Virtual Networking Tips for Remote Professionals
Grow Your Network Without Going to the Office
When you work in an office or other on-site workplace, networking is simple. As you gather in the break room, attend meetings, or ride the elevator, you’re naturally forming connections and relationships with your coworkers.
Then, as people move on to different roles, you can keep in touch and reach out as you begin a job search or when you discover a former coworker has an in at a company where you’d like to work.
However, this seamless networking experience can become more challenging when you work remotely, which has now become even more common. According to a PwC survey, as of June 2020, 77% of office workers were working remotely at least one day a week. Overall, 72% responded that they would like to work away from the office at least two days per week, while 32% of those surveyed preferred working away from the office regardless.
For people currently working remotely, as well as those that opt for remote work due to personal preference, networking may take more effort but it’s by no means out of reach.
Here’s how to get started growing—and maintaining—connections if you're a remote professional.
Take Advantage of Social Media
For remote workers, social media is ideal since it's designed for fostering remote connections. It’s an easy way to connect with people who you might not normally encounter in person. Try these tactics for social media networking:
- Join LinkedIn Groups: These groups are organized around professional categories, such as skills, industry, and so on. You can also join groups for alumni. Once you’re a member of groups, participate in the conversations.
- Join Facebook Groups: Although Facebook is more associated with fun than work, this social media giant also has many groups devoted to careers, from industry-focused groups to job-searching ones.
- Follow and chat with thought leaders on Twitter: Being active on Twitter can also be a way to network—follow the big names in your industry and engage in conversation.
Not sure how to start engaging on social media? Try posting a link to a relevant, work-related article along with your commentary. Or, if you see someone post a question or ask for recommendations, chime in with a response.
Make sure to connect with your current and former colleagues on social media platforms, too.
Attend Virtual Events
Many organizations that held in-person events are now transitioning to virtual events. You may discover even more connections than you would at an in-person conference. An IDC survey reports that just over half of the events lost audience in the transition, but 46% gained attendees as a result of moving online.
Attending these events can also be a good way to network. Many encourage attendees to chat and join event-specific online groups.
Take advantage of everything these events offer. Attend virtual conferences and speaker sessions. Afterward, you can even consider reaching out to speakers or other attendees that you connected with during the event.
When it’s safe to do so, you can also attend in-person networking events such as happy hours, conferences, and more—that's true even if you work remotely. Attending classes can also be a way to meet and connect with more people in your industry. And, once in-person gatherings are no longer off-limits, consider volunteering, which can also be a way to meet and connect with more people.
If you work remotely, consider joining a coworking space. Along with providing a place to work and internet access, most offer a social component in that you can meet people in person and attend events hosted at the space.
Build Relationships With Your Current Colleagues
If you’re a remote employee, take advantage of office chat programs and video meetings. While these are professional venues, as with in-person meetings and conversations, there’s room to be social and establish relationships.
Try engaging in small talk at the start of video meetings as you wait for people to sign on, and make conversation on chat, too. Sending an emoji response or a gif can go a long way toward building a friendship.
Make sure to turn on your video during meetings if it’s an option—it’s easier to build connections when people can see your facial expressions. And, if you don’t have occasional meetings with coworkers, try getting them on the calendar.
Stay in Touch With Former Colleagues
It’s not enough to take steps to form a relationship. You also have to maintain it by keeping in touch. After all, you don’t want to only reach out to people when you need a favor. No one feels good about that.
Even if you can’t connect with someone in person because of geographical reasons, there are still plenty of ways to stay in touch:
- Send an occasional email to say hello
- Share articles, news, or job postings that you think will interest the person
- Comment on the person’s posts on social media platforms
Above all, aim to be authentic as you network. Staying in touch with people you genuinely find interesting and enjoy speaking to will make the task a pleasure, not a chore.