Double exposure of Professional businessman connecting cloud tecMany Americans are now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While working from home certainly helps limit the spread, it presents unique challenges for professionals who want to network. Meeting up with colleagues and peers is a great way to learn new skills, experience different perspectives, and grow your contact list. But it isn’t easy when everyone from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to state authorities encourages strict social distancing.

Instead of taking a few months off and waiting for things to return to “normal,” consider networking with others online. Though it won’t have the same in-person feel, there are plenty of ways to stay in touch with fellow professionals. Unsure where to begin? Here are three ideas:

1.) Join an alumni community on LinkedIn. Have you connected with classmates from high school or college on LinkedIn? If not, consider joining your institution’s alumni community. Even if you don’t know everyone in the group, you all have something in common — graduating from the same school. This common bond may be exactly what you need to get your foot in the door. Once you’re approved for membership, create an introductory post that provides a little background. Then, visit the group once or twice a week and participate. Over time, you’ll make new friends and in turn, professional connections.

2.) Attend a webinar or online conference. Big in-person events probably won’t return until late 2021 or 2022. Even so, there are plenty of webinars and online conferences to attend. Most industries in the information-technology sector have at least one major gathering each year. If you’re unsure where to begin, Google your job title (in quotation marks: e.g., “data scientist”) followed by “online conference 2021.” You’ll be surprised at how many events show up.

3.) Host a Zoom happy hour with a co-worker or co-workers. If you’re lucky enough to work with people you like, see if they have time for a brief happy hour. Connecting with your colleagues outside of the regular workday is a great way to relieve stress, provide support and check in with one another. If you have more than a few people interested, consider hosting a presentation or team-building activity.

Networking from home isn’t easy, but it is possible. By following these tips, you can maintain strong relationships, no matter the location of your office. Good luck and have fun.