The business world today looks very different than it did twenty years ago, or even five years ago. One major change is the amount of businesses that have gone fully remote or partially remote. In 2023, as much as 16% of businesses were fully remote, with no physical office. In-person networking events such as seminars and conferences have also been moving online, both due to the shift to remote work and because of the convenience of online conferencing.
So if you’re trying to build a professional network, you may find that you have to do most of the work remotely, finding remote contacts. This has a number of benefits. Rather than sticking to local business contacts, you can add people to your professional network from around the world. But it may also seem daunting to begin. Here are our tips for how to build a remote professional network:
First, you need to know why you want to build a professional network remotely. If you’re a freelance professional or you’re starting a new business, you might be looking for ways to find new clients remotely. Or you might be looking for businesses to partner with yours, or employees to build your business. You might simply be looking for others in your industry so that you can support each other. Once you know these goals, you’ll have an easier time building your remote professional network.
If you want people to start engaging with you online, you will need to start engaging online yourself. Set up professional accounts on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Slack. There you can follow others, engage with their posts, and share updates and posts of your own. This is a great way to establish yourself in a professional way online and to make connections.
Sure, networking events have changed over the years. We’re seeing fewer in-person events where you can meet with others and swap business cards and more events hosted over video conferencing. But you can still make connections through these events. In fact, these virtual networking events are more accessible and often open up to a wider network of professionals because they no longer have to be restricted to a physical location.
You can exchange social media info, emails, or find other online resources that can help you expand your network and further the connections you make at these virtual events. You might even have fun!
Don’t just go into interactions looking for what people can offer you. Make sure that you’re adding value to the interaction. Seek out social media posts where someone needs help or resources and offer it. Lend your expertise. Give someone else in the industry a boost. No one likes to feel used, but people generally like to be helped. If you offer value in your remote sphere, it’s a great way to draw connections to you.
Let’s say your reason for building a professional network is to get the word out about your business. You might feel that you don’t know anyone, but especially when building a network remotely, that’s simply not true. Your family, friends, former coworkers and college classmates are all a part of your network. Through social media, those contacts can share the news of what you’re doing. And if they know others in your industry, your network can continue to grow.
Are you working remotely within a particular company — whether as a freelancer or a permanent employee? You probably know the team you work with well, as well as any supervisors. But how well do you know those in other departments? Take the opportunity to get to know everyone you can within your company. Congratulate them on their jobs well done or ask them to hang out for a (virtual) coffee. This is a great way to make both friends and professional contacts within your industry.
At the end of the day, you want quality professional connections. Connections that can actually help you build up your brand. Professional friends who can help support each other. But with so much available on the internet, it’s easy to just search for the highest quantity of connections, regardless of quality.
Often this comes from an insecurity that you won’t be able to find those connections you want until you have built up a lot of other connections. While this is an understandable concern, know that if you put in the work, those meaningful connections will come. When making professional connections, consider what they have to offer you and what you have to offer them. Consider what this connection would look like long term. That way you can make sure to forge meaningful connections.