We all know that networking is important. Indeed, 79 percent of people told a recent LinkedIn survey that professional networking was essential to career success. Networking can be an excellent source of ideas, raise your profile, provide support, offer access to new job opportunities, and help develop long-term relationships.
Likewise, internal networking is critical to success in your job. In fact, good networking should always begin internally with the people at your company. Achieving goals is always easier when you have the right connections.
People often think of networking as having lunch with co-workers, attending the office holiday party, going to a scheduled networking event, or attending in-person training. Networking is about developing long-term relationships. And, in this modern age of remote and hybrid work environments, remote networking is becoming more of the norm.
Some may find virtual networking to be challenging. Forming professional relationships with others in your office can be more difficult if you don't see your co-workers often. After all, a virtual workplace doesn't have a water cooler around which information and gossip flow.
However, you can successfully network even if you're not all in the same physical location. Here are some ways to create meaningful professional relationships when you work remotely.
1. Connect With Fellow Alum
Shared experiences create bonds. Connecting with others who attended the same college you did can be a great way to start and build a relationship. You can discuss sports, traditions, and reunions. You may even find that you stayed in the same dorm several years apart or had the same professors. You can find fellow alum on social media, in online alum directories, or through people directories in internal communications tools.
2. Create online meetups
Another way to network is to create opportunities to meet online with others who share similar interests. For example, if you enjoy football, you might make an online meeting to discuss football. If you enjoy running, you might create an online running club to support and track the miles together. People enjoy talking about their passions, and sharing common passions will develop bonds that are not dependent upon physical proximity.
Another way to connect with like-minded individuals is to volunteer for causes in your community that you are passionate about. Volunteering is an excellent way to meet other people and build new skills to help you in your paid job.
Some companies have charities that they support. If you share those passions, volunteering for these charities will likely provide you with opportunities to volunteer alongside your work colleagues and other community members in person.
If these charities aren't your passion or if your company doesn't have particular charities, you can still find external networking opportunities through your volunteer work. You may meet a colleague by chance, as well.
4. Attend Virtual Events
Many trade shows, seminars, and other events are virtual in response to more people working virtually. You can sign up and attend these events to meet new people and gain new skills. If you are attending a remote webinar or seminar, prepare ahead of time so that you can ask intelligent questions. And to make the most of these opportunities, be sure to follow up with the speaker and others who are interested in continuing the conversation.
Also, once you've met new folks, don't forget to check in with them regularly via virtual meetings, online chat, and other communication forums. Checking in frequently with your contacts helps to solidify your relationship.
5. Go Into the Office (from time to time)
Even though you may work remotely most of the time, you can gain significant benefits by physically going into the office occasionally if others do the same. Perhaps you could encourage other co-workers to go into the office on a specific day once a week. When you go in, try to use co-working areas where you can bounce ideas off co-workers and catch up on their projects and their lives.
Likewise, try to attend some in-person events. For example, you might consider taking an in-person continuing education course at a local college or through a trade association. The course doesn't necessarily have to be in your area of expertise. You might take a course built around a hobby or interest, such as cooking or conversational French. Bonding around a hobby or interest creates trust and a supportive environment that can also yield benefits in your professional life.
6. Use Social Media Effectively
Companies and their employees sometimes consider social media a distraction from our work. But, social media can help us network to achieve our goals if we use them effectively.
One way to use social media effectively is to engage with platforms relative to your field. For example, if you are a photographer or designer, Instagram makes sense.
Another way is to join online groups that suit your professional needs. You can find many of these groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, Slack, and other mediums. Remember that networking on social media is like networking on different mediums. You must be willing to support others, and they will support you. Also, patience is essential. At first, you may feel like your posts go unanswered. But keep commenting on content that interests you, and eventually, you'll find those individuals who connect with you.
A third way is to use your alum network on social media, especially LinkedIn. For example, suppose you are interested in working for a specific company. When you look at the job listing on LinkedIn, you may see that alum work at the company. You could type up a request asking them if they would mind referring you to the company's hiring manager. Remember that you also should be willing to do the same favor for another alum.
7. Don't Forget to Network "Up" and "Down"
Networking with your boss is important, too. You don't want to wait until you've done something wrong to meet with them. If your boss doesn't suggest a regular meeting time, be proactive and do so yourself. As a boss, suggest a regular meeting time with each team member.
If you have a hybrid work environment, you'll want to schedule at least some in-person meetings. If your office is remote, then most of your meetings will be online.
At your regular meetings with your boss, ask questions about your role and the company as a whole. Try to discover how what you do fits into the company's big picture ahead of meetings with your boss. Then ask clarifying questions.
When meeting with your team members, try to help them understand the company's big picture. Also, remember to inquire about their weekend and any hobbies you know they care about.
8. Begin Meaningful Conversations with Co-Workers
Use an online tool to begin meaningful conversations with co-workers. You can congratulate them on their accomplishments, engage in small talk, or engage in project chat. You also can invite them to join you in an online game or virtual book club during their lunch hour.
Alternatively, you can invite a colleague to "lunch" with you. You both bring your lunch and sit and talk via the computer screen. You can ask them about what they like about their job, how long they've worked for the company, what their hobbies are, and anything you'd typically ask someone if you were meeting over lunch in a restaurant or the employee cafeteria. You might set a goal to "lunch" with two people each week.
Be sure to follow up the lunch with regular check-ins and remember to send them messages on their birthdays and work anniversaries.
9. Build Community With Your Co-Workers
You can still build a community even though you and your colleagues work remotely. Consider starting a blog or forum that shares encouraging and uplifting experiences. Don't let your forum be a place where you share complaints or allow others to do so. Stay professional at all times.
10. Use the Right Tools
Remote networking depends on having the right tools. Social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram can help develop relationships with external contacts. However, internal networking is critical for success, as well.
Internal networking helps employees build skills and remain engaged in their workplace. However, internal networking also benefits the whole company. Engaged employees are less likely to be absent from work and more likely to stay with the company.
Internal networking also provides additional benefits to the company, however. If employees can make connections, they will know who can contribute to project teams and brainstorming sessions. Having the right people on these teams improves creativity and problem-solving.
Having the right tools helps facilitate internal networking. Structural provides several features that make internal networking easier. A dynamic people directory helps to connect people with the right projects and mentors, for example. Structural also can supercharge other electronic networking tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams to facilitate even more connections.
For a demo or more information about Structural, contact us.