How to Network With People While Working or Studying Remotely?
10 January 20225 min read
Greg Roche
Greg Roche
Career Transition Coach

You've crafted a winning resume, an eye-catching cover letter, and original interview answers. You’ve done everything you need to do to land your dream job, right?

What about your professional network?

According to Linkedin, about 70% of people say they got their job because of a connection at their current company.

Everyone says you need to network to find a job. No one tells you how to do it.

Google "how to network" and you'll get a list of results telling you how to select the right networking event, how to prepare your elevator speech, and how to follow-up with the people who give you business cards.

But, what if you hate going to networking events? What if there are no networking events due to a global pandemic?

It's still possible to grow your professional network without networking events.

I know because I'm the person who refuses to go to networking events and who has learned how to grow my professional network to find better, higher-paying job opportunities.

People who know me are surprised when I tell them about my aversion to networking events. I'm a public speaker. At one point in my life, I worked on a cruise ship as an entertainment host playing games and organizing events for guests. Today, I work in a corporate office and lead teams of people. I have no problem interacting socially with people I already know.

[fig1] How to network with people while working or studying remotely

However, when it comes to talking to new people in a large group, I freeze up. I slowly back myself into a corner and wait for someone to have mercy on me and start a conversation.

So, when I lost my job back in 2012, I had to learn how to network in order to find a new job.. By going against the grain and doing something other than going to networking events, I discovered how to connect with people and grow my network in a way that was comfortable for me.

After I landed a new job, I continued to connect with people and expand my network. Over time, people asked me to help them become better networkers. I started coaching executives who were in transition and looking for their next career opportunity. I created group coaching programs for people who wanted to become better at networking in order to make a career change or to grow their businesses. In 2020, I wrote a book about networking called, The Fast and Easy Guide to Networking for Introverts.

Through experience, I have developed a five-step approach to help introverts connect and develop deeper professional relationships in a calm, low-stimulus environment. This approach works in a virtual, non-face-to-face environment, which is perfect for the current world we are living in.

5-Step Approach to help Introverts:
  1. Start with who you already know.
  2. Connect online, build relationships offline.
  3. Listen and give.
  4. Be easy to help.
  5. Show up every day.
1. Start with who you already know

This step uses the concept of "dormant ties," which was featured in Adam Grants book, Give and Take. He refers to a study conducted by MIT where executives were asked to list people they had worked with in the past. These relationships were dormant because the executives had lost contact with their coworkers. The executives were asked to get in touch with these former colleagues and ask for their perspective on certain problems the executives were trying to solve.

The study found the dormant ties not only responded at higher than expected rates but also gave insights the executives found very valuable. The conclusion was because dormant ties already knew the executives, they didn’t need to decide if they liked and trusted them before providing help.

Reaching out to dormant ties is a great way to start your networking because these connections are low risk. These people know your name and will likely respond when you send them an email or message through other channels.

In order to reconnect with your dormant ties, start by making a list of people you already know. These people might be:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Co-workers from your current job
  4. Co-workers from previous jobs
  5. Co-workers who have left your company for other jobs
  6. Friends from social or professional clubs
  7. Friends from religious institutions
  8. People you have met from existing networking activities
  9. Alumni from school
  10. Influencers in your industry

Don't let yourself get overwhelmed when you create this list. I tell people to set a timer for 15 minutes and to see how many names they can list.

2. Connect online, build relationships offline

Once you identify your dormant ties, you're going to connect with them via email, LinkedIn, or other social media. Don’t overthink this.. Remember, you already know these people, so you don't need a long, complicated pitch on why you are contacting them.

Just a simple, "Hey, you crossed my mind the other day and we haven't talked in a while. I wanted to see how you were doing?" Your connections may respond right away or take some time. Be patient.

When they do respond, you'll want to move from text-based conversations to real life, voice-to-voice conversations. While you can connect online, in order to build deeper professional relationships, you need to talk offline. In this case, by “offline,” I mean via a virtual video call using tools like Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype.There are a ton of different options out there. I’ve been using Zoom to schedule virtual coffee meetings.

When one of your connections responds and agrees to have a voice to voice conversation with you, make it easy for them. Pick a time that works for his or her schedule. Take charge of setting up the meeting and sending them the login information.

[fig 2]How to network with people while working or studying remotely

3. Listen and give

Sometimes having conversations with people we already know can still be intimidating. Often, my coaching group students will say, "What are we going to talk about?" My advice is to ask the other person about their favorite topic.

Everyone has the same favorite topic. It's the one topic they know the most about: themselves. When you are having your one-on-one conversation in real life, ask the other person about themselves, and then listen.

Let them do the talking, but as you listen, think about what you can give them. Maybe they are working on a tough project at work. Give them your ideas or opinions. Maybe you know someone else who can help them. Give them the person's information and connect them. Maybe you read a book that would be useful for them. Give them the title of the book.

Giving to other people does two things:

It makes the other person want to give you something in return, and It makes you more comfortable asking the other person to help you.

If you can't think about anything to give to the other person, you can give them the one thing everyone has to give: your attention. When you give people your attention, they want to talk to you more.

4. Be easy to help

Inevitably, when you’ve connected with someone online and created offline conversations, and when you have listened to them and given what you can, they will ask, “How can I help you?”

The key is to be easy to help. People want to help each other, but it must be something they can easily do.

What does it mean to be easy to help?

If there is someone your connection can introduce you to, ask them to make the introduction via email or LinkedIn. If you’re searching for a new job, create a target list of companies and give it to your connection. This will help your connection think of people they may know or other companies you should consider.

Be as specific as possible and find ways to remove as many barriers as possible so your connection can easily help you.

5. Show up every day

The first four steps work together in a cycle:

  1. Start with someone you know or are introduced to
  2. Connect with them in person
  3. Listen and give
  4. Be easy to help and get introduced to a new connection, and repeat.

However, this last step is the most important because if you don't show up every day and continue to connect with people, your network won't grow. It sounds like a slow process, but sometimes, building relationships takes time.

Don't be overwhelmed by this process. You don't need a goal of connecting with a hundred people. Take small steps. Contact one dormant tie each day. Have one face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversation a week. Give yourself time to grow these professional relationships but keep showing up every day. Remember what Confucius said, "It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."

These five tips will help you get started but if you'd like to learn more about professional networking and specific actions you can take to grow your network, follow me on LinkedIn where I share daily networking tips and advice.

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Greg Roche
Greg Roche
Career Transition Coach
Greg Roche is an author of “The fast and easy guide to networking for Introverts”. Greg helps introverted job seekers grow their networks without going to networking events.