A Guide To Networking Remotely
Social Media Strategist at Comedy Central and 2017 NYWICI Scholarship Winner
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many communications professionals are shifting to remote work for the first time or dealing with the challenges of layoffs and lost business. In an era of social distancing, building and maintaining a strong professional network can seem daunting, if not impossible. However, there’s still a variety of ways to establish meaningful connections and expand your network remotely.
Coffee chats & informational interviews:
Set up virtual “coffee chats” with people in your network via video conference or phone call. If you’re reaching out to someone for the first time, be respectful of their boundaries. While many of us have more flexible schedules than usual, some are dealing with unprecedented challenges, like homeschooling children. Work together to find a mutually beneficial time and decide on a tool that works best for facilitating your conversation. Not everyone is equally skilled at organizing video conferences or has a computer equipped with the same software, so sticking to free programs that don’t require downloads may cause the least headaches. Google Hangouts can easily be set up when sending a Google Calendar invite, making them a fairly seamless option.
Once you’ve figured out logistics, set a loose agenda for your conversation. Guiding questions keep your conversation productive and ensure you’re getting the information you’re looking for. After your chat, be sure to send a thank-you email to show your appreciation for their time.
If you’re working at a company with an internal mentorship program, see if a virtual option is available. NYWICI’s mentorship program is also an excellent option for connecting with industry mentors. It presents an incredible opportunity to connect with like-minded women in communications, no matter your level of professional experience.
If signing up for a formal mentorship program isn’t your speed, you can develop a relationship over the longer term with someone in your network. Reach out via LinkedIn, email or during a video/phone call, and be clear about the fact that you’re seeking mentorship. Determine the time commitment involved and what you hope to achieve with your mentor. Once you’ve settled on a setup that works for you and your mentor, establish regular check-ins and work together to set and achieve new goals.
Networking in group settings:
Are you planning to develop a skill by signing up for a class online? Consider options that still allow you to collaborate with classmates so that you’re able to widen your network and make new connections. Connecting with classmates is an organic way to grow your network, and conversations may be easier to start since you’re all studying the same material. Additionally, discussing course material with your classmates may add new perspectives to your learning, helping you maximize the benefits of your online class.
Offer to set up a virtual happy hour or study session for your classmates. Start an email thread or group chat to share study materials. While you can’t linger in the classroom chatting as you might in person, you can still make meaningful connections that bolster your educational experience.
Build deeper connections with colleagues:
If your office has shifted to remote work, find ways to connect with your coworkers outside of your standard day-to-day work. Consider starting a Slack channel or group chat dedicated to a shared interest, like a book club, favorite TV show, or even just to share pictures of pets. Don’t underestimate the power of these “soft” interactions — they can help you build relationships with folks outside of your regular team and deepen the bonds between those you work with more regularly.