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It’s no secret that remote working has taken on a life of its own. Gone are the days when this was a rare opportunity of which most people would be skeptical; now, more and more companies are making these positions available to attract and retain talent from any location.
At first glance, this might seem like the ultimate dream: no commute, fewer distractions, a more flexible schedule, a shorter morning routine—the list goes on and on. And these perks are real! Working from home can pose a number of great benefits.
But, as with most things, some challenges do accompany these perks, one being a harsh lack of consistent in-person interaction with colleagues. While social, “water cooler”-type interaction is one thing remote workers unfortunately miss out on, natural networking opportunities are also hard to replicate when you’re not in an office.
Or are they? If you work from home and fear there’s no way to meet other like-minded professionals, don’t panic! Here are a few simple, readily available ways for any remote worker to network like everyone else:
Join relevant Linkedin groups
When you check your Linkedin account, there’s more that you can do than just see who’s viewed your profile and stumble across interesting articles. This platform is filled with numerous groups for various job fields, locations, personal interests, and so on. Maybe you’re a freelance journalist who wants to connect with others in that community. Interested in TED talks? There are groups for those who’d like a forum to discuss their favorite TED videos. Perhaps you’re a writer in Boston—there may be a group for individuals in that profession in that same big city.
Request to join any of these groups, and then make an effort to participate in their discussions. Group members will likely be exchanging thoughts and ideas on a weekly basis, and the door is wide open for you to join in. One of your group members may even share a relevant job opportunity or notify you of an in-person networking event nearby. You may even come across someone who went to the same university as you! Speaking of which…
Stay connected to your alma mater
Just because you graduated and moved on from college doesn’t mean it’s not still a part of your life. That school will always be part of your identity as long as you want it to be, and the opportunities for alumni to stay involved are endless. Other than joining the often available Linkedin groups to stay connected with other alums like yourself, you can also check out your school’s website for any email listings you can sign up for to keep you up to date on alumni events and occasions. You may learn of opportunities to go back to your campus and visit your fellow alumni and some university officials. Any of these people can be great individuals to network with, as the connection you all share makes it that much easier to get the conversation going. You might be surprised at how comforting meeting with fellow alumni can be. That established camaraderie is strong, and you might even make a few friends along the way.
Make the effort to meet with your colleagues
Depending on your company’s size, you might have some other co-workers who are in the same situation as you. Many remote workers stay connected to their colleagues through platforms like Skype, Slack, GoToMeeting, and other online conferencing and chat tools. While these are certainly the more convenient route on a day-to-day basis, that doesn’t mean you can’t at least try to meet up with your colleagues in person once in awhile. If you know of some fellow team members in your city, reach out to them and set up a time to go out to dinner. If you know you’ll be taking a trip somewhere where other colleagues are located, see if they’re available to meet up for a quick lunch while you’re in town. Don’t be afraid to make a little extra effort every now and then to see these people. Chances are they’ll be thrilled you did it and will want to do the same thing again. Even the shortest of in-person visits can go a long way!
Check out networking events and join organizations in your community
A quick Google search can usually bring up tons of local events aimed at people looking to network. Most big cities, including St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and many others, have networks specifically designed for young professionals. Join one of these groups and check out their meet-ups—some may be strictly social, some may be structured for networking in a certain field, some may be volunteer opportunities, etc. Regardless, these are easy ways to get out of the house, do something fun, and meet tons of people who are literally looking to network and meet others. These are generally open to everyone, so you may meet a mix of professionals who either work in an office or who work remotely like yourself. Maybe you’ll even get together with those who work remotely to have work days out of the house together! But where?
Use co-working spaces
Finally, remember that just because you work from home doesn’t mean you always have to work from home. Many cities have co-working spaces, which are essentially buildings or floors of office space that are available for people to use as an office. Some will be more decked out with desks, printers, coffee-makers, and so on, while others will leave it more up to you to make the most out of your space. Many will typically have a cost associated with them for you to reserve a desk or space on certain days or weeks, so it is up to you how much you’d like to invest in having an actual office to go to.
But back to the main perk of this—you will be in a space with other “co-workers,” whether they be true co-workers of yours, other remote workers you met at an event, or brand new faces who are there for the same reason you are. Regardless, this is a natural way to get those aforementioned natural conversation and networking opportunities that people in offices get every day. You never know who you might meet, what ideas you might come up with together, or who they might know!
Cathryn Sloane is the Marketing Manager with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.