While working from home, you may think you don’t have an opportunity to network with others in your daily life. However, remote workers can network like traditional workers — and from the comfort of home and in their pajamas, too.
Balancing technology and in-person interaction is vital to networking when you work from home.
Here are eight ways to network when you work from home.
1. Join Trade-Related LinkedIn Groups
Join trade-related LinkedIn groups for water-cooler talk, job searching, articles, career tips, and to make connections. You can find groups based on your location, field, and personal interest. Join a statewide group for freelance writers, or join a group for entrepreneurs looking to develop their social media skills. If you watch TED talks in your spare time, there are groups to discuss your downtime habit.
LinkedIn allows you to join up to 100 groups, and while some groups may not be active, you can always engage and answer questions others ask. Instead of being a wallflower, post articles for discussion. Participating in group discussions showcases your knowledge and lets others get to know your personality. You may find someone to talk more in-depth about career interests and development.
Invite others from your in-person network to your online network. If these professionals benefit from your invitations, the positive career vibes can only spread.
2. Stay Connected With Your Alma Mater
The connections you made at college remain with you, and it’s exciting to run into others who attended your school. That doesn’t mean your time at college is over. There are many opportunities for alumni to stay connected and actively give back to their college community without having to write a check — which also means opportunities to network and continue your professional development.
Start with your college website and click on the alumni office page. Often this page lists relevant information for reunion events, fundraisers, and other information for alums to stay in touch.
Stay connected with your college postgrad because you never know what career connections you’ll make, from paying it forward to getting access to top performers for recruitment. Give the alumni office a call and ask how you can help out. You may end up helping sponsor an event and getting your company’s name out there. You may end up hiring an intern from your alma mater.
3. Co-Work With Others in Your Industry
Collaborations are great, but you don’t have to be lonely in your home office. Take the opportunity to set up a co-working day with another professional in your field. You can trade tips on managing your time and clients while enjoying a little water cooler talk over coffee. A change in environment could do your workflow some good, too.
Choose a low-maintenance project to work on, or catch up on your emails in case your co-working buddy likes to chat too much. Alternatively, co-work at home over a chat or conferencing tool such as Skype or Slack.
4. Go to a Co-Working Site
When you want an environment change, a coffee shop is a good alternative, but it can be loud. While a library is quiet, many cities now have co-working spaces you can utilize.
Some co-working sites will have coffee makers, desks, printers, and a lounge area, while others let you decide what to do with the space. Typically, a small rent or membership fee is required, but consider a co-working site if you have to meet with a big client or just want a change of scene.
5. Be Social With Professionals in Your Network
There’s a difference in socializing with those in your personal life and your professional life, especially when Ted from second grade knows all your embarrassing stories. You can get a measure of social interaction remotely through a chat or conference tool, but in-person meetings to touch base still work in your favor. Making the extra effort shows you care and that is memorable.
Be social. Meet for coffee or a drink. Talk business and bucket lists while taking a walk in a greenway. Peel back a layer of your professional persona to reveal the person underneath the professional. Always follow up with contacts you’ve made and suggest meeting in person.
6. Network at Conferences and Events
Remote workers get lonely, too. That’s why networking at conferences and events is extra important for those who work from home to expand their professional contacts and career opportunities. Before attending, research online to see who will be attending, get to know where vendors and events will be, and choose which events you’d most like to attend. Doing the legwork in advance will leave you less lost and more ready for facetime with professionals and business who caught your eye.
Talking to a stranger is always a little nerve-wracking, even for seasoned networkers, but think of these strangers as professionals already in your network. Think positively. If you say nothing, your network contacts will think you have nothing to offer. Smile, make eye contact, and pay an earnest compliment. Be natural, and have your contact information ready to exchange.
7. Join Community Organizations
Not prepared to take a flight across the country for a conference? Start at your home base and participate in a community organization. If you’re in a rural area, you may need to venture to a bigger city.
It could be a writers’ organization in your city or a Meetup group for photographers or young professionals. This gives you an opportunity to network, be social, and volunteer your time. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, start a group and build your network.
8. Volunteer Your Time and Give Back
For all you’ve done in your career and all you have, give back to your community and the world at large. If you’re a photographer, why not do photos for an animal shelter? If you’re a freelance writer, why not volunteer your skills for a cause you care about?
You don’t have to use the skills of your career. Your time is more than adequate when it comes to volunteering, and you never know whose life you’ll touch. Whatever good you do in the world will come back around.
Optimize the times where you can make professional connections by networking at conferences and events or by co-working and socializing in person and online. Volunteer your time for a cause you care about or at your alma mater. Don’t hide behind a screen: Meet others in your industry for a beer or coffee, or connect while taking a nature walk.
Technology can be used to your advantage while you work from home. Join LinkedIn groups and other groups on social media. Don’t let yourself feel lonely. Pull up a chat tool and co-work with a remote colleague. Meet in person if possible. Remote workers can network from the comfort of home, while in their pajamas, but should remember to get out in the world, too.
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Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on finding happiness and success in life and at work. You can find her dishing out advice with a side of wit on Twitter and her career advice blog, Punched Clocks.