Working from home has revolutionized many people’s daily routines. And although you might think opportunities for networking and making new connections are limited by the new normal, there are still plenty of ways to pursue them. Taking advantage of the digital networks and collaboration tools available, you can build connections with your peers that are just as important and valuable as those made at any conference or live networking event you might attend.
Here are tips to keep your professional development on track while working remotely and cultivate new connections that will help you progress toward your long-term career goals.
Be selective about virtual events
Industry events are being reimagined for the digital world and signing up for virtual conferences provides a platform for you to meet other professionals. When you attend a networking event in person, it’s best to find someone who can help you navigate the crowd — and the same is true of virtual networking.
Before signing up for events, get laser-focused on where and how your industry’s thought leaders and influencers choose to interact with each other. A good way to do this is to search for keywords and hashtags on social media related to your field. Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator can help you find and connect with people outside your immediate network.
Social media savvy: make sure you’re visible
The social media platforms you use for networking will vary depending on your profession, as well the types of connections you want to make. Take some time to review all your social media profiles and make sure they are optimized for search and up-to-date. Many people know how important keywords are for a website, but SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — the practice of using relevant words to help increase organic search engine results — is important for your LinkedIn profile, too.*
Strategically placed keywords throughout your profile summary and career background can help you get found by the LinkedIn search algorithm and improve your ranking in search results. If you make the effort to engage with others in your social networks, your profile’s visibility will increase too. Sharing articles, commenting on others’ posts and contributing to conversations relevant to your role, industry and personal interests can help you make new contacts.
Get on Slack
While many people use Slack within their organizations for communication and collaboration, it can also be a great remote networking tool. You can build your network, find new and exciting projects, and connect with potential new colleagues and clients. There’s a Slack community for almost every topic and profession, so you should be able to easily find great new connections in your field.
Try virtual coworking spaces
We all know about physical shared workspaces where you can book a desk and work alongside other people. However, the pandemic has accelerated the growth of virtual equivalents allowing you to cowork online with other remote workers. If you try logging in to a virtual coworking space a few times a week, it might spark extra motivation and allow you to make new contacts and connections.
A little help from your friends
Some of the strongest relationships you probably still have originated in college. It’s easy to lose touch with your fellow alumni, but now is the ideal time to reconnect and establish new professional relationships. You can find old friends on social media or through college and alumni associations — staying in contact with them and other acquaintances regularly, as well as following their career journeys virtually, may lead to an opportunity for you.
It’s recommended to only connect with people you genuinely want to build a professional relationship with. And if you ask them for something, whether it’s a favor or something that would benefit you both, the best course of action is to be up front and clear about what you really want. Otherwise, you might set yourself and the other person up for confusion.
If you’re specific in what you are looking for, there’s a better chance of developing a mutually beneficial relationship. Similarly, if you keep trying to connect with someone and there’s no response, it makes sense to try other channels and people.
Make networking a goal
One of the most obvious benefits of working from home is the time you save on the commute. Why not use this additional time to your advantage? You could start each day by accomplishing one goal toward career growth and networking. This might mean signing up for an online course or listening to a podcast to help improve your professional knowledge and skillset. In addition, now is a great opportunity to read that career development book that has been sitting on your bookshelf, polish your social profile, share an achievement on your social networks or comment on someone else’s achievement.
Remote networking isn’t just a temporary fix for these uncertain times — it’s a valuable and efficient way of making connections for the long term. And although it may present challenges, in many ways it’s no different from good old-fashioned, in-person networking. Why not decide to start with an achievable goal, such as reaching out to one new person each week? If you master these skills now, your professional network — and consequently your career prospects — will likely benefit.