Feeling like networking can only be done in person?

Think again, if you’re feeling stuck in the same old professional or social network. Expanding one’s professional network is something that should happen continually over time, whether naturally or with a lot of wholesome effort.

Some of the best networking we’ve both done has been online, while we’ve been working remotely.

Gone are the days when shaking hands or meeting in person meant that you could form a meaningful connection with someone.

Nowadays, it’s more convenient, if not ideal, to form a virtual connection with a fellow professional in a social or professional network that only exists online. You can do it all from your home office or wherever you’re based for the day.

If you need a push, make sure that you prioritize networking time when hammering out your remote work schedule, especially when working from home.

Have you considered all the ways in which you can do this? Below, we’ll fill you in on how we’ve expanded our networks greatly from the comfort of our home office or from a coworking space on the road.

Ready to expand your horizons and learn how to network professionally from home? Let’s go!

Join professional Slack groups and communities

Not enough good things can be said from joining professional Slack groups and communities.

I first heard about Slack when it came to hearing about Dan’s remote work journey with Remote Year. This was back in 2016, when I wasn’t sure what Slack was, or the wonders it could do for anyone professionally.

Slack is a tool that we detail in our ways to stay connected while working remotely guide. While many organizations and companies use Slack as their platforms for communication, sharing ideas and working on projects, Slack can also be used to bring people together, no matter where they’re based.

As I started saying, Remote Year has a Slack network for anyone currently in the program or for anyone who has completed it. While it serves as a way for the trip participants to manage events, ask questions and find travel advice, it also serves as a huge way to find jobs, make connections with someone in a different cohort whom you’ve never met and a way to pick up side jobs posted in the #jobboard channel.

Need a job board list of your own? See our guide to the best remote work job boards on the Internet.

If you’re not part of a private Slack community due to a shared experience or a Slack platform from your company, start with the heaps of free Slack communities that you can join in order to meet new people.

I started off with the Ladies Get Paid Slack, which I detail in some of our remote work articles. Ladies Get Paid started changing my life because it’s a free online community for women all over the world, and there are 32,000 women and counting.

The best ways to benefit from a massive Slack community is finding job postings in the job board, sharing work opportunities and connecting with professionals in Slack channels that pertain to a certain industry. For instance, there are ‘channels’ for professionals in design, development, product, writing, tech and more.

Other Slack communities I’m a part of pertain to agencies I’ve signed up to work for, some social ‘offshoots’ of Ladies Get Paid (LGP), a marketing-related group called Top of the Funnel and one that I even created on my own, called Women Working Remotely.

Say yes, yes, yes to online events

If in-person events are no longer a part of your life due to schedule, family, obligations or your location, start saying yes to online events.

When I started working from home because cafes and coworking spaces had temporarily closed due to COVID-19 in NYC, I began signing up for all types of webinars I’d find through the Ladies Get Paid Slack community.

These online webinars focused on all types of work, from all types of experts – marketing, leadership, pivoting one’s business and financial topics.

I started learning all types of things. I peeked into Eventbrite, where I found an infinite universe of free professional webinars that streamed from all over the world, from Los Angeles to London.

The best part of online events is that some are specifically for networking.

If you’ve ever been in a Zoom webinar and been put into a ‘breakout room,’ this is a function of Zoom (thanks, Zoom!) that allows participants in a big audience to form intimate connections and have a chance to have their moment to shine in smaller groups.

Use these breakout rooms for networking, and you never know who you’ll find. In fact, recently I attended a travel event hosted by Konrad from TripScout, to find that my friend Jen ‘walked into the Zoom room’ a few minutes after I had joined. It’s a small world out there!

Virtual coworking or remote coworking

Virtual coworking is for sure a new phrase that only debuted around 2019, or at least that was the first time I heard of such a thing.

As I mention in our guide to staying productive when you work from home, I originally laughed at the thought of virtual coworking. Why would you need to virtually cowork? It sounded kind of funny.

If we jump forward a few months, virtual coworking is now one of the highlights of my week.

I cowork virtually with two different groups of women, three times each week on Mondays and Wednesdays.

I joined Meg’s remote coworking sessions on Mondays (see the details in our guide to remote work productivity tips) because she posted a link in LGP Slack. That’s how I met Meg!

Every week, different women join Meg’s remote coworking session that she hosts from her home in Brooklyn, and every Monday I see new faces.

My friend Alex also hosts coworking, mostly from her network, but because she and I don’t have all the same friends or professional contacts, I’ve met new women through Alex’s coworking sessions online as well.

If you’re interested in starting your own virtual coworking session, consider it as the seed that can potentially start a tree of networking for you. Invite a friend and ask each person to invite a friend or colleague who also works remotely.

Use your social media channels to connect

If you’ve ever heard someone say, “Yeah, we met on Instagram,” and you think it sounds crazy, well, this might be the networking style of the future.

We’ve certainly (and I’ll speak for both of us here) made friends over the Internet. It’s not a ridiculous thing to do anymore. In fact, social media, especially Instagram, is where professionals use their accounts as portfolios for products, art, photography or professional services.

I know for a fact that my friend Marisa of @theneonteaparty met her web designer over Instagram. They connected and became friendly, and a year later, Quinn Tempest wound up designing Marisa’s entire website and consulting on her brand vision.

If you want to connect over social media, make sure your social media account demonstrates who you are and is transparent about your business, your goals or your skills.

If you prefer that your social media remains private, start a public account for your business itself. From there, use a business account to learn about your audience, and lastly, engage with your audience on Instagram in a meaningful way.

Join “Instagram Live” from companies and organizations you look up to

Instagram Live is now what you could call a webinar-at-your-fingertips (we just made that up).

It’s true to some extent, though: when well-known professional figures go “live” on Instagram and field questions from the audience, it’s a great opportunity to ask them how they got their start, their recommendations for the industry, how to move a career forward and more.

As will be a common theme throughout this article, I’ll suggest here that it’s great to follow up with the figure(s) who go “live” and shoot them emails after the live sessions are done.

You really never know if there’s a strong connection to be made, especially if you’ve asked thought-provoking questions or contributed meaningfully to the chat.

Follow up with the leaders of webinars

I’ll tell you a bit about something that happened to me fairly recently.

I’ve been joining webinars on all sorts of professional topics from the Female Founders’ Collective (FFC). These consist of weekly (or recently, daily webinars within a single week!) from professionals in self-help, personal finance, marketing and branding.

At the end of each webinar, it’s always helpful (to yourself and to the other listeners) to ask a meaningful question. If there is not time for the speaker to answer all questions, they’ll probably give out their personal email as a way to contact them afterward and continue the conversation.

I’ve done this several times now, and have wound up with opportunities to showcase my new-found adoration of ‘virtual coworking’ to a leader in business, or connect on LinkedIn with an entrepreneur who’s doing great things.

There’s nothing bad that can happen when you reach out to the leader or speaker from a webinar, and as you see here, it’s a great way to network from home.

Use your alumni community on LinkedIn

Using your high school, college or continuing education university network on LinkedIn is now easier to do than ever before.

When you’re looking at jobs in LinkedIn’s job listings, the website shows you “9 alumni of your university work at this company,” for example.

If you have the time, reach out to a few of the alumni suggestions and ask politely for an inbound referral to their company’s hiring managers.

Oftentimes, fellow alumni don’t say no to this type of favor. If you received a similar message from someone who graduated from your college, you’d probably feel inclined to help out!

I’ve used this method of networking before and I wholeheartedly recommend it, because it takes little effort and you also never know who works where.

Ask for informational interviews over Zoom

Maybe you hadn’t yet considered asking for virtual/remote informational interviews.

I can’t say how popular it is to ask for informational interviews nowadays, but I know that some industries welcome this type of outreach.

An informational interview, in my own words, is asking to interview a professional who is a leader in an organization at which you’re interested in working, or, if you’re looking for a career pivot, asking an individual in your ideal type of role how they got their start.

If you work from home, or even more realistically, if you’d like to schedule an informational interview with someone who does not live where you live, consider asking for an informational interview over Zoom.

I even have a friend who recently did this a few times. The first step is making the ask!

If you want to be cordial, you can send the interviewee something like a gift card to a local coffee shop instead of buying him or her a coffee in person.

Use our tips for taking video interviews to brush up on what to do if your tech setup backfires during any type of virtual interview.

Attend a virtual job fair

What is a virtual job fair?

I went to my first one this year, just to see how this idea works.

When I signed up for a virtual job fair, I first received a schedule of five different companies that would present to the ‘virtual job fair attendees’ at different times throughout a three-hour schedule.

Based on the types of companies and the types of positions they were hiring, you could sign into the continual webinar platform and hear from the hiring managers being interviewed by hosts about company culture, overall goals and types of qualities candidates should have.

In an era of remote jobs, remote companies, remote teams and taking remote interviews, this could be the new type of job fair.

Always remember to follow up with the hosts or hiring managers if their contact information is made available, even if it’s just to say hi and that you found their presentations useful.

If you’re not completely into the idea of a job fair, skip right to our list of job boards for remote work.

Offer to host a webinar with your professional skills

When the remote work revolution of 2020 first began, we wrote this guide to working remotely from home for the first time which proved useful for many professionals transitioning from offices to remote work lifestyles.

Around the time that we published the work from home guide and our evergreen guide on how to create your home office environment, I was asked by both Ladies Get Paid and my university to lead webinars on the topic.

I was delighted to do so, and proceeded to lead two webinars on the benefits of working from home, how to stay connected while working from home, the difference between working remotely or working at home and healthy habits for remote workers, including at-home fitness ideas to try.

Why was this a great way to network? Not only was I introduced to the leaders at both organizations who assisted me in tailoring my webinars to each audience, but afterward, I received kind words from professionals who had attended, and I know for a fact that I have social media connections to them still today.

Join professional Facebook groups

As Facebook can probably tell you, there’s a Facebook group for everything.

Seriously, though – aside from fly-fishing and groups about knitting, there are Facebook groups for essentially every topic, and we’ve lucked out in providing value and getting questions answered in those for remote workers.

Remote work and digital nomad Facebook groups range from several hundred members to several thousands. The incredible thing about asking a question such as, “What are the best cities for remote work in 2020?” is that you may receive hundreds of replies.

The other thing that may not be obvious from joining Facebook groups about professional topics is that people do tend to post jobs or look for freelancers to help out with projects.

If this is right up your alley, or you’re looking for remote work gigs, connections or ideas, start joining any type of specific Facebook group about your chosen topic today.

Host an online social event within your organization or company

Some companies consist of a small staff, like small companies of a team of five. Some companies may have hundreds, if not thousands of employees, and at the end of the day, you’re bound to not know them all.

If you want to network within your company, offer to present on a topic. Host a webinar, host a gameshow over Zoom, or host a speed-networking event with another coworker.

These are all great ways to stay connected remotely within organizations, and there are so many ideas to try so that you can always be meeting someone new who’s on staff.

Use Reddit to connect with professionals in a similar industry

While we have not specifically engaged in this type of networking, we were contacted by a professional on Instagram who claimed that this is his favorite way to network while working remotely.

Reddit, if you’re not familiar with the website, is a place to post questions and get answers, or to share photos and information. It can be pretty eclectic, or sometimes, incredibly helpful, as people from around the world can publicly give opinions on a subject or help solve a problem.

What I didn’t really know until now was that Reddit has forums for talking about different professions, naturally.

The individual who contacted us said that he frequently uses Reddit to connect with other professionals in his field, and he has gained substantial knowledge and expansion of connections in this way.

Reddit is a platform with an extensive amount of potential, so if you’re ready for a dive, try it out for networking from home.

Watch YouTube videos about professional topics

…and reach out to the YouTuber. As these experts are typically well-connected, it can’t hurt to ask if they know further professionals in the field who’d be happy to help you with some type of project, creative outlet, specific type of knowledge or further connections.

I’ve done this in the instances of YouTube video-makers who have provided specifically-valuable videos from which I’ve gained knowledge or skills, like cooking ‘shows’ or YouTube channels.

As people are always looking for an excuse to connect, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to YouTube stars via the email addresses they list in their “About” section of their channel page.

Especially if they are just starting out, they may be looking for collaborators, either in the same field or in an opposite skill set. You can offer your skills, or feedback on their videos and sometimes ‘make a match’ (professionally) through this networking idea.

Use the network you already have

This may sound silly, or obvious, but the fact here is that among people you know, it’s hard to keep track of who works where or who changed into which career.

Among even my friends and family, I sometimes lose track of who has skills in what and who’s an expert at some professional skill. If you have a desire or need to learn a new skill or find a job, start small: reach out to immediate family and close friends, asking if anyone knows a graphic designer (as a quick example). If not, ask if these close friends and family can ask their networks the same question.

You may wind up with a meaningful connection who may change your life.