Feb 20, 2022Networking remotely12 min read
Tips for networking remotely
"For the world that has just gone remote, this question stands: can you actually form the same level of trust virtually? What gave us a lot of confidence that this is possible is the entire generation connecting and making friends through playing games online and talking on Discord." - Rajiv Ayyangar, CEO of Tandem
The way we interact with each other has profoundly changed over the past two years. A lot more people are spending a significant portion of their daily life in virtual spaces. The world is more open to virtual interaction than ever before.
So, how do people network and find opportunities in the remote world?
Start virtual networking where you are
Your social media profile
Networking online means defining your personal brand better. Regardless of what you use social media for, your online presence can be an advantage you don’t have when meeting someone face to face. When you reach out to someone via email or social media, they can learn more about you in a few clicks online than they would at an in-person event. For anyone slightly creeped out by the thought of this, remember - you are in charge of what you share online.
This is where establishing a personal brand comes in. And no, this doesn’t necessarily mean getting professional headshots and a logo designed, simply start with who you are. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing? Talk about it online! Staying active on social media, even in a small way, can be a big boost to your networking efforts.
Everything you choose to share could lead to a new connection:
- Hobbies - The best networks are built organically. Talking about what you enjoy doing will help you build authentic connections.
- Professional life - What projects are you working on? You never know who might be searching for someone to network within your niche or to include in a new project/startup.
- Your location - Where are you based, what are your favorite local hidden gems? Is there a quiet cafe with excellent coffee and high-speed internet you like to frequently work from? Maybe there’s a remote worker that just moved to your area looking for exactly that, along with people to connect to.
- Travel - Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, this is a great way to meet people. Let people know where you’re headed and if you need recommendations from locals on what to visit in that city!
Just because we don’t have the luxury of regular in-person meetings doesn't mean your need to grow as a professional has disappeared, too. Especially if you’re at the start of your career that can be just as prolific and exciting remotely, if not more. I’d argue working remotely allows for even more opportunities and time for networking.
I'll use our Podcast production manager, Jakob, as an example - he joined SafetyWing right before the pandemic hit as a remote intern, helping us with our Building Remotely podcast. He was completing his Bachelor's degree at the time and joined our team as a full-time employee after graduation. Not only did he complete and excel at an internship remotely, but he also transformed it into a full-time remote role. He's now fully nomadic and taking advantage of the global network of remote workers to connect with, starting with our team - here's a photo from his surfing trip to Portugal with our two other team members.
This brings me to my next point:
Start with your existing network
Whether you work remotely or not, find opportunities amongst the people you already work with. At SafetyWing, we have a book club that meets once a month, a writing club that meets every Friday, and bi-weekly virtual coworking sessions. Just suggest an activity your team can do together!
More than 4.7 million people work remotely at least half the time in the United States at the moment. If you’re feeling isolated, trust me, you’re not alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out to people in your network that you know work remotely too. Our Head of Growth recently started hosting coworking sessions with his friends. What started as a simple calendar invite turned into an inspiring weekly gathering that all his friends look forward to.
As a nomad, I realize not all of us have an existing circle of friends in our current location. You can make up for this with different virtual networking platforms:
- Focusmate - Connect with other remote workers for a coworking session.
- Lunchclub - Their AI connects you with people for a 1-1 video chat based on your common interests.
- Slack communities - These are great for professional development and job hunting!
- Discord communities - It’s not just for gaming, yall. One of the most existing communities I’m a part of right now, Plumia, set up their home base on Discord. Apart from knowledge sharing and personal interests, the community is actively working on building the foundations of the first country online. Apply through the website or tweet me directly for an invite (@pustimenecu).
Search for new opportunities and projects
If you’re on the lookout for a new role (or your first remote role), you might not have an existing network of remote workers to lean on. I got good news for you - the advice we previously shared will also help you find a job remotely.
Here’s how to look for a new role through virtual networking:
- Introspection - What are you looking for? What kind of remote environment do you thrive in?
- Research - Find current job posts and read about the companies you're interested in. Here’s a list of the top remote StartUps to work for in 2022 to get started. When you find a job post you’re interested in, find the founders and team members on social media. This will give you a sneak peek into their company culture and whether it would be a good fit for you or not.
- Initiate conversations - Is there a company you would really like to work with but doesn’t have a job post that matches your expertise and interest? Try to create an opportunity for it! As mentioned, follow their team members and founders on social media, and let them know what you could help them with!
- Let people know what you’re looking for - Don’t be afraid to mention you’re job hunting in different online communities you’re a part of. People regularly use Facebook groups for this, especially for finding freelance work. Join the one that’s relevant to you and share your portfolio!
A note on initiating conversations - I know this sounds like a daunting task but a lot of the networking advice you heard still holds true, it just needs to be tweaked to fit the virtual environment. Instead of writing a traditional email pitch, leverage your social media presence. Long gone are the days where connecting via Twitter was considered unprofessional.
It’s perfectly acceptable to reach out to people via Twitter if you have something genuine to offer or talk about. Talk to people like they’re your friends, even if you’re contacting a founder of a company you really admire. If you’d rather stick to email, that’s fine too.
Tips to grow your virtual network
There is an infinite number of ways you can do this. I’ll start with my favorite one:
Networking by creating your own content
Don’t settle with consuming content, create it. Your knowledge and experience could be extremely valuable to someone, share it with the world through writing, visual art, video, design. This has been a game-changer for many when the pandemic hit. Suddenly, among many other changes, we had to learn how to not only work remotely, but change our entire lifestyle. People started sharing advice on how to stay productive while working from home, different mental health practices, home workout videos, and more. This is also why we created Building Remotely, to help companies transition to remote. Instant knowledge sharing that the virtual world allows was a lifeline for many for the past two years.
Here’s how you can share your knowledge:
- Blog - If writing is your love language, start publishing blog posts! Blogs are easy to build through Notion (big recommendation for the Potion integration!) This directory of your writing could eventually serve as a portfolio.
- Newsletter - Want an even simpler approach to publishing your written content? Create a Substack page and start writing! You can make it easily accessible at the top of your Twitter profile. Here's what it looks like on Lauren's page! Neat, right?
- Platform-specific content - Twitter threads are very popular and easy to digest, Instagram graphics are easy to create without experience with design (use Canva), and LinkedIn posts are a great way to build your network.
- Podcast - Yes, there’s a lot of them out there and yes, there’s room for more. Create something you’d love to listen to! Don’t be intimidated by expensive microphones and equipment - a simple smartphone and headphones with a built-in microphone are fine for the start.
- YouTube - Interested in filmmaking? Videos offer more space for creative expression and put your personality forward. Our Head of Engineering has an entire channel with advice on productivity, motivation and mindfulness.
Providing value and creating something useful is a great way to start conversations online. Content creation causes a ripple effect that results in genuine connections, opportunities and new areas to explore. The best thing about it - it’s completely unpredictable. You never know if your next piece of content will offer someone a solution, land you a job offer or connect you with a potential co-founder for that company you want to bootstrap.
Be active online
Networking is more about giving than taking. Look for ways to help and support people in your network. It usually doesn’t require much effort. Notice someone in your industry Facebook group struggling to find a solution for something you have experience with? Reach out to them and offer advice. Know someone you believe would be a great fit for the company that’s currently recruiting? Put them in touch.
Build your own community
You don’t need a big following to do this. You only need a few people with shared interests. Are you an avid reader? Share book reviews on your social media that people with a similar taste can follow for recommendations. Goodreads is a great community for this. Eventually, why not start your own book club? Practice your own writing with a close group of people that are willing to read it and give honest feedback.
You don’t even have to set a specific topic for your group and gatherings - I organize monthly check-ins with a small group of freelance creators to discuss interesting projects we’re working on. We all work in different fields, which means I learn something new every time we talk. (again, tweet me @pustimenecu if you want to be included!)
Working from home isn’t exactly brimming with opportunities to meet new people day-to-day but there’s a whole virtual world out there you can take advantage of. The same goes for virtual networking as it does for meeting people in person - you just got to put yourself out there.
About the author
Head of Content
With a background in New media art and creative project management, Barbara is the Head of Content at SafetyWing and building Borderless - the ultimate resource for nomads and remote workers. She is fully nomadic and an avid photographer, sharing each new destination on her Instagram page.