The Definitive Remote Networking Guide
Before the pandemic, networking used to involve lengthy business dinners, weekend conferences, and after-work drinks. And during COVID, when in-person meetings became impossible, that all stopped and was replaced with new hires from all sorts of talent pools and Zoom talks from thousands of miles away. Now that many in-person activities have reopened, professional networks have expanded, and sometimes, networking in your locality just isn’t as glamorous or alluring as networking on a global stage. What does the future of networking look like in the post-COVID world? Could it be – like remote working – that networking can be done through a computer screen?
Why network remotely?
Networking is vital for your career, social life, and even your future – even if it’s remote. It’s suitable for those who are trying to start up their careers as new graduates or those who have pivoted into a new field. Networking is also beneficial for unemployed people looking for jobs or employed people looking for new opportunities. CNBC reports that 70% of jobs are never published on public forums, and Oxford Economics found that executives say they would lose 28% of their business without networking. And lastly, networking is beneficial for those who want to learn more about the inner workings of their company through the eyes of different departments.
On a psychological level, networking also provides individuals with new opportunities to foster soft skills, get unbiased input about career moves, and reestablish a passion for work. Not every networking opportunity has to be cold and calculated, no matter how cutthroat your industry can sometimes be. Even if you’re meeting someone new through a screen, you’re still engaging with the outside world in a way that can broaden your perspectives. Networking is, in the simplest terms, a method to make friends – you just happen to have something in common, like a role, a place of work, or a trade.
Top tips for remote networking
Remote networking is a new frontier for many, and it can seem daunting for those who are more accustomed to networking in person. Here are some simple ways to get started on your remote networking journey.
Before seeing if the grass is greener on the other side, look in your own backyard for the flower that might bloom there. Check out virtual happy hours that your company might be throwing or company newsletters that might include events you can join. If there aren’t any available, try making your own or investing in other companies that provide networking matchmaking services, such as Mystery Coffee.
Social media is your friend
There are all kinds of individuals discussing topics that might be pertinent to your career, and every social media platform is different and attracts different types of people. You might already have a robust presence on LinkedIn, but if you’re looking for a little change, don’t be afraid to expand your presence on Twitter or Instagram. Email blasts from industry titans or social media gurus also provide online community-building opportunities by updating you about the hottest topics in your field.
- Events and talks
Remote networking doesn’t mean that you have to feel like you’re trapped behind a keyboard, especially if you’re better in-person than you are over text. Many networking groups can also host Zoom meetings, events, talks, or book clubs that will lead you to make more friends that you can talk to on the phone or on Facetime. You can also audit college classes on topics you would like to upskill in or visit your local library for interesting lectures.
Forums can help
Networking isn’t just about making friends in your industry – it’s also about finding solutions to problems you might have or learning more about how to best improve your skill set. If you’re a programmer with a bug or a product manager with a blocker, hop on a forum that’s specific to your needs as a professional. Chances are, you’ll meet friends and learn a few things along the way.
Back to school
Those with higher education degrees such as Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees, or Ph.D. can utilize their colleges for connections. Alumni programs are plentiful and helpful; they often have virtual programs that bring together students from all walks of life. Sometimes, universities even offer continuing education for adults or think tanks with topics focused on particular industries, such as women in business.
Cut yourself some Slack
You might not know it, but Slack actually has virtual communities beyond the metaphorical walls of your company. They provide places for digital nomads to gather and chat, designers and developers to brainstorm, entrepreneurs to pitch ideas, and even special groups for women in tech. There’s a little something for everyone, and it’s an easy place to start, as it provides instant social gratification all day long.
Another way to find networking opportunities is to explore virtual coworking spaces. These are especially helpful if there aren’t WeWork offices in your area, where many freelancers, remote workers, and business owners have a space to talk shop at “lunch and learn” and lectures. There are spaces like Pragli, which exist only within the confines of the internet and allow for a great deal of customization so you can make your avatar just like you.
Let your hobbies guide the way
Lastly, you can always network indirectly by finding professional connections in your hobbies. There are online lessons about everything from yoga to musical instruments or computer programming, and no matter what your passion is, you’ll find interesting people who share a love of learning. And with these new connections, you can rekindle a love for a long-lost hobby while investing in your professional life.