What Good is Networking When You Work From Home?
Building informal professional networks creates immeasurable value. Not only do these informal networks help propel your career they also foster innovation at your own company. You really never know where the next big idea will come from. The spark of a concept, solution, or theory often happens during a chance encounter with a colleague from another department or even from an acquaintance at another organization.
Meeting your co-workers or growing your sphere of influence happens naturally in a traditional work setting. You may walk past someone’s desk, say hello in the break room, or get to know someone from another company in the elevator ride up to your office. The next thing you know, your network has grown through these small daily interactions. It’s tempting to say this can’t happen when you work outside the office. You may not believe it, but you can, and you must grow your network when you are teleworking, too. It may even be easier to engage with your networks when you’re not working behind a company firewall.
Influence and Informal Networks
You often start creating informal networks without even knowing it. It can happen simply by getting to know new people who do what you do or who work in a similar industry. This is an individual activity that builds personal value.
Your company most likely doesn’t sponsor informal networking, nor do you really want them to. This is about you creating a network that fits your interests and aspirations. It is about spreading your influence far and wide across your organization and industry.
There are a few helpful ways to do this while teleworking. Keeping your chat on while you are working is a great way to make sure you are available to connect with colleagues. Make sure to add employees from other departments in your organization on chat. This way, you can learn more about them and possibly connect with them for future projects. Try starting a virtual co-working group or attending an online workshop with the people in your workplace network.
Remember that your network goes beyond the boundaries of your company. It may include former colleagues who have moved on to new organizations, friends with similar jobs, or even former classmates. At Ansera Solutions, we call these external networks personal learning networks because they encourage informal learning and growth.
When working in an office among others, it can be hard to stay in touch with these external networks, let alone grow them. On the other hand, teleworking might enable the kind of multitasking that keep such networks alive and well.
While social media can be a starting point, it is not enough to simply join a social media networking site and hope to connect with people. You have to be active on the platform by sharing engaging content, following, engaging, and messaging people you know and people you would like to get to know better. Joining online professional groups is an even more effective way to build your informal network.
Building, expanding, and maintaining your informal networks when teleworking does take time and effort. It is an effort that creates personal value and leads to serendipitous moments. We assure you that taking on this challenge is well worth it, and both you and your company will reap the rewards.
Feature photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash
Networks exist wherever you connect with people on a regular basis. The keys are what we call residency. Residency refers to our belief that communities only provide value when people spend time within them and engage with others. Networks exist in the form of relationships between people, which can be maintained or developed through social media. Yes, people can learn by lurking on social media, but this alone is not networking. Here are some technologies and notes that might help.
Facebook and LinkedIn Groups
These can be either public or private. For professional networking, we recommend finding groups dedicated to one or more aspects of your profession. There’s no harm in joining to feel out whether it can help your work. Be sure to contribute and see how people interact. Remember, you’re not looking for agreement with you, but constructive commentary and mutual respect for differing perspectives. Be sure to check out our own Facebook group dedicated to teleworking, a virtual water cooler of sorts.
Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other networking platforms
Unlike existing groups, you need to build your network on these platforms through friends, connections, or whatever they’re called. Search hashtags or keywords to find and follow others who are interested in areas related to your interests. The key here is engagement. It’s about the quality of your networks, not the number of people in them.
Platforms like Slack allow people to gather and invite others to join. Like networking platforms, you build your own network of sorts. Like groups, all members see the posts of other members, who can interact with one another. Slack (and Skype and others) are great for work groups or groups of like-minded individuals who have some preexisting relationship outside the platform.