5 Ways to Build Your Network While Working Remotely

Conferences and other in-person events may still be on hold, but there are many ways to increase the number of your professional connections.

Large, in-person networking events are about as popular as the business handshake these days, but networking remains a vital part of career building. Studies have found that 85% of all positions are filled via networking and that 80% of all open positions are never advertised but instead found through personal connections.

Although most conferences and events presently are virtual, that doesn’t mean networking is no longer a valuable skill. “Most people are still finding their position through a warm introduction or existing relationship rather than by sending in a cold resume,” says Seth Steinberg, a Korn Ferry senior client partner. Here are five ways to network remotely.

Join virtual groups and classes.

Look for LinkedIn, Slack, Reddit, and Meetup groups related to your field, industry, interest, occupation, college, or graduate school. Often these groups will sponsor virtual events.

Networking connections can also start out as a social interest too, says Sondra Levitt, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. Consider attending a virtual class in cooking, art, wine tasting, kickboxing, or whatever interests you, then get to know the people there.

Send a custom message.

If you attend a virtual conference and want to talk one-on-one with a speaker or other participant, send a LinkedIn message mentioning the event you attended and explain you found their ideas interesting. Once they accept your invitation to connect, send another message thanking them and asking if they can further discuss the content in their presentation or the point they made during the conference, Levitt says. You can even ask if they are open to a virtual lunch or virtual drink.

The key to getting a one-on-one virtual meeting is to be as authentic and specific in your LinkedIn message as possible. “People can smell from 100 miles away those mass emails over LinkedIn asking for your time,” Steinberg says.

Connect over social media content.

If you’re interested in connecting with someone, follow them on social media. Pay attention to the articles and posts they share on Twitter or LinkedIn, and amplify their content by responding with a thoughtful comment, Steinberg says. If you see an article or study they might be interested in, tag them when you share the content. Or, if you don’t want to call attention to it publicly, consider sending the article to them directly.

Consider volunteering.

There are plenty of remote volunteer opportunities that could lead to connections with people who have mutual interests, says Val Olson, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. In addition to networking with other volunteers, consider reaching out to the organization’s executive director. Either send an email or connect on LinkedIn, but be sure to send a personal note with your LinkedIn connection request that mentions the work you are doing with the organization and your experience volunteering.

Explore the possibility of an in-person meeting.

If the person you’d like to network with is local, there’s nothing wrong with asking if they’d like to meet virtually or in person—just be respectful of their comfort level when you ask, Levitt says. For instance, offer to wear a mask, meet outside, and stay socially distanced. “People may be more willing to meet in person right now, as long as they both feel safe,” Levitt says.

However, Steinberg warns not to push the issue if the other person hesitates or sounds uncomfortable. “The mistake is assuming that someone is at the same level of comfort that you are,” he says.