Networking does not always require in person coffee, lunches or evenings out. With creativity and resolve, connecting meaningfully with others can be done remotely and across different time zones and geographies.
Here are five effective ways to network from a distance.
Connect with 'loose ties'
Research has shown that while we rely on our strong ties in our everyday lives, it's our weak ties (also called our 'open network') that can help the most when it comes to finding new roles. Because weak ties are farther removed, they can know about opportunities we aren't likely to be familiar with. By identifying and reaching out to valuable connections that you don't know as well, you can extend your open network dramatically.
Use reconnection as networking
Networking does not have to take place in person or with people you don't already know. In fact, networking is often more powerful when it's cumulative, and not just a one-off encounter the first time you meet someone. Networking can also mean reconnecting with former colleagues and sending notes of appreciation, congratulations on work anniversaries, or other virtual ways of staying in touch.
Join social groups at work
If the only time you interact with colleagues is on projects and conference calls, it's going to be hard to build friendships. Instead, carve out niches for friendship at work by joining social groups, which can also take the form of Teams/Zoom happy hours, Facebook groups for hobbies and other shared interests.
Be mindful when selecting a mentor
For many in the next generation, mentorship is key to gaining a foothold for their career and life. A mentor could be someone in proximity in the workplace or at a professional organisation. But if the relationship starts out through a digital connection, more thought can be put into the right match, rather than being based primarily on convenience. The university you attended, your current workplace or a professional organisation can help match you with a mentor that aligns with your interests, needs and personality. Spend time planning who could be your best mentor.
Start writing a blog or LinkedIn articles
One of the most effective ways to build a network beyond your immediate contacts is to start a professional blog on a topic of your expertise, make connections, show thought leadership and get feedback.
Goals can feel less overwhelming when you start to break them down into smaller, individual parts of a path. Tackle the above recommendations one by one, and you'll be able to build on the momentum of each to accelerate the size of your network.