How to Build a Professional Network While Working from Home

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How to Build a Professional Network While Working from Home

Thanks to COVID-19, many people found themselves working from home (WFH) for the very first time. To some, this was a welcome adjustment away from the daily grind, but others found the transition stressful. WFH offers flexible work hours and an adaptable work schedule, but without strong time management skills, it’s tough to achieve a healthy work-life balance. There are benefits to home-based work, but one of the downsides is the lack of human connection. While the introverts may thrive in this solitary environment, those who enjoy interpersonal connection will quickly become lonely, and sometimes even stir-crazy.

As some businesses noticed the increase in productivity, the ability to hire people across the country, the accessibility for employees, and the lowered costs of not paying for an office, this trend of working remotely is likely to continue.

Since the WFH life seems to be here to stay, it’s important to maintain interpersonal relationships that may have come easier when you shared an office work environment. Here are some great tips on how to stay connected when you can work from anywhere.

Working From Home for a Company

If you work for a company, you already have an advantage over people who freelance or run a one-person business. While they have to find connections on their own, you interact every day with potential connections.

While it’s important to keep things professional, there’s room during work conversations to talk about your day as well.

Simple questions like “how are you?” won’t go too far. Many people will just say “fine” and move on, generally because when people ask how they are, they don’t really want a detailed answer about their personal life.

If you’re planning to start a true conversation, find a question that can’t be answered with one word. You can ask things such as:

  • Do you have any fun weekend plans?
  • Have you read any good books/watched any good shows lately?
  • Are you planning any vacations this year?
  • Is there anything in your life right now that’s stressing you out? Can I help at all?
  • Do you know of any good places to get lunch around here?
  • Are there any weekend day trips you recommend in the area?
  • Have you played any good video games recently?
  • Have you been getting some much-needed relaxation in? What do you recommend doing to unwind at the end of the day?
  • Do you have any good recipes for meal planning?

If you ask a question based on looking for a recommendation, they get a chance to talk about themselves without it seeming like you’re prying. Then they get to decide how much they want to share. If it seems like they only want to focus on work talk, try starting up a conversation with someone else.

co-worker  conversation starters

Another way to connect with people? Ask about their pets. People love sharing funny stories and saying what they love about their four-legged babies! It’s always a great conversation starter. Even if they don’t have their own pet, they probably know someone or have a family member with a pet that they’re very fond of.

Once you start making connections, you open up the opportunity to create deeper connections. If you take the first steps and show that you’re interested in creating a more friend-based relationship, they will reciprocate if they’re interested as well. Follow their lead; some people will want to just keep their remote worker position professional.

Once you build a rapport during your regular work interactions, ask if they’d like to meet outside of work. Whether you have a Zoom wine night or you get together in person for dinner, getting out of the confines of the professional setting allows you to be more authentic and create a true connection. If you enjoyed working with someone, chances are you will like them outside of the office as well.

You want to be extremely clear that this outside of work meeting is not a date. If you think there might be any confusion, it’s best to invite multiple people you’ve made connections with so it’s very clearly a friend hangout.

Once you’ve hung out in person, it’s a great idea to connect on social media. You get to see what’s happening in their personal lives and get to interact with them more outside of a professional setting. This step plays an even more important role if you aren’t local to each other.

Giving your friendship time to grow outside of the office will help you create social and professional connections, and will help you all work better as a team.

If you’re a manager or team leader, try to foster these connections with your team and among your team, since camaraderie plays such a large role in a group’s success. You can set up virtual or in-person Friday happy hours or start meetings off with unscripted icebreakers so people can share a bit about their weekends or their personal lives so those connections can begin.

Working From Home as a Freelancer

Starting your own business is exciting, but can also be lonesome. Not all small businesses interface with the public; if you’re a freelance writer, for example, the most contact you might get on any given day is a brief virtual meeting to discuss outlines and content. It’s easy to feel lonely when you’re fully remote with no coworkers.

Facebook

You can grow your own network and make friends in the industry by joining Facebook groups tied to your vocation. Facebook boasts almost limitless groups, covering almost any niche, no matter how specific. You can find a group as broad as female freelancers, or you can join a group dedicated just to C.S. Lewis-loving content. Find groups that fit your passions and your professions.

If you’re an amateur, part-time, or full-time artist, there are thousands of artist support groups where you can get feedback, advice, and even a platform to sell your art. There are a wide array of Etsy support groups where you can learn from thought-leaders and get almost instant help with any problem, from a malfunctioning Cricut to questions of international shipping.

No matter what your niche is, you can certainly find a group that’s right for you. Once you find a group of your people, be sure to engage! You’ll get as much out of the group as you give. If you really connect with other members, you might even make a few friends along the way!

Even though LinkedIn prides itself as a professional social network, it’s extremely difficult to make valuable community connections, even if you do join their groups. On Facebook, you can be as casual or professional as you want to be, and their interface more effectively allows you to promote yourself from fellow group member to acquaintance to friend.

Bumble

A place to look for personal, one-on-one professional relationships is Bumble Bizz.

Yes, that Bumble!

Bumble actually has three modes: Bumble Bizz, Bumble BFF, and Bumble as the dating platform. Even if you use all three, you get to create a unique profile for each mode. On Bumble Bizz, you have places where you can put your current job, what you’re looking for, your past professional experience, photos of yourself, and answers to icebreaker questions. You get to swipe right or left, and as a woman, you get to be the one to start the conversation if the other person is a man. Bumble’s whole platform is all about making online meetings safe and secure, especially for women. It’s easy to report untoward behavior and you get updates when Bumble has taken steps based on your reports.

This is a great tool, especially as a creative. Whether you’re putting together a film crew, searching for a mentor, or in need of an editor for your latest novel, you can find professionals who are looking for someone like you. And if you’re looking for friends, you can always try Bumble BFF!

Your Home Office Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely

Just because you work alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone! Work from home jobs can open up possibilities to connect with people you may have never considered contacting: one of the many benefits of remote work. When you work in an office, you’re confined to people in your zip code. Thanks to the power of Wi-Fi, you could become fast friends with someone across the country or even across the world! When you open yourself up to these new connections, you have the opportunity to learn and grow thanks to mentors and peers you may have never come in contact with.

Networking doesn’t stop outside of working hours, and you might meet your most powerful mentor on your phone. Suddenly, working from home doesn’t seem so lonely at all!

Sarah Margaret Henry
Published in Career, Featured Articles

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