It isn’t the smarmy “What can you do for me?” exercise that many novices see it as — and if you’re doing it that way, it probably isn’t doing much for you.
And in today’s economy, if you aren’t investing in networking on a global scale, your networking may not be doing much for your career.
I live in San Diego, home to one of the large hubs of biotech companies. That gives me a natural advantage when looking for a job in the biotechnology industry; indeed, my local network is full of people in that industry. Even when I was in graduate school, I knew people who worked in biotech (and the only reason I didn’t know more was that I didn’t put much effort into networking).
But here’s the reality…
If you don’t network outside the place in which you do live, you are missing out on a great opportunity to expand your network in a meaningful way. You are, essentially, limiting your career.
Be Selective and Strategic
Building a long-distance network takes some effort, so pick one or maybe two geographic areas on which to focus. That doesn’t mean that you’ll turn down a job in some other locale. It just means that you are going to concentrate your networking on your top pick (or your top two picks) for your next home city.
Be realistic in choosing a geographic area. It is hard to put in the effort required for remote networking if you’re focusing on a place where you won’t actually want to live some day. Likewise, your efforts are going to be wasted if you’re trying to network in a city with only a few jobs in your target industry. Also be realistic if the target of your remote networking is a position in a foreign country.
Don’t Settle for Just Online
Once you have chosen the locale, look at the upcoming conferences in your field. Are there any in that region? If so, strongly consider attending one!
Your ideal networking partners are people who are a few steps ahead of you on the career ladder. Those people often have families and other commitments that make them less likely to attend conferences that require travel. That’s why the attendee list at many conferences held in an industry hub skews toward locals. If there are commonly used software tools in your field, don’t overlook user-group meetings as networking opportunities, which skew even more toward locals than larger, more generic meetings.
Go Outside Your Industry
Don’t lock in on just industry related events and groups, though. Instead, add local networking groups in the region (the kind you find in LinkedIn groups or on Meetups.com, for instance). Become active in those online venues by looking at the networking group’s calendar and attend an event.
While in-person events certainly make networking easier, they are not your only option, particularly not now that social media has become so prevalent.
Many industries and career paths have large Twitter communities, for example, that can be a great source of contacts. However, don’t expect social media to be a quick fix. As many other careerists have discovered, you will get the best results if you take a calculated approach to networking via social media.
In other words, don’t just jump in and start asking for help. Take the time to develop actual relationships with people that matter!
Both conventions and networking groups can be a great way to meet a lot of people. But due to the nature of these events, forming a meaningful connection will require that you follow up afterward.
If that sort of follow up seems forced and awkward to you, dedicate yourself to making it happen. Commit to an email for each contact. Or perhaps connect on social media. Whatever connection method you choose, be deliberate and consistent.
As with all networking, the long-distance version takes time to be meaningful. You are quite literally building relationships, and that cannot be rushed.
However, with time, patience, and some luck, you should be able to make real and useful connections with people — even if they live on the other side of the country from you.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at JobScan Blog!
About the Author: is a consultant focusing on scientific information management and project management. She has a Ph.D. in the biosciences from the Scripps Research Institute, and more than 10 years’ experience managing projects and people. Follow Melanie on Twitter!