Networking is a very important aspect of many career paths and this applies even if you work remotely. Networking can help you establish the relationships that will help you move forwards in your career and expose you to professional opportunities.
Networking might feel extra difficult when you’re working remotely. However, in 2021, that simply isn’t the case. It’s no longer true that you have to be in the same room with someone to have a meaningful connection. We have technology to thank for a lot of this. Digital forms of communication have gone a long way in making remote working viable to more people and even those who are in the office every day will be relying on digital tools to help them grow and maintain their professional networks.
Here are some tips to help you build your professional network, even when working remotely.
1. Your network should start with your colleagues
Your colleagues provide a great starting point for your network and one that many people often overlook. Use the network that you already have as a foundation to build on. These are the people who will know your work best and are your best advocates so try to maintain a good relationship with them.
Even while working remotely, it’s likely that you’re in touch with your colleagues at some point throughout the working day. If you find that this isn’t happening, try and make the extra effort to stay in touch, perhaps sharing useful resources and articles that you come across or suggesting a quick Zoom catch-up once a week.
Try to make connections across the company you work for. Introducing yourself to people in other departments and learning more about what they do will give you a much better holistic view of how the business works. You might also find that there are opportunities within your company that you’re not aware of. If there’s something in particular that you’d like to learn more about, speak to your manager and they may be able to match you up with a mentor within the business. There are often valuable connections to be made like this all over the place if you speak up and ask.
2. Create a professional online persona
When working remotely, the first place you’re likely to look to start networking is online. Before you do so, it’s important to think about your online presence. It might be that you need to change some security settings or change your profile picture to make sure you’re giving the right impression.
You should also think about things like your email signature. If you’re a freelancer, make sure the email address that you use is a professional one and not the nonsensical address you set up when you were 12. These things go a long way in helping people take you seriously, especially if you haven’t made contact with the person you’re reaching out to before. If they were to Google you, would anything you’d rather they didn’t see come up in the results?
3. Utilise social media
When people talk about networking, LinkedIn is likely to be one of the first things that jump to mind. This is a fantastic tool for networking and can be used to achieve several things, from making new connections with industry figures you admire to securing a new job. It can be a great learning hub too and there’s plenty of content on there created by experts in all sorts of industries. Read as much as you can and participate in discussions. It’s no good adding five hundred people if none of them knows who you are. If you start sharing some of your insights, people will start to take notice.
If you’re looking to establish yourself as an expert in your field, start producing some of your own content that other people in your industry or those looking for the services you provide would be interested in. This can be in the form of articles, videos or even an audio format like a podcast. You could create guides or share your thoughts on the latest developments in your industry. Try to start a discussion around the topic. If this sort of thing appeals to you, create a content schedule for yourself and post something new every fortnight or month and you’ll soon find your network growing naturally around this content.
While LinkedIn is a great place to start, don’t forget about other social media platforms. For example, if you are in a creative industry, Instagram is a great place to showcase some of your work. There are plenty of professional groups on Facebook and quite often, members will post helpful links to resources or webinars.
4. Connect with other remote workers
Reaching out to other remote workers can be a great way of building a supportive community around you. These people will understand the pros and cons of working remotely and you could build some really meaningful relationships. Connecting with others who prefer to work remotely will shed some light on how they work away from the office and you could learn a thing or two.
There are groups you can join on LinkedIn or Facebook created for this purpose and you could find yourself making connections with people all over the world opening up a whole host of opportunities.
5. Join Slack groups and communities
While you might think of Slack primarily as an instant messaging platform that helps you communicate with others in your business, it can also be used as a networking tool. There are plenty of communities already on Slack where you can meet new people, discover new resources and share some of your own. If you find the right communities, you’ll find they help you keep up with industry news and you’ll probably learn a fair bit too along with making some new connections.
6. Attend online events
Webinars and virtual networking events are certainly not a new thing but more and more are popping up across all kinds of industries due to COVID-19. Some of these events are created specifically for networking. Video conferencing software is ideal for this and Zoom even has a function for creating ‘breakout rooms’ where you can connect with a smaller group of people attending a webinar and make some more personal connections.
You might even want to consider hosting an online event. While the prospect might be a little daunting, this will help you establish yourself as an expert and you’ll find more people reaching out to you.
7. Attend events in person
Being a remote worker doesn’t mean that you can’t attend conferences or events in person. Sometimes it can be good to speak to people face to face and strengthen connections you’ve already made online. Make sure you have some business cards that state your name, position and contact details with you when you attend these events. If you haven’t been to one of these events before, they can be a little intimidating. It can be tempting to just turn up for the talk or presentation that’s usually at the centre of the event and then leave. Try and introduce yourself to a few people. If you can, find out who else might be attending and do a bit of research into their work to help you strike up a conversation.
Networking as a remote worker doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of tools out there to help you make connections with others in your industry and other remote workers. The key to networking is to keep at it. It’s not enough to spend a week updating your LinkedIn profile and attending one virtual networking event. Set aside some time in your work schedule and stick to it. It will get easier as your network expands and you learn more about networking etiquette. Follow the tips above and you’ll soon find that you’re making meaningful connections with likeminded people within your industry and discovering new opportunities to help you move forward in your career.