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The UPS Store Small Business blog
  • 12 May 2021
  • Alex Penfield

A Guide to Business Networking While Working Remotely

Work-life balance, zero commute time, sweatpants. There are a lot of perks that come with working from home. But working remotely is not without its challenges, one of which is the difficulty to build and expand your network without in-person interaction. Traditional networking is all about face time and relies heavily on things like large-scale conferences, business card exchanges and endless handshakes — none of which have been possible over the past year. So, the question then becomes, how do we connect when we can’t be together?

person on a video call

Below are a few tips for maximizing your networking effectiveness when face-to-face interaction isn’t an option. Remember, networking, whether in person or remote, is a skill that takes practice — the more you do it, the better and more comfortable you’ll become.

  • Be open: Working remotely means “watercooler” conversation isn’t an option, making natural networking opportunities more difficult to come by. The solitary nature of remote work means you’ll need to go out of the way to connect with others, and you may need to accept invitations and attend events that push you out of your comfort zone. Join an interesting-sounding remote conference or industry-wide virtual event, or plan an online coffee catch-up. It may spark new inspiration or opportunities for your small business that you haven’t considered before.
  • Leverage LinkedIn: As a small business owner, LinkedIn can be your best friend when it comes to business networking remotely. LinkedIn not only connects you to people in your industry and beyond, but it has thousands of groups to join, from industry-specific to small interest groups. By joining these groups, you and your business will be exposed to others with similar goals, both professional and personal, making the remote networking process easier and more natural.
  • Reconnect with alums: Reconnecting with your alma mater is a great way to expand your network. Even if you’ve been out of school for what seems like forever, alumni pride runs deep and provides solid common ground from which to launch a networking conversation. LinkedIn is also a great place to find old classmates, university groups and alumni networks.
  • Get on apps: Applications like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Zoom have made working remotely easier than ever, and they can also make business networking remotely simpler as well. Utilize the video function whenever possible for increased personal interaction during networking sessions, and join interest groups on communities like Slack.
  • Keep it diverse: Network connections can and should come from every facet of your life, not just the professional one, so seek out people outside of your industry with shared interests and hobbies. If you find that most of your connections are similar to you in age, ethnicity, location or profession, consider expanding your network to include people who differ from you, or join a group out of your comfort zone to help keep your perspective fresh.
  • Go live: Utilize the “live” function on social channels such as Facebook and Instagram to join conversations with industry leaders, ask questions and connect with other like-minded business professionals. If your business has a social page, consider going live as a way to connect with current customers and attract new business.
  • Take advantage: While remote networking may seem less personal than traditional face-to-face interactions, small businesses can actually benefit from the remote aspect of these connections. Networking online levels the playing field — meaning even small or isolated entities are given the opportunity to participate in events they may not previously have had access to from a size, financial or geographical standpoint. Many networking events that were formerly hosted in large cities or limited to exclusive companies have since expanded to include larger audiences in their virtual form.

Working remotely has reshaped our routines, changed the way we do business and pushed us out of our comfort zones. And while the absence of in-person events can certainly make networking trickier, there are aspects of the current professional environment that help level the playing field for small businesses. Because of the shift to remote networking, small business owners have unprecedented access to thought leadership, high-profile events and industry experts. By utilizing the above tools and today’s unique remote networking situation, you can form virtual connections from the comfort of your own home while growing your business to the best it can be.

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