Networking can be a challenge at the best of times, and it can seem even harder to do remotely. Especially if you’re looking for new job opportunities at the same time. However, there are plenty of ways to network while working from home.
Networking is most effective when built on mutual, genuine relationships. Focus your efforts on finding things you value, and people who share those values. After all, if someone is recommending a person for a job, they’re likely to pick the person whose values and interests align with their own.
If you’re lucky and employed, then your company will already have ways for their remote employees to network.
Rather than waiting for someone to reach out to you, be proactive in your approach. Sign up to online socials with your colleagues, participate in chat on the messaging apps, and make connections. If your company doesn’t have these things, why not suggest them and offer to help with the set-up? That way, you not only get the advantages of these networking opportunities, but you gain a bit of a reputation as someone who can get things done. That’s something many employers consider a key skill for remote work.
Think Outside The Office
But what if you’re self-employed, or work for a small company where these sorts of things don’t expand your network very much? There are plenty of ways to be proactive outside of office space.
Just like many companies have in-house messaging apps, freelancers also have similar platforms for communication. A quick google can help you find forums and communities dedicated to all sorts of things. Our favorites to look for are:
While you don’t have to engage with such platforms all the time, make sure you don’t only post about job opportunities. Authentic connections are the key to networking, so engaging with a variety of topics will help you make these. Maybe someone is looking for where to go to dinner, and you can recommend a good Thai place. Perhaps someone in your field of work is looking for tips on software that you’re experienced at using. These connections will help you become part of the community, rather than just looking like a job seeker.
Professional Development Courses
Signing up to professional development courses is a great way to meet others in your field at the same time as improving your skills. When companies are recruiting top talent, having a couple of these courses under your belt can put you ahead of other applicants. You can find courses online that allow for group work, shared lectures, or other activities. Some online courses can be completed individually, which would lose you the benefit of networking!
Understand Social Media
Most people are active on social media in some way, but not everyone knows how to use it to their advantage. You don’t want to come across as some very corporate, impersonal figure. You do, however, want to remain professional. Finding this balance takes a bit of practice.
It could be worth having two accounts - one for networking, and one for more personal use. Some people use a pseudonym for the second, others keep it locked so you have to approve requests to follow you. This can help with the balance as it allows you to use social media to be open with your friends while remaining professional on your publicly visible account.
As well as assessing the content, it’s worth making sure you’re using the right platform. LinkedIn is hugely important for business connections, but it’s not the only platform worth using. If your profession is image-heavy - whether that’s selling online, custom art, or event photography - then you’ll want to be making use of Pinterest and Instagram. If you’re a writer or marketer, you might find Twitter more useful. There are also collaborative sites - GitHub can be a great way for coders to make contacts!
Be careful not to spam. Post too often or too aggressively, and people will start to filter you out. It’s worth looking into statistics for your platform of choice to work out best post times, best content, and useful accounts to follow.
Enjoy Your Hobbies
Not all networking has to be work-related. Invest time in your hobbies, especially any social aspects they may have. It’s likely that once you’ve gotten to know everyone - and remember the first point, be genuine in your motivations - you’ll have an idea of what they do for a living, and how you could mutually help one another. Maybe someone in your tennis club is also a musician and they need an artist for a poster. You can either offer your own services or recommend someone. Equally, don’t be afraid to ask for help with your own projects. If you’re looking to set up a website to promote your business and you’re on a quiz team with a copywriter, why not ask what their rates are?
While this kind of networking may be less efficient than some of the above, it’s also more natural, and easy to do no matter where you’re based. This makes it excellent for building up long term contacts.
Make Yourself Useful (And Make Use Of Others)
Networking isn’t only about self-promotion. It should be mutually beneficial. Being helpful, both in your field of work and more generally, is a great way to catch attention and earn a good reputation.
Equally, taking up other people’s offers of help can help you engage further. If people are asking for help on a topic you’re an expert in, speak up. And if you’re confused by something, reach out and see who answers. Earlier, we mentioned responding to recommendations for a place for dinner. This might seem indirect, but the next time you speak to that person, they’ll remember you as ‘the one who gave us that great recommendation’. This familiarity is a great starting point to build relationships from.
John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and video conferencing solutions provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as Hubspot and BambooHR.
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