Being a Great e-Networker When Working Remotely
When you move into a long-term remote work situation, it may at first be an ideal set-up for getting work done, using your past commuting time more productively, and enjoying the savings on commuting costs. However, after a bit of time, it can feel like remote work creates some isolation. However, offices are places where random encounters happen: clients, visiting experts, and many other people pass through an office and could become a source of networking insight for you. Working remotely, most of the interactions you have are intentional.
That being said, it is entirely possible to create networking encounters yourself as a remote worker, increasing your satisfaction with your work and your certainty that you are continuing to advance in your career. You may be looking for networking opportunities to help keep your skills up-to-date. You may be interested in providing needed insight to new members of your industry who are looking to find their next step. Regardless of why you want to network, here are some outlets to pursue while working remotely.
Join Social Media Groups for Professional Organizations
While social media may seem too casual for the average professional organization, many organizations now have Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn pages specifically aimed at connecting their members. You can maintain professional boundaries: if you prefer not to connect your personal Facebook with a Facebook group for professionals, perhaps creating a separate, professional Facebook page for yourself would be worth the time. First, however, determine where your professional organization has the most active following; if there have been only one or two posts this year, that might not be the ideal page.
If you see that your organization has these pages, but no one is curating or responding on them, ask if there is a position in the organization for someone who curates and updates the page. By choosing to take on this small amount of additional work, you can post questions and discussion topics in order to engage fellow members, and you may find that you connect with the exact people you’d like to know through this service. You’ll also be visibly engaged and involved, which is a good look even for those who don’t respond on social media.
Use Outreach Emails to Create Video or In-Person Meet-ups
Whenever you find yourself traveling, it may be a good idea to multi-task the trip by seeing if any of the professional contacts you would like to cultivate live in that place. Letting them know that you are in town anyway and would love to have coffee can be a proactive but casual approach. You can also look up local chapters of your professional organization wherever you go in order to try to visit the meeting as a guest. Most meetings are excited to welcome a member from another place, along with your expertise and background.
These meetings can be prompted by other events: a webinar appearance, a recent publication you read, or anything else. Asking for a video chat coffee date because of questions about an industry topic is not common, but with a clear agenda for the conversation, it can be done. Of course, observe the norms in your field, but especially if you are offering this opportunity to less experienced professionals who want to learn more about the field, you can be part of the leadership that creates remote networking opportunities.
Volunteer as a Board Member or Organization Officer
While connected to the above options, this is actually a more traditional method of networking that becomes even more helpful when used in the context of remote work. Whether there is an organization in need of a new board member, or your professional organization needs members at-large or officers, volunteering your time can be a great way to put yourself in the path of many networking conversations.
Obviously, there may not be time for every kind of participation in your busy life, so keep your eyes peeled for opportunities that fit your skill sets, your interests, and your time availability. The volunteer opportunity should be, primarily, fulfilling in itself, but secondarily valuable as a networking opportunity.
Make the Most of Your Conference Attendance
When going to conferences, many individuals may put networking on the back burner compared to learning new things; this is completely reasonable, especially since networking opportunities often feel serendipitous and hard to create. However, recognizing who is listed in the program can give you the opportunity to make plans to meet up ahead of time. This can be an especially good time to reinforce old connections, asking to get a coffee and catch up between sessions. These requests are of course sincere, but the added benefit of learning whatever is new and different in your past connection’s professional life will also help you feel connected to your industry. If you aren’t much for socializing in the evenings, make plans to be at morning coffee or breakfast meet-ups, and if you prefer night-owl hours, make sure you aren’t only socializing with the same two coworkers every evening. Even if you cannot muster much chatter after a day of sessions, aim to say thank you to panelists and speakers who impress you after each talk; they’ll appreciate it and it makes you a little more memorable. A little added effort at conferences can dramatically expand the circle of individuals you talk to at conferences.