Networking Remotely: Tips for Connecting During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Jun 3, 2020
man looking at computer

For many, networking successfully while being confined at home seems impossible. How can you create a lasting connection without meeting in-person? As Lambda School students know well, however, not only is it possible to create relationships with peers remotely throughout the world, but the ease and speed of these connections often make them more ideal than managing the logistics of meeting face-to-face.

In this article, I will highlight how to successfully network remotely in general and during these unique times. Through creating shared experiences and proactively reaching out to others, you will be able to grow your network and connections within your field from the comfort of your home.

Networking Basics

Before jumping into some specific remote strategies, let’s review the basics:

  • Networking is about creating career-long mutually beneficial relationships. If a contact can help you get a job, that is great. But, that is only one byproduct of a professional network.
  • Networking can be done through friends, family, and peers. Much of the focus below is going to be on creating new relationships with people to whom you have no current connection. But, remember that getting an introduction from friends, family, or an existing LinkedIn contact can be the most fruitful way to grow your network.

"Networking is about creating career-long mutually beneficial relationships."

Where to Find other Professionals Virtually

While many people are experiencing disconnection during the pandemic, the tech community is stronger than ever. Most in-person meetups or conferences are still happening - they are just happening online! You can find listings for online events at meetup.com, LinkedIn groups, or on the websites of professional organizations. Some benefits of online events include:

  • You can attend events anywhere in the world! In normal circumstances, people must attend in-person and are limited by what events (if any) are physically close-by. Take advantage of the additional access to find groups that are the best fit for your professional interests – and then attend! Be sure to dress professionally, even if you’re attending via video conferencing.
  • Most events are held on a video platform that allows you to see the names of others in attendance  without awkwardly looking at their nametag. Write down the names of folks who ask good questions or that you meet in breakout rooms and then follow up with them after the event.
  • Speakers in a virtual event are much easier to get individual access to than they are at an in-person event. Gone are the long lines to chat with them afterwards! This also means that any personal outreach to the speaker afterwards has a higher likelihood of a response.

Follow Up Expeditiously for Relationship-Building

With virtual events, most of the work of relationship-building comes afterward. In order to create lasting connections with the other attendees or speakers, make sure to send follow-up emails or LinkedIn messages within 24 hours of the event. Mention which meetup you both attended, any specific parts of your past interactions (if any), and have a clear ask. Whether you have questions you want to send them about their past experience or if you want to meet for a 20 minute virtual coffee chat, be clear but polite with your request. Anecdotal evidence has shown that the shared recent experience greatly increases your chances of a reply so use this to keep up the momentum on relationship-building.

Utilize Video Calls

When you schedule a follow-up chat from an event – or any chat with a new member of your network – try to use a video call platform. The face-to-face conversation builds trust and mimics in-person interactions. Hold tea or coffee in your hand to create a casual environment and stick to the 20-minute conversation length that you suggested. 

Keep the Relationships Going

As you meet other professionals, it is always best practice to keep track of your conversations and continue to follow-up at a regular (but not too frequent!) cadence. A short note every two months is ideal unless something pops up that requires a time-sensitive outreach. Some ideas for follow-up:

  • Remain top-of-mind for your network by liking or commenting on their LinkedIn posts. 
  • If you read an article that reminds you of a topic you discussed, send it to your contact with a note.
  • If someone you met at an event is an organizer of that group or meetup, offer to help with future events and then follow through!

Relationships that you create and sustain, even remotely, can bring value to you and others throughout your career. Challenge yourself to attend an event or re-connect with someone in your network today! In this time of isolation, it is a productive way to spend time with others.

Rachel Fuld Cohen is a Lambda School career coach with a passion for helping people transition to technical, interesting, and well-paying roles. She has been coaching data science students for 5+ years, with previous experience in career counseling and technical recruiting. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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