to bow out and then start again when my schedule allowed.”
Pounds finished the 30-day course of modules and assignments and felt supported throughout the process.
“In addition to the training, there’s a workshop each week via Zoom with all the students, other instructors and Gretchin would be on there, too,” she said. “It’s a great experience because you come out of it really knowing and understanding the skills you will need if you are going to make it as a remote worker.”
With training certificate in hand, Pounds didn’t immediately begin seeking remote work.
“I really liked the course, but deep down, I knew how much I liked working with people and I kind of wondered, ‘Would that be what I wanted to do?’”
Then came March and the COVID pandemic. In response to the health crisis, the bank split its staff, with groups trading off working remotely and in the building. That experience was enough for Pounds to embrace a future with a home office.
“It let me test the waters and I knew then that this is what I wanted to do,” she said.
With that, Pounds launched her quest for remote work with intention. Each graduate of the remote training course receives a free one-year membership to Flex Jobs – a site and database with remote openings. Pounds didn’t merely look at the membership as a token, she used it. She took advantage of the opportunity to have a resume coach to polish her CV, and also took a cover letter workshop.
“It was a great tool for me,” she says of the Flex Jobs account. “That membership gave me so many tools and resources. Had Rural & Remote not done that for me, I may not have subscribed on my own.”
One of the best resources was insight offered through the coach from Flex Jobs. Pounds said just as the training required dedication, the job search required diligence.
“She gave me a lot of great information upfront,” Pounds recalls. “Basically, your expectations when searching for a remote position has to be that it sometimes means submitting 15 to 20 applications before you’re even asked to interview. And, many times when you apply, you may not even hear
Without that helpful insight, Pounds might have been discouraged or even deterred from her dream of working remotely. But she remained steadfast that she would find the right fit.
“I knew going into it that I wasn’t going to hear anything back right away and I knew up front this could be a long process,” she said. “Had I not known that, I might have said, ‘Forget this,’ and just quit. Honestly, it hasn’t been hard to be patient because I went into it with that mindset.”
Having Staples check in with her and guiding her along her search path proved to be incredibly valuable.
“She was willing to try as much as she could to feed me opportunities to look into. I never felt like just another number. She works one-on-one with the people who take their training through Rural & Remote,” Pounds said.
That individual focus proved true when Pounds still hadn’t found the right fit after a few months of diligently searching.
“I was applying, submitting resumes, cover letters and having positive interviews, but just wasn’t getting anywhere,” Pounds recalls. I reached out to Gretchin to see what I might not be doing right.”
Staples scheduled a conference call with herself, Pounds, and Rural & Remote Director, Kade Wilcox, to see how they could successfully guide her through the job search process. They mentioned looking at a recent employer partnership they had formed with a Georgia-based company called Gravy that serves as a payment recovery financial service for businesses. Pounds actually had placed the remote employer on her radar months earlier.
“They knew they were hiring and encouraged me to reach out again,” Pounds said. “I had an initial phone call, a series of interviews, and landed a job.”
Since beginning her work as a Revenue Recovery Specialist at the end of June, Pounds is thankful she held out for just the right remote gig and grateful for the ongoing support from Rural & Remote.
“Prior to this whole experience, I always would see ads that said, ‘Work from Home!’ and think it was a scam,” she said. “Now I know there are legitimate, good jobs out there. I absolutely love working from home. I have no regrets of chasing my dream to work remotely.”