Although there are many perks to working remotely, the inability to communicate face-to-face is an issue.
If you used to work in an office, you likely found it easier to form relationships and network with coworkers in an effort to grow within the company. While building a network as a remote employee may be slightly trickier, it is possible. Use these seven essential steps to get started.
1. Start networking today
The first step to finding valuable connections within your company is to make the effort to start networking. While you will inevitably meet people in different departments and at higher levels through your day-to-day work, you won’t be able to create the best network unless you make it a point to start forming the necessary relationships however possible.
Some people dislike the idea of networking because they think their work is good enough to warrant the proper attention, or they want to avoid falling into a popularity contest. However, as the saying goes, “It isn’t what you know, but who you know.” You can do the best work and turn in your assignments on time, but many others do that. How will you stand apart?
The fact is there are many benefits of networking that can help you gain important connections. For instance, if a manager knows your name and they need someone for a task, they may ask for you directly. Also, suppose you want a position in a different department. In that case, you can use your relationships to inquire and get your foot in the door.
Networking with people in various departments can also improve your current job. If you’re able to pick up the phone and call one of your connections during a large project, you could get valuable insights that can help yourself and the company. Plus, when you have an expert you can lean on, there’s likely to be fewer errors, and you’ll be more efficient.
2. Send a direct request
Now that you understand the importance of networking, how do you accomplish the task if you work remotely? The best way is to reach out.
Although we may not be in the same room, many remote teams are using tech tools to communicate, including email, instant messaging, and video calls. Choose one and reach out. Keep in mind that the person you are contacting may also work remotely, so they may get many messages throughout the day.
That means you need to be direct. Create a concise message (three to five sentences) and tell them who you are, and why you want to connect, and suggest a time or method to do so. Stick to the facts because the recipient likely won’t even read a long-winded email. You need to get right to the point, and if you don’t get a response, follow up again later.
Here’s an example message:
“Hello, Susan, my name is John, I work with the marketing team at Course Correct Publishing. I’m impressed with your recent webinar and would like to discuss emotive design with you in-depth. Do you have time to grab coffee or maybe even lunch sometime this week? Alternatively, we could meet via Zoom. Hoping to hear from you soon!”
3. Find a reason to connect
Folks uncomfortable with the idea of just having a one-on-one conversation might try finding another way to connect through work. One idea is to offer to help them out when you can. If you are interested in working in a particular department, reach out and offer to assist that team if they ever need to catch up or need extra support. In addition to getting your foot in the door, you can show off your skills, and once you impress, they may ask you back again.
If you know the person you want to connect with is part of a group at work that meets in person or over Zoom occasionally, like an investment club or book club, request to join. If you're accepted, you can show off your personality, and inevitably, the conversation will turn to work. You can share the strengths that you bring to the organization.
4. Make it real
Even if the recipient accepts your networking request, you should not expect them to do all of the work to set up the meeting. So, take ownership.
Once they agree to your invite, recommend a few dates and times that you can meet up for a video call, and when they pick a time they like, create and send the calendar invite to them. Write the details of your meeting into the invite, including what you hope to discuss, so that the other party can prepare as well.
5. Find creative ways to network
As a remote worker, you are limited in your options for meeting up with networking recipients, so you may need to get creative. If you and the person you are meeting happen to live in the same city, consider setting up a get-together at a place close to your job. That could be a coffee shop or a cultural event, like a museum tour. You could invite them for a casual dinner if the potential relationship warrants the option.
There are also more formal ways to meet up with a contact. One is to attend a company-sponsored class or seminar together or agree to meet up at some point during the event. Sometimes a company might host a cocktail hour or general networking event. If you don’t know who you want to network with, consider going there and starting a conversation.
6. Use conversation starters
Whether you meet in person, over video, or on the phone, you must prepare beforehand so you can fill the conversation and there isn’t any dead air. Write out the topics you want to discuss. Talking points might include the qualities you bring to the table and the questions you want to ask so that you can go from point to point during the conversation.
It is natural to feel a bit awkward, so consider researching some conversation starters to help you break the ice. The ideas below can work in almost any networking situation:
- What is your favorite part of your job?
- What would you change about your job?
- What is something about your position that most people don’t know?
Try these and research more online, and you never know where the conversation might lead. At the same time, feel free to steer the conversation in the right direction.
This is especially important since everyone’s time — your contact’s time as well as your own — is valuable. For example, if they’re a content creator, ask them what their routine looks like and what inspires their creativity. If they’re a website designer, find out if any sites are particularly inspiring to them. Feel free to ask about their background as well.
7. Follow up
A follow-up message or phone call is absolutely essential to professional networking. Thank your contact for contributing their time. Consider getting specific with your appreciation. Was there anything they said in particular that stood out to you, anything you are especially interested in moving forward?
If you brought up something that was of interest to them, share links or comment on it further. It’s easy to say something like, “Looking forward to talking with you further,” but you should make an effort to arrange another meeting.
Be specific and say something like, “I really enjoyed our chat, can meet up again sometime later this month? My schedule’s looking clear Wednesday through Friday each week.” Alternatively, continue conversing with them via email by bringing up specific points of interest and asking questions.
While networking is not as straightforward when you’re working from home, it’s quite possible with the right strategies and a desire to connect. Consider these tactics, and your career will soar.
Today's post is a guest post from Amanda Winstead.
Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.