The internet is my best friend with this stuff. I’m in several groups on fb and I have work chats with a few people, I’m also on linkedin. So I’m not super super active, I think networking is quality over quantity honestly, so in that way I agree it’s like making friends. So there’s one girl I knew in high school who ended up in my field, I saw something she wrote and sent her a nice message, she then friended me on fb and linkedin, and I friended her back. When she would post her articles I would like them, and sometimes comment but only if I really had something to say, and vice versa. Fast forward a couple of years and she reached out to me to write something for a magazine she was starting. I did, and it worked out, then fast forward another year and she posted a job she was hiring for, I applied and sent her a message separately and got the job. We worked remotely “together” for like a year before she left that job, and when I found out she was leaving I sent her a $10 coffee gift card on facebook. We still comment on each other’s articles, etc. and if I needed to hire someone like her I’d put her to the top of the list, and vice versa I think.
I know this wasn’t very instructive, but it’s maybe helpful to hear a play-by-play example? I have met with her IRL exactly once in the last ten years. We don’t chat on the phone or have long chats online, we just touch base and occasionally share each other’s stuff or comment. I think that kind of genuine networking is wayyyy more valuable. I’m also on instagram and I do the same thing there, like a guy I used to work with who is now super higher up somewhere else, if he posts a cute dog photo or (we both like to cook) a recipe or something I’ll leave a nice comment, and he’s reached out to me in the same way, so it’s like, we’re keeping that door open. If I really needed a job I would feel ok being like, “Hey M, I’m looking for a writing gig, if you hear of anything pass my info along! Thx!” that kind of thing.
Oh the other thing I do, is keep stuff fun. So in my work chats, one thing that’s tricky is that when you’re remote you can become invisible. I make sure to be the likable fun one in my work chats. I’m never negative, but also I’ll find super weird and hilarious articles that I know will appeal to different people, and I send those to them. So my boss’ boss loves weird tech stuff, I’ll read something and send it to her with a comment, she’ll comment back, we laugh online about it. My boss is more of a cute animals person, so I’ll send her things like that and ask about her kids. It’s basically like, ingratiating myself to them but digitally rather than in person. I find it’s helped a lot with me not getting forgotten despite not being able to come into the office.
No idea if any of this is helpful/relevant to your field but that’s just been my experience.