Due to working from home, many remote workers fear being looked over for special assignments and passed up for promotion. Although professional isolation is a valid concern, this barrier can be overcome by utilizing targeted communication skills, integrating technology into your tools for collaboration, and deliberately building relationships with co-workers, managers, and other telecommuters.
Professional networking can be a challenge, especially for people who are reasonably introverted. Add working remotely to the mix and navigating the networking landscape can leave you feeling out in the weeds. However, neither your geographic location nor your personality type needs to hold you back from making meaningful connections both at work and in the larger professional community.
However, the same tactics that help build a solid network in traditional office spaces may not always apply to the virtual work environment. Build your remote networking muscles by challenging yourself to step outside your comfort zone and incorporate interpersonal relationship building into your weekly work schedule.
1. Remote Networking Should Start at the Company Level
The COVID pandemic and mass transition to working from home have shone a light on the networking challenges of remote workers. Although employees carry the bulk of the responsibility for making and maintaining connections at work, remote networking can be embedded into the company culture to help facilitate these connections. Especially with hybrid workplaces where some work remotely and some are in-office, an inclusive approach should be emphasized. A few examples:
- Inviting all employees to participate in periodic company virtual “happy hours” or other special events via video conference.
- Make sure all employees are included in recognition opportunities that help everyone in the company understand the value of all team members regardless of location.
- Company newsletters and birthday celebrations should all include virtual employees.
- If you have international workers on your team, consider holding some meetings at a time where they can be involved.
- Recording in-office activities and sharing them with remote teams can help them feel as though they are a part of the action as well.
In the last two years, the availability of virtual reality has helped to spark a variety of solutions for more immersive, engaging meeting options for virtual teams. Virtual reality can help improve the remote networking opportunities for telecommuters by providing the sensation that everyone is in the same space. Brainstorming sessions can take on new life and color with 3D modeling.
2. Use Social Media to Build Community
Social media gets a bad rap for being a vortex of distraction, negativity, and instant gratification. However, if used responsibly, social media can help you network remotely in exciting ways. The key is to understand why and how you should use social media before jumping in. Most importantly, it is not necessary to be present on all platforms. Instead, look to engage with platforms that are most relevant to your field.
While LinkedIn is the platform most used for professional networking, there are times when other options are as a good or better. For example, if you are a graphic designer, Instagram could be an excellent launching pad for your work. Additionally, you can connect with other graphic designers around the world to uplift, share and pursue career-making opportunities. It is common to see professionals reach out to openings, conferences, and networking events for creative industries on Instagram.
Another great way to network online as a remote worker is by subscribing and engaging in online groups. You can find groups on Slack, join Linkedin groups or subscribe to a weekly digital newsletter for professionals in your industry. No matter how you choose to participate the key is not to go in looking to gain information without being willing to give and support others. Community building online, like remote networking, is about mutual support.
When you first begin your social media engagement, it may seem as though you are just posting into the void. Don’t give up! Remote networking is a long-term process. Stay consistent, engage with content that speaks to you, and you will find your tribe.
3. Learn the Benefit of Connecting In-Person
While the current pandemic drags on, our ability to meet in-person is limited. However, it’s important to take advantage of what few opportunities you have for in-person interaction. In addition, the pandemic will not last forever, and you can plan for the future if you are going to continue in a remote role.
Just because you are a remote worker, doesn’t mean you have to be confined to your home. It is important for both your professional and personal health to get out into the world to make connections the old-fashioned way. If your situation allows, get creative and set up meetings in a local park or other venue that allows for social distancing. Coworking spaces are also reopening with safety protocols such as limited capacity, social distancing, and mask-wearing.
Additional options for connecting in a post-pandemic world include:
- Meetup. An excellent website boasting thousands of groups all over the country. You can join an industry-specific club near you to meet others doing similar work.
- Local colleges and universities. Taking a course on campus or joining a forum on a topic you are interested in, even if it is not directly related to your field, is an excellent way to meet like-minded individuals.
- Library. Another great resource for networking as a telecommuter, some libraries host conferences free of charge and open to the community.
Remote networking does not have to mean only networking virtually. If you make a connection in person, you can develop and grow your business relationship online.
4. Understand How to Build a Relationship with Your Boss
External networking is important, but in-house relationships help you succeed in your current position and cultivate opportunities for advancement. The relationship you build with your manager is key. The more you build this connection, the easier it is to ask questions, gain insight into the company vision, and create a path for possible promotion.
Whether you’ve been a member of your team for a month or a year, if you don’t feel confident in your connection with your manager, you can take steps to improve it. Networking remotely with your boss can feel uncomfortable, particularly if you have in-office colleagues with more access to the boss. But, even if your company is 100% remote, there can be barriers to effective communication.
Break down these barriers by taking the initiative to reach out to your manager. Everyone has different needs for feedback; however, you don’t have to wait until a problem arises to reach out to your boss. If you do not have an established meeting date at least bi-weekly, see how you can go about establishing a regular meeting date.
Ask questions that engage your boss in a dialogue about the goals of the team and the company as a whole. Establish your ability to see how your work fits into the bigger picture. If you don’t have the knowledge, do your research first and ask clarifying questions.
Additionally, don’t forget to acknowledge the human side of your manager. Inquire about their weekend, send a holiday card and show genuine interest when personal information is shared. Every workspace has different codes of conduct and it is important to understand and adhere to these codes when professionally engaging with your boss.
5. Start Meaningful Conversations With In-Office Co-Workers
One of the easiest ways to engage in-office employees is using a group messaging tool. If your company does not utilize Skype for Business, Slack, or another form of instant communication, suggest an option you are familiar with to your HR contact. Using messaging technology helps build a sense of being present regardless of physical location.
Both project-related chat and small talk are important for building business relationships. Human beings are social and because most full-time employees spend the majority of their time working, a little work-approved fun is necessary. Share a cute meme or invite co-workers to join an online game during the lunch hour. Design a get-to-know-you survey or start a virtual book club. There are endless ways to provide an environment to connect across the barrier of location.
6. Build Community with your Fellow Remote Workers
Remote networking is a tool to connect in-person employees and remote workers to each other. If you have co-workers spread over the state, country or world, it can be difficult to keep tabs on everyone. You can build support to ward off isolation by regularly engaging other remote workers in your company. Start a blog, online group, or forum to share stories, experiences, and uplifting material specifically for the virtual work experience.
Take the time to get to know at least one person you haven’t had a detailed conversation with. Ask them about their work, where they live and what remote work is like for them. It may be a bit scary taking the first step, but the more your practice, the easier it becomes to be a remote networker. Before you know it, your virtual network will be blossoming with meaningful relationships.
Take the First Step
It is always intimidating to try new things, especially in the work environment. However, taking calculated risks to increase your network is always a leap worth taking. Start your journey towards more enriching connections today. Join Virtual Vocations, engage with our tips for job seekers and leave a comment or two!
Do you have any remote networking tips or suggestions? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and questions. We’d love to hear from you!
Join Virtual Vocations Today!
Joining Virtual Vocations grants you access to our hand-picked telecommuting jobs database. Learn how our service works, browse job leads by location and career category, or search hundreds of hand-screened telecommuting jobs to find legitimate work-at-home job leads that match your skills and background. Register for free or contact us for more information on our service guarantee.
Check out our menu of Career Services provided by our team of certified professionals, including resume and career coaching services for remote jobseekers. Resume assessments and writing, LinkedIn profile enhancement, and cover letter writing are available to maximize the success of your remote job applications. Discounts on all services available to subscription members, become one now.