what’s the best networking experience you’ve had?

So many people hate networking — they worry it feels slimy, they don’t quite know how to do it, or it just makes them uncomfortable. It doesn’t help that most of us have had run-in’s with bad networkers.

So let’s talk about good networking. What’s the most satisfying or useful networking experience you ever had? How did it come about, and what led to its success?

Let’s discuss in the comments section.

{ 240 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi, all — please stick to the topic. This isn’t the post to complain about how you don’t like networking! (We’ve had those.) It’s for successful stories. I’ve removed comments that are off-topic.

  2. AntiSocial in a Social world*

    I find it helpful when there is a theme or some sort of topic/activity so that you can make connections. When it is just “come get some drinks” it is cliquey and also tends to devolve into social commentary. I went to an event at a conference where there were different management scenarios (almost like AAM letters) at each table and you could wander around to read each one, and chat, or even leave your business card with thoughts so others could connect.

    1. devtoo*

      Yes to topics and activities! In my city there are two very active women in technology meetup groups, and they consistently hold high quality events. My friend and I went to one focused on technical interview preparation (the most terrifying topic) a few years ago when we were just getting into the field. We were broken into small groups to work on coding problems together, and then evaluators (who were all friendly volunteers) came around to watch us and give us feedback. My friend did so well on her problem that one of the volunteers contacted her about a job the very next week, and she ended up getting hired at a major local employer that’s famous for not hiring junior engineers.

    2. a librarian*

      My best networking has happened at conferences in small, specific roundtables. Discussion groups about niche issues in my pocket of my industry that would attract something like 6 to 25 members at most. So I second this!

      1. Drago Cucina*

        Yes. I have to give kudos to the library marketing conference. They have tables of interest (i.e., programming, federal libraries, grant writing, etc.) which allow people who want to share ideas or their coolest program ever. They even have tables for people who don’t want to chat. Which weirdly, is a very smart networking tool. I had lunch with someone, but don’t know their dog’s name, director problems, etc. We often end up having a quiet drink at the end of the day because we’re not in the mood for raucous conversation.

    3. ceiswyn*

      Goodness yes! The best networking experience I’ve ever had (the only good networking experience I’ve ever had) was at a conference where everybody’s name badge had some weird symbols on them, and we were told that at the end of the conference there was a prize for figuring out what they all meant.

      Turns out that even a bunch of introverts are happy to approach complete strangers when there’s a ready-made excuse (“Hi, can I see what symbols are on your badge?”), and trying to figure it out was something we could all bond over.

      That was over ten years ago, and I’m still in contact with some of the professional acquaintances I made during that conference. (Also, I won :D)

      1. Robert in SF*

        Ummm, tease! What did the symbols mean? Home state of the person? Industry icons? Astrological sign? Substitution code for their first name? Tell us! :)

        1. ceiswyn*

          Each icon represented an area of specific interest – and people’s areas of interest were printed on the attendee list along with all their other information.
          Since everyone had registered multiple areas of interest and there was extensive overlap, figuring that part out didn’t help as much as you might think :)

    4. Llama Llama*

      Networking is best done with people who understand what your job/work is. I greatly prefer networking at conferences and workshops over going to things like mixers of “young professionals”. I always end up being the only one from a non-profit and find myself trying to explain to bankers and finance guys what I do and they just.don’t.get.it. And they have no interest in networking with me, that’s for sure.

      I live near a large ivy league university and once was talking with one of their MBA candidates and he just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that the non-profit I work for couldn’t just pay for xyz – we had to fundraise/write grants/find volunteers. His mind was boggled.

      1. Ama*

        Yes, I have a very specific job within the nonprofit space — not every nonprofit even has my position if they don’t run the type of programs I manage — so even general nonprofit conferences don’t always get me a lot of opportunities to really connect with people who understand what I do.

        Thankfully, long before I even worked here, my current org became a member of a group of nonprofits that is focused primarily on people who do what I do and which has both biannual meetings as well as smaller webinars and committees that are ongoing. It’s been extremely helpful since there’s no one even at my own org who does what I do (I report directly to the CEO and although she’s learned a lot about what I do that’s not her professional background). I’ve been able to make some professional connections that have helped me considerably as my role here has moved further into management of my own staff and not just day-to-day admin.

    5. Momma Bear*

      I had an excellent afternoon with other women in my otherwise male-dominated field. It was just good to see women succeeding in their chosen roles.

    6. Captain of the No Fun Department*

      My professional association has transitioned to online networking events which means that they have had to include an element of activity instead of just the cliquey chatting that occured previously and I love it! They send us off into breakout rooms on zoom with a question to discuss which gives us the opportunity to connect over shared knowledge, demonstrate our competence, and learn something new. Where I used to go to one event every other month, I find myself going to multiple events a week now!

  3. Hattie*

    My industry relies heavily on networking and when I was an intern my boss was constantly steering me round parties introducing me to people and challenging me afterwards to tell me “five new people I met and a fact about each of them.” I hated it and almost thought I would have to leave the industry because I was so uncomfortable. Then I made a friend who gave me the advice to just try and get to know one person at any party well enough to feel like you can invite them for coffee the next week. It completely changed how I approached these events, suited my preference for one-on-one networking far better and slowly as my acquaintances became friends and my network grew, I found that at parties I was being introduced to a lot of people by my friends in a far more natural way. Now I love networking events and it’s the thing I’ve missed most during the pandemic!

    1. Smithy*

      Part of your advice that I really resonate with is approaching networking in the social ways most natural to you, and also to not expect very much at event one or two.

      Whether it’s attending a social/family event with a lot of new people or being a new kid on day one in the lunch room – not all of us will feel best doing the same things, and most of us won’t have a new best friend on day one. Then once you know a few people, it really does instantly become more comfortable and natural.

      1. devtoo*

        Yes I love that part of this advice too! Some similar advice I received once re: getting out there and networking is “change the criteria for success.” If it’s your very first networking event in a new field/location/community and you feel terrified, maybe success looks like just showing up, listening to the talk, and learning something. Then you can work up to the goal of meeting and exchanging info with one person on your next event, like Hattie suggests.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      I agree with this so much! For me it really works as a goal for a conference/event/whatever to just meet one person who I really connect with (or for a multi-day conference, maybe one person per day). And the goal is not to get work from them or meet someone who matches my field exactly, it is to get to know them so that they become friends, so that if the need arises that I might want to call on them for a connection (or vice versa) it is just calling a friend.

      1. saltedchocolatechip*

        Yes!! I’ve done a fair number of informational calls (on both sides at this point) and the ones that are the best are where we just share about ourselves and see what comes up that is interesting. I’ve had a couple where I really just wanted to learn about the person and their work beyond what was publicly available and they clearly thought I would have a specific ask. On the one hand they may have felt a getting to know you call wasn’t worth their time (in which case just decline!), but truly who wants to do a favor for someone they are talking to for the first time? Let’s get to know each other and become friendly, if not friends, and then when opportunities come up we will think of each other.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Years ago I was figuring out my path and reaching out for info interviews. I had one that was exactly as you describe, just an awesome get to know you conversation! So I went into my next one feeling great and it turned out to be the most antagonistic professional exchange I’ve ever experienced. She kept demanding, in ways direct and indirect, what I wanted from her. What I thought she could do for me. My guess is she was suspicious it was all a ruse and I was hiding a “hire me” ask underneath all of it. That wasn’t it at all! It was such a demoralizing and antagonistic experience. I feel a huge pressure to have a specific ask when I want people’s time, and that seems to cut out so many possible experiences.

          1. saltedchocolatechip*

            Yes, I had two calls that felt like that during grad school — one where the person was also evasive about questions like, “What’s a project you’ve worked on you especially liked?” or “What was it like working with [high profile company]?”, answering along the lines of “Oh they’ve all been interesting.” …I’m not a reporter trying to get you on the record about something, I’m honestly trying to learn about what your work entails to see if I would enjoy something similar. From the comments here it seems like most people find the “getting to know you as a person” networking both useful and comfortable — maybe it’s selection bias of who enjoys AAM but it’s always worked best for me! I think too folks should realize that just because someone is junior to you doesn’t mean a conversation won’t be beneficial to both!

      2. Properlike*

        Yes! So many people err on the direction of “I must make myself known to strangers.” Reframing it as getting to know one person really well takes the pressure off performing and keeps you from being overbearing and self-centered. Plus, so many opportunities come out of personal connections!

    3. shamajuju*

      This aligns really well with some advice I received about networking. I tend to be socially awkward and shy, while a friend of mine is an AMAZING networker, so I asked him for advice. His best suggestion was that if you’re on your own and approaching someone, approach another solo individual. Don’t approach two people talking unless you have good reason. Larger groups – four or more – also work.
      I started using his tip to approach just one other person who is also on their own and have discovered we’re often very alike and the other person is happy that someone else took the leap.

      1. Bee*

        And once you know a handful of people that you’ll run into at industry events, you can then approach groups that contain those people! You walk up and say hi to the one person you know, they’ll introduce you to everyone else in the group, and bam, you’ve made three new contacts.

      2. Filosofickle*

        This how I survive networking! Another solo person is usually grateful for the walk-up. The downside is I almost entirely meet more entry level, unemployed, and shy folks at events. So while we connect and have a nice time — and truly that’s a win considering how awkward I feel at networking events — it feels like I rarely meet the movers and shakers who have more connections and power that might be more helpful. That’s not to say my wallflower buddies will never be helpful — networking is a long game and you never know where opportunities come from — but it’s something I’ve noticed.

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          I did that kind of networking in my field about 15 years ago, and all of a sudden I’m friends with a lot of the people who are getting major notice and high-profile deals. I’m never going to be the sort of person who stands on stage to get an award—I prefer to work behind the scenes and stay out of the spotlight—but many of the current Big Names remember that I gave them an opportunity or took them to lunch or had a useful suggestion for them at a pivotal moment, and their collective high regard for me does a lot for my general reputation.

          Also, everyone tries to network with people who are powerful and important, so if you do a favor for someone who’s new—or even if you’re just kind to them and treat them like a person who matters—they’ll remember it for a long time.

    4. JSPA*

      Science does this with poster sessions.

      A scientific poster is like a scientific paper, in brief: Title, author(s), abstract, intro, materials and methods, results, conclusions, acknowledgments…though these days, some of those sections may be reduced to, or supplemendted by a link or QR code.

      The stated main goal is sharing the science. But it’s also about contact with people who are interested in things that overlap with what you are interested in. One can talk mostly about the work, there’s an automatic segue to, “what are YOUR interests?” or “does your institution have someone doing X or Y, too.” As an unstated side benefit, poster sessions are cost-effective, and relatively easier for shy or socially inept people, people who do better when they’re focused on presenting the work, not themselves, people who do better when there’s a natural series of prompts and assumptions. Plus, even when you’re not at your poster–if, say, you’re looking at other people’s posters–your poster is there with your work and your contact information, quietly selling itself, and you.

      Some professions also do poster sessions. From what I’ve seen, some of them are much more like glossy ads for product, rather than, “I took a structured approach to a problem and analyzed the result, here’s how that worked out.” I’m thinking that companies, employees and entire fields could benefit from having more of the second sort–without giving away any huge trade secrets.

    5. allathian*

      I have similar experiences. I’m a career switcher and basically had to build up my network from scratch in my mid-30s. The first few events I attended, I tried to get to know at least a handful of people and it was so awkward somehow. But then I just decided to start talking to one or two new people at every event, as well as hanging out with a few people I already knew. So now I can mix it up a bit, by allowing myself to enjoy the company of people I already know as well as expanding my network.

  4. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    I’m not in a field that requires networking, and I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing traditional networking – that’s just not me. However, I once was offered a job (one of my favorite jobs!) because I knew the office manager and had talked to her about work in the past and she knew I was looking for full-time work. It was MONTHS after our conversation about it that she called and asked if I was interested, and I’d forgotten all about it, honestly. So I try to be open about talking about my work, and I ask specific questions about what others do, especially if I find their work interesting. It’s a more natural form of “networking” – discussing work with friends/family/acquaintances/people I just met/etc. So that’s not so much a “tip”, I guess, but more of an anecdote about what worked for me once. I still think it’s useful – I was able to refer a friend to an open position at another job I worked at as well, so I think it’s a viable strategy that doesn’t feel slimy!

    1. moonshine cybin*

      I think this is such an important experience to share. Networking is not just the overly formal ‘networking events’– it’s making real relationships and connections with friends, acquaintances, and more. It’s making real connections, not just when you’re actively looking for a job, but all the time.

      1. Mimi*

        All of my most-successful networking examples are of this form, too.

        – Someone I met through a foreign-language lunch meetup at my shared office invited me to a get-together for a shared mutual interest, and we gradually became friends and kept going to shared mutual interest events. We’d talked enough that I knew some of what they did, so when I was job searching last year I reached out to ask if they thought any of the open positions might be a fit for someone of my skillset, and it turns out that there was a not-yet-posted position that was a close match. We went on a few socially distanced walks while I was interviewing, talking about work and life, and while I didn’t wind up getting the job, I was one of the finalists, and we’re still going on regular walks.

        – I’ve connected two college friends to positions at companies I’ve worked for, just because I knew they were in bad jobs and my company had a job opening that they were a fit for, and I could put in a good word for them.

        – In my last job search I had job coaching services (paid for by oldjob) that included resume-writing. I didn’t think they did a very good job, but I wanted an objective opinion from someone familiar with my field, and wound up reaching out to one of my parents’ peers from the church where I grew up, basically saying, “This is my actual resume; this is job coach resume — do you have an hour or two to talk through them with me and help me identify things that would be valuable for me to incorporate?” We had a really good conversation (much more useful than anything from the job coach) and in talking through things, came up with some accomplishments that weren’t represented on either resume.

    2. bryeny*

      “I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing traditional networking” … “It’s a more natural form of ‘networking’ – discussing work with friends/family/acquaintances/people I just met/etc.” Monty & Millie’s Mom, that more natural form you describe IS traditional networking! Networking events (I guess that’s what you’re thinking of?) didn’t become a thing until maybe the ’80s. They’re like the in vitro fertilization form of networking, but people were doing it the old fashioned way for a long time before those dedicated events came along.

      1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

        Maybe I should have used “formal” instead of “traditional”! Formal networking seems a lot like sales, which I do not care for at all, but traditional getting-to-know-you chats are fascinating to me!

    3. Gumby*

      Yep, I have found a couple of jobs because people knew I was looking for work, they knew about a job, they told me about it / invited me to apply.

      We’re talking: my uncle’s across the street neighbor who I had never met, and in fact didn’t meet until after I was hired for the summer internship (and I only saw her maybe twice as she was many levels above summer interns and I was in a different department), mentioned the internship to him and facilitated the turning the resume in part (this was a while ago and online applications were not a thing). It was completely random.

    4. laowai-gaijin*

      That’s how I got my new (dream) job. A former colleague had just become a head of department, and we’d recently connected on LinkedIn. He asked me if I’d be interested in a part-time position that’s becoming full-time this fall. I told him I definitely was. It’s remote right now, but this fall, I’ll be making the move, and I’m excited about it.

  5. No Tribble At All*

    This wasn’t at a networking event, but I was the person who helped. A friend from college (B0b) texted me asking if I was still working at Company A, and if I was interested in an open position at Company B, where he worked. I said I wasn’t, but I knew one of my coworkers (Alice) was looking to leave, so I got the two of them in touch. She ended up with the job! Bob was happy that I could recommend a qualified person right off the bat; Alice was happy that her resume could go straight to the hiring manager; and I was happy that my friend got a better job.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      This is exactly how I got my current job. Was I actively networking? No, not at all. But I had kept in touch with colleagues at a former job who knew me and my work very well, so that when a opportunity was presented to one of them, she knew she could pass it along to me with a recommendation to the hiring manager. So much of networking, in my experience, has been to foster existing relationships even after you have moved on from however those relationships have formed.

    2. bopper*

      I did a similar thing…was asked by my former office mate about a job at her new company…I wasn’t interested but I knew someone that used to work for our old company and got split off into another company and had to work in another state and she hated it. She was interviewed and got the job!

    3. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I love being the helper. I tell that to as many people who say they hate networking as I can, because I know the thought process of ‘networking is just asking for something —> I have nothing to offer —> why would anyone help me if they’re not getting anything in return?’

      Connecting a talented person to a business that needs an employee IS something in return! Or, having a conversation with someone new to my field; sharing information or a recent article; asking to learn more about someone else’s interesting projects…these are all things I love.

      Maybe it’s partially because I don’t like when the focus is on me, and partially because performing acts of service makes me feel useful, but it’s what works for me.

      Just as I try to share stories of how relatively easy pregnancy and childbirth were for me (to counter the many, many horror stories women are told), I like to reassure reluctant networkers that there are people like me who are eager to help.

  6. AE*

    Now that I’ve gotten beyond the entry level stage of my career, I genuinely enjoy talking to younger alums from my college and graduate school who reach out to me. I was given a lot of help and guidance (and free coffee!) in turn (and still receive some) from older and more experienced alums, and it only feels natural to pay it forward. I’ve especially enjoyed talking to older women and learn about how they were able to build their careers at time when it was considerably more challenging than it is today (not that today is a bed of roses, but that’s another post for another time).

    I definitely get how networking in some situations can feel artificial and weird, especially if you haven’t done it a lot, but as long as you’re polite and considerate of other people’s time, most people accept it as a natural part of being an adult with a career.

    1. Firecat*

      You know – I’ve been shocked at how many new alums aren’t engaging in this from my old university – or even local HS students! I’ve offered to give advice on getting a Fulbright, about working in our niche field, you name it and a lot of people just … don’t. I was chomping at the bit for those opportunities at their age so to see so many of them just toss the opportunity aside boggles my mind!

  7. JustTheRightNic*

    After I graduated, I tried finding work for about a year and a half and was getting frustrated. To keep myself busy, I was going to my university spin classes multiple times a day (morning and evenings were taught by the same instructor). Through chatting with this instructor, I found out that he had quite an influential “main” job, and only taught fitness on the side. So I made it my job to keep chatting with him after classes, and eventually let it slip that I was looking for work. He told me to send him his resume that night, which I did, and two days later he told me a friend was hiring for a position in my field. I got an interview and ended up getting hired for my first job out of school. He did not in any way influence their decision to hire me, but he did help me get the interview, and now, 10+ years later, I am eternally grateful for the networking effort I put in – he essentially helped kick off my career! This event is a constant reminder of the benefits of networking, as well as the fact that networking does NOT have to be formal! Your next big networking connection can be your gym instructor, your barista, a person sitting next to you on an airplane.

    1. PennylaneTX*

      Chiming in regarding the person next to you on the airplane! I ended up in conversation on a one-hour flight with a woman who was a recruiter for a big grocery store chain in my state and they were moving into my city. I knew a lot about this store and how beloved they were but also how much the people in my city had strong allegiances to their store (man, we’re weird about grocery stores, aren’t we).

      By the end of the flight she’d given me her card and asked me to keep in touch. I didn’t, partly because I was moving across the country, but you never know where these things will pop up! Also, don’t get sloppy drunk on a flight haha.

  8. Jenna Webster*

    I feel like the best networking comes about when you get together with a group to discuss a shared problem. In the library world, there are a limited number of people who manage the collections in individual libraries, and the work is complicated and filled with interesting possibilities. I have made the best connections when collections people get together to talk about how we handle a particular issue. If this is done even semi-regularly, you get to know who is willing to try stuff, to speak up, to suggest solutions and it has led to a number of professional connections that are extremely helpful as well as energizing and fulfilling. Find people who love to do what you love to do and then talk about that with them!

    1. Peep*

      Yes! I work in museums but my job is one that pops up mostly in libraries and special collections. My favorite sessions at my professional conferences are the problem-solving ones. I remember a non-traditional session type where people could speak up in the middle (they had a circle of people with a variety of expertise who would answer their opinion on different topics to get the ball rolling, but then let the audience participate also), and I happened to respond once and people were like “yeah, YOU’RE RIGHT!” and then came up to me afterward. It was terrifying to speak up, but multiple people came up to me after the session to chat and exchange business cards. Not much has come from that specific instance, but I know that just speaking up occasionally or offering suggestions is a concrete way to make a “memorable” appearance without having to rely on like…charisma. Going to enough conferences and professional workshops over 10 years, I recognize people and people recognize me and it’s the warmest fuzziest feeling for this introvert. Job hunting has been horrible for me, but the people I’ve met along the way have been so nice and helpful literally years after interviewing. And the jobs I did get, have happened to be because I was classmates with adjacent people, so they knew my work and previous supervisors.

  9. Quinalla*

    I formed a Women’s group in my local area for folks in the industry – but didn’t limit it to just my profession. We met to talk about the challenges of being in a male dominated industry, whether in general or in leadership, but we also have been able to network with others in the industry since I didn’t limit it to just my profession, but brought together various parties from different companies – some competitors, some that work as consultants for each other or can. It was great networking because we came together for a shared purpose, built relationships and then felt more comfortable calling on others for help or referring folks in the group. Has been lovely! We haven’t met since COVID, but still send out occasional emails and plan to meet likely in the fall again in person.

    1. Nona*

      Quinalla – some colleagues and I are planning to start something similar, once we’re past COVID. Do you have any recommendations? We live in a small town which has two or three employers in our field, and our motivation is to connect women in the field to other women for support, friendship, and maybe professional networking. All we’ve figured out so far is that it must be a totally open invite in that anyone can opt in to coming rather than having to wait for an invite (I’m thinking a facebook group, or email list?), and that we’ll try to make the schedule childcare friendly. Is there anything that worked / didn’t work for you? One thing we’re not sure about is how broadly we should target it (from people at our employer only, or from all three / just our specialization or anyone working in any role in our field).

  10. anonymous academic*

    I am in academia (humanities), and networking often gets a bad rap among my peers. But I actually love the process of going to conferences and meeting people! It’s most enjoyable when it happens organically, say, by meeting a friend of a friend, or someone your peer went to grad school with. I’ve also had good luck signing up for official “mentorship” programs, both as a mentor and a mentee. Co-panelists can also be great people to make friends with. If you hear an interesting talk, try asking a question — then approach the speaker afterwards to thank them for sharing their work! If they’re receptive and chatty, it could lead to coffee or a drink. I guess overall I think of it more as chatting with people who have similar interests, rather than networking for the sake of networking.

    My husband (tech/engineering) dreads networking, but again once he finds a common interest with someone (often cycling or photography), things flow more naturally. All the conversations don’t need to be about your career. You’re just making friends (or friendly acquaintances) up and down the ladder from you.

    1. Recovered Academic*

      It’s so silly to frown on networking in the humanities, because it’s really just about making connections with peers and getting to know the people in the field who may one day help with research or even other kinds of opportunities! I’ve been invited to contribute to anthologies and submit to other conferences simply because I made friends with folks. I used to try to convince peers to present their work and research at other kinds of events, not just the conferences in our fields, and they’d overthink and decline because it wasn’t an official conference… I’d get so frustrated because grad school can be so stressful and isolating and we can forget the rest of the world too easily, so networking events reminded me to stay connected outside my department.

      I’m now in my dream job outside of the academy as a result of my industry connections that I took the time to cultivate even before I knew the tenure track struggle wasn’t for me.

  11. Smithy*

    All of my best networking experiences have happened when I’m in professional environments where I have multiple experiences to interact with peers. In some cases this has meant a professional scene where there’s a more traditional “work party circuit” and you get a number of chances over time to interact with the same people. The other way I’ve found this useful is when there’s a conference that I’ve attended multiple times, even if it’s more like every other year.

    My feeling is that the reason I find those methods to lead towards the most substantive professional connections is that there’s less pressure for the first meeting to lead to anything. This relieves some of the slimier or more forced networking dynamics.

    In terms of planning for this, I do think that aiming for some variety of commitment is a good goal. For regular conferences, I think it’s doing your best to find the most relevant to your sector and making the best case you possible can to attend regularly. In terms of more local connection, I’ve never proactively sought if these were avenues I could seek out. I had a job that required going to a number of donor parties that my cohorts at other organizations would also attend. But they did provide a really unique way to connect ultimately network around a lot of substance.

  12. apparently I can network now*

    I have turned out to be unexpectedly good at networking — I spent most of my teens and 20s thinking it was something I would never, ever be able to do — and my personal advice is… don’t, they’re terrible.

    I don’t think of “networking” as a separate act from “being good at my job and also not a jerk.” The real trick to it is just leaving good impressions (or at least not actively negative ones) with people and remembering who you know. That’s it. And you may know people from so many strange places! I have made excellent professional connections through other parents involved with my child’s scouting troop, for example. I have gotten friends jobs in Field A by connecting them to someone I actually met in Field B but who does Field A stuff now and is in a position to hire.

    It’s also worth remembering that social networking is networking. I know people I would consider friends on Twitter and Instagram, for example, even though we’ve never met in person; they have expertise in a wide variety of fields and have proven to be great professional contacts sometimes, too — and I also love connecting them to each other and have watched careers and relationships blossom that way.

    The best part about so much of it being online is it means introverts like me don’t have to spend time feeling awkward at stupid mixers we never wanted to go to, either.

    1. Forrest*

      Absolutely seconding this. Don’t think of capital-N Networking Events as Networking! Only a very small and weird section of the population enjoys networking events (no offence, you lot), and mostly they do that because they’ve been to the same one lots of times and half the people there are already friends!

      1. Artemesia*

        My experience as well. The key is to be good at what you do, pleasant to people, and be active in professional and social circles. None of this is ‘networking events’ but the normal social interactions that occur as part of whatever it is that you do. Being active in professional groups is important; for students there are often student memberships in professional groups and sometimes student oriented events where you can meet people. Being active on conference committees, presenting at conferences and making it a point to get to know a few new people each time you participate slowly builds a network of people who know you and may approach you with opportunities. In some places there are women’s professional groups or leadership groups specifically organized for women to meet other professionals. In some places classic civic organizations like Lions or Elks clubs can be useful — highly dependent on the particular place you live. If you can contribute to professional blogs or give speeches or trainings on things you do that build recognition and contacts. When you do it this way you don’t come across in that negative grasping way some people do when building networks. Your focus is on sharing with others rather than demanding of others.

    2. TCO*

      Agreed! So many people think of networking as only being schmoozy events, but that’s not my experience. I really value my professional and personal networks (which often overlap) and my network has been tremendously helpful and supportive. I mostly built that network through being good at my job, building working relationships with partner organizations and colleagues, and volunteering in my community. The goodwill we’ve built is strong enough that we don’t need to keep in touch often. I’m totally fine with reconnecting with someone that I haven’t spoken with in years when one of us can help the other, if we had a good relationship.

      My network has helped me get job interviews, connected me to other kinds of interesting professional opportunities (such as invitations to present, or to join a project), and supported me through transitions and challenges. In return, I try to do the same for them. I’ll make an introduction or put in a good word where I can, do informational interviews with their interns/mentees wanting to meet more people in our field, etc.

      Networking this way is really a pleasure, because it’s not about awkward small talk and pitching yourself. It’s about having good working relationships with people and reaping the benefits of those relationships for years to come.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      This. Mr. Shackelford has networked his way into every job in his adult life except one, and none of them involved what people consider “networking.” It was just people he knew, either from work or school or socially, either actively recruiting him to work with them or recommending him for jobs they knew about. Or, when he was looking for a job, he was able to reach out to an old boss who knew people in his entirely new field. He’s never Networking, but he’s always making long-term connections.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        Yep. My dad is retired now, but when he was still working I don’t think he ever applied for a job after his first one in his field. He always ended up getting referred by people he’d worked with before and knew he did good work.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      Count me as another “unexpectedly good at networking” person. I went back to grad school when I was in my early 30’s, and found an industry niche that I really love, in a corner of local government where people regularly want to learn from what’s going on at similar agencies in other cities. So at conferences I often have a genuine question for a presenter that makes me go up and introduce myself after or email to follow up after, I’ve been part of professional association type projects, gone to alumni events for my grad school research lab, contacted people at peer agencies in different cities to learn how they were approaching similar problems, done professional development programs where I met others in the industry, etc. Plus I work with a variety of consultants in my day-to-day work who are also part of the same niche industry. And it’s all happened organically, not because I set out to develop a big professional network.

      So even though a formal “networking event” sounds like hell to me, I know enough people that I genuinely enjoy some of those conference receptions. There was one particular conference poster session where I missed a couple of good posters because I kept running into people I knew and wanted to stop and chat with!

  13. Leah K.*

    I owe my entire career to a single networking event. I was an undergrad and attended our department alumni mixer event. Met a really nice gentleman and had a 10 minute casual chat which was completely unrelated to work. The only thing I mentioned was that I had been unsuccessfully applying for internships in our field (submitted applications, but haven’t received any calls back for interview). He told me to send him his resume. Next thing I know, I receive a phone call asking me to come in for an office visit with the firm where this gentleman was a partner. I got my internship offer, and then got a full time job offer after completing that internship. The funny thing is – I have never seen that gentleman again – he retired before I started my internship.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I bet that if you tracked him down and sent a thank-you email, it would make his day.

    2. Creative at a Big 4*

      I have a similar experience! I was a recent grad in 2008 pivoting away from my undergrad degree with very limited experience in the field I wanted to enter. I went to a social event and met the head of a department at a company I wanted to work at. We chatted and when I told her I what I was hoping to do, she invited me to reach out to the program director for a corporate development program for new grads at that company. I emailed that person, got a courtesy invite to the interviews and prepped like crazy by networking with anyone related to the company/program. The program director told me that I didn’t have the traditional background that they were looking for but I blew everyone away in the interview process and I was everyone’s top choice. Networking opened the door for me to enter the process because they would have tossed my resume otherwise.

      I’m forever grateful to that woman and always try to pay it forward with networking.

  14. Midwest writer*

    Our industry association for our state does some really good natural networking, through the state-level meeting each year. They always end with these roundtables — newspaper reporters and editors at several tables, ad reps at another — and people sit down and talk about the problems they’re having or how they solved some issues. They share different special sections they’ve worked on and how they sold them, etc. I just find it really energizing to hear new ideas. And after going for several years, I realized I’d gotten to know enough of the other ones that if I ever wanted to change jobs in-state, I’d have some solid connections at a number of papers statewide.
    I got my current job because I did this association’s leadership program. A few years after it was over, my now-boss called me because one of her staff members had been in the class with me and thought I might be a good fit for an opening she had. It’s been a really great move for me. Again, the program wasn’t explicitly “let’s get together and network,” but I think in the past I had kind of an eye-rolling reaction to these industry association events. As I’ve done the ones here, I really have benefited and learned a lot.

  15. Anononon*

    I thought about this, and at first my response was going to be along the lines of how much I hate networking and how my career has likely suffered (if that’s the right word) to some degree because of it. However, I’m not sure if this counts as traditional networking, but I realized that I might actually be doing it, to some degree. I’m an attorney in an area of law where probably at least 85% of the bar all know each other as it’s pretty specialized. Having been doing this for several years, I’ve definitely gotten to know and have become friendly with a lot of them. It’s even led to me being asked to present on a couple panels recently.

    1. Weekend Please*

      I think that is the key. The best networking for me happens when I am not trying to network. Simply going to conferences and talking to about what I am working on and what they are working on has lead to fantastic opportunities. I think the problem a lot of people run into is that they are trying to network when they actively need something. It is so much easier to just get to know the people in your field when you are able to be more casual and genuine and then if you are looking for a job or need something else they already know you and don’t end up feeling like you are only trying to get to know them to use them. It also gets your name out there so that if they are planning a panel or something else they may think “Oh, Weekend does something related to this. Maybe I should invite her.”

      1. apparently I can network now*

        Absolutely this.

        Separating “networking” as a skill and event from, “being professional and talking to people” really does the concept (and most people) a disservice, I think.

      2. Anononon*

        Yes, definitely. It hasn’t necessarily helped my career progression (yet), as I’m not really looking for a new job at the moment, but my connections have definitely made my job easier as many of the people I’ve gotten to know are on the other side, but our relationships makes it more like we’re working together towards resolutions.

  16. talos767*

    So I was able to get someone I knew (“in my network”) a job.

    I was a summer intern last summer (and am now working at the company full time). The team lead from the team I was on contacted me in the fall (probably September or so) asking if I knew anyone who would be suitable to intern on the team–the team was getting a lot of applicants, but none of them had *any* relevant expertise–the internship doesn’t require a lot, but it does need some. (For those who would understand, the team was basically a low-level software/firmware team that worked almost entirely in C++, but was getting applicants who only knew Javascript…)

    It so happens that a friend of mine was looking for an internship and was pretty familiar with low-level software and firmware. I had him just email his resume to the team lead, and later that month he had interviews and was hired.

    I had met this friend at a Linux User Group meeting at our university–college clubs matter, folks!

  17. Panda*

    I just consider networking building relationships by being a nice person to *everyone* she meets, professional or not, who is competent in her job who tries to go above and beyond whenever possible. Surprisingly at 48, I am starting to like meeting new people, asking them questions, and being interested in their lives, not their jobs/careers/what they can do for me. I think that goes a long way towards building a network.

  18. anon for this*

    I spoke about my area of expertise at a tiny local Chamber of Commerce event—short presentation, powerpoint. I met quite a few people there and traded business cards, including someone who I ran into at the grocery store a year later, which prompted us to get coffee, which resulted in me working for her for five years in one of my best jobs ever. Another time, I agreed to mentor a local college student working on a competition sponsored by a local business; that ended up with me doing freelance work for that business for three years, and they’re one of my best clients now. I think networking is always strongest when you can show your value or you’re in a situation where you are volunteering. People see what you have to offer or that you are passionate about a cause and that grows connections.

  19. Dorothy Lawyer*

    When I was new to my practice and naively joined a networking group (that was a complete waste of time and money), one of the partners gave me the best advice ever: “The best networking is when people don’t know you’re networking.” So true. I got my current job by just visiting with other attorneys in court, getting to know them. When I was looking for a job, I emailed a couple of them to let them know I was looking, and one of them hired me. I have gotten more new clients through my volunteer work (getting to know people through shared interests – and they know what I do for a living and so keep me in mind) and repeat referrals from a key group of clients who think I am amazing and refer everyone they know to me. Just getting to know people is so important. Covid has made that hard, I think it’s easier to do in person.

    1. Prague*

      This. Networking and mentoring are both like this. The few times I’ve explicitly told someone I consider them a mentor, things got weird. It’s much better and more natural (and changes over time with perspective and learning from each other) when it’s just a professional relationship without titles.

  20. AndersonDarling*

    I hate Networking Events, but I meet lots of people at the Big Software Conference I get to go to every few years. Because everyone is there for the same reason, it’s easy to talk about the challenges they faces using Software and some of the cool things they have done. I’ll chat with people in lines or at lunch and setup a LinkedIn connection. I’ve been asked to talk at local meet-ups through some of these connections.
    And one more good story-> A friend asked about a job at a previous employer. I was at the company only a short time, but the director reached out on my last day to say he was sorry I would be leaving. So I sent that director a Linkedin message about the open position. He replied right away and was happy I reached out! He took the resume for my friend and sent it directly to the hiring manager. That’s probably standard for a lot of people, but it was the first time I reached into my past to reestablish a connection. Sometimes networking is just remembering nice people you have met and being bold enough to reach out.

  21. Pikachu*

    My local library has a job seekers support group. I think it existed before COVID but not sure. Once a week, there is a zoom meeting facilitated by a library employee. There are always familiar faces, and everyone goes “around the circle” to talk about opportunities they are working on or are interested in, or job openings they know of. If anyone has a connection to that role, they get together offline to make arrangements for informational meetings or whatever.

    I liked the openness of it. We’re all here to get jobs, so let’s all help each other out without the social pretense. It is the only networking scenario I have ever gotten any value out of.

  22. old curmudgeon*

    Hard agreement on the thought of attending an event solely for the purpose of networking – I am a major introvert, and the thought of schmoozing a bunch of strangers in order to take advantage of people they might know makes me want to curl up in a ball and whimper.

    But I think there are more ways to network than by attending a schmooze-fest, and some of those are not quite as cringe-inducing for me.

    For example, seventeen years ago, I was working in a job I hated and I saw a posting for what really was my dream job at that point. It was in an industry I knew like the back of my hand in a field that I have extensive professional experience and education in, and it was a company that I really wanted to work for.

    So I honed my resume, crafted a carefully written cover letter, and sent them to the required address (this was back in the days when such things were done by snail-mail).

    And got – crickets. Not a word in response.

    As it happened, a young woman who I had hired and supervised in the job I had at the time had just left for another position. I knew that her mother was a VP at the company where I had applied, so I reached out to my former direct report with an email that was basically “hey, how’s it going, hope you’re doing well. Are you enjoying your new job? I really hope it is turning out to be a great move for you! On that topic, would your mom know anything about the XYZ position that is advertised at the Acme Company? I thought I might apply for it.”

    Within minutes, I got an email from my former direct report’s mom saying “oh, yes, please apply, email Jane Doe in HR and Sue Roe, the hiring manager, and I will go talk with Sue right away to tell her to watch for a message from you.”

    From what I heard later, the VP walked straight to the hiring manager’s office and said “Curmudgeon used to supervise my daughter and I have heard amazing things about them, you really should interview this candidate.” And sure enough, I got a call for an interview that same day, interviewed twice and landed the job. I’d still be there, in fact, if the CEO hadn’t driven the company into bankruptcy a few years later.

    I would describe that as networking, though possibly not the type that Alison means here. But it is at a level that I am comfortable with, unlike attending a big networking event.

  23. queen b*

    It’s never been networking events for me, I’ve had much more personal and professional success with 1 on 1 conversations. When I was an intern in college, I networked with a new employee and she ended up helping me get my first job out of college. I think the easiest thing is – it pays to be kind and interested in other people.

  24. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    It helps to think of networking as providing opportunities for ME to help OTHER people. I try to connect people I know who can help one another — it doesn’t benefit me directly but if it works out, both sides of the interaction remember me positively. I also offer my skills — resume writing, LinkedIn profiles, Web sites — at reasonable rates to help out my friends.

    Friends, after all, are one form of business contact, and an enjoyable one as well. I’ve built up a good friend group over the years, and it’s amazing how many people I worked with in my 20s have ended up in grownup, responsible jobs! One such contact even got me a book contract.

    1. apparently I can network now*

      This. It is genuinely amazing to me in my 40s to look around and realize how many people I know who do cool interesting things now, who I met along the way in high school or college or graduate school or in prior jobs, and I love connecting them to each other when it makes sense to do so. And I’ve found that generally trying to be kind and helpful, and connecting other people to each other when I can, has tended also to pay off in people occasionally reaching out to me with an opportunity or connection.

    2. Sharon*

      Yes. The best networking happens when all parties have information to share and can benefit from each other. Also, people like to feel appreciated on a personal level, so approach networking as having a conversation (how did you handle topic X at your company?) vs. tapping someone for information that you could just as easily Google.

      I would encourage people with limited experience in their field to join industry organizations and the like where they can go to events and just listen, meet people and maybe ask a question or two. It’s much less awkward than approaching someone individually when you don’t have much to offer yourself.

      And if you do approach someone individually, especially if it’s a cold call, make sure you are respectful of their time and have a good list of questions that aren’t just “can you tell me what to do and give me a list of all your customers so I can break into the business?”

  25. Archaeopteryx*

    I don’t know whether this really counts as networking, but I will say that before reading this website regularly I always thought of networking as something slimy that toothy business guys did- it always sounded to me like schmoozing your way to the top rather than earning it on merit. But after reading AAM I’ve learned a lot about how it can really come down to just being a known quantity to people, so that if you apply to them you’re less of a gamble and they have more evidence that you’re good to work with.

    So my only minor experience with this is that my company does trivia nights a few times a year, pub quiz style with recurring teams. When this started, no one else from my department wanted to do it, so I got onto a team made up of a mix of different departments that included a manager. From experience with these trivia nights (where we utterly dominated btw), I was able to learn firsthand the ways in which he was a smart and effective communicator and would be good to work for, and I was able to demonstrate without even setting out to that I was smart and good/positive to have on a team. When circumstances changed, I applied to a position in his department, and it was a great fit. So I don’t know if this really beats the criteria of networking, but showing your intelligence and cooperation skills in other contexts can be beneficial in ways you didn’t expect!

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      (I think the fact that it was trivia rather than like just getting to know them at work parties or on a sports team or something is what makes it feel more normal to me – it’s not just that the manager and I knew each other through that, it was that he actually got a sense of my communication skills and general intelligence, and for example learned that I wasn’t weirdly competitive or a drag. And I learned that he was a sensible, funny and competent person and that didn’t translate into him being a great boss. Those are all directly relevant to what you’re trying to prove during a job interview, which besides your actual work experience is a great deal of “Hello I am smart and normal!”)

    2. Smithy*

      This reminds me of what happens when I go grantee events. I work with institutional donors, a number of who hold semi-regular grantee events. Those are often amazing opportunities to see how peer teams and individuals operate, as well as to demonstrate how you approach those meetings.

      I don’t know if I’d say it’s how I got my current job, but it certainly impacted my desire to apply for the position and it certainly didn’t hurt. My future manager had the chance to see how I behaved on a multi-day donor convening, and vice versa. And on the flip side, I’ve been recruited by people I’ve seen at these events and thought this is NOT a team I want to work with.

  26. Claire*

    I have come to really enjoy networking, which is not at all on-brand for me–I’m pretty introverted and hate small talk. But I’ve found that networking is much more efficient and effective as a way to information-gather and find leads than any book or online search. Here’s how I go about it:

    -I typically find new people to network with via LinkedIn. I start by searching through my school’s alumni, filtering by job titles I’m interested in. I’m also a member of an alumni facebook group, so I’ll occasionally reach out to folks there.
    -Once I have an informational interview set up, I have a script that I use to kick off the conversation. I’ve found that it is so, so important to state what you’re hoping to get out of it upfront! Early in my career, I did a few informational interviews where I didn’t/couldn’t articulate what I was looking for, and it often ended up being very awkward. So now I begin by saying something like: “Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me! Before we jump in, I wanted to give you a little bit of context for why I reached out. I am currently working as a [fill in the blank]. I’m looking to move into field/ position x because of reason y, and given your experience in the field I thought you’d be a great person to talk to. I’m hoping to gather more information about the day-to-day of the job, and ask whether you might have any advice for someone who is looking to get into the field.” Then I go into my specific questions.
    -I always follow up with a thank-you note.

    I’ve had great luck with this approach. I am at a point in my career where I often am asked by students and recent grads for informational interviews, so it also feels less slimy because I know that I’m paying it forward.

  27. Mona Lisa Vito*

    I don’t think I’m great at networking, but in college I was in a required class for my major (one of those very specific classes that can be annoying if it’s not the exact area you’re interested in), and was making small talk with the girl next to me. She was saying how she hated this side of the major, and I said something like, “Oh, I’m the opposite, this is exactly what I want to do!” She told me her mom had a job doing this in Very Fancy Company, and (I still don’t know how I got up the courage, but) I asked if her mom might be willing to chat with me. I had a great conversation with her mother and ended up getting my first internship with Very Fancy Company. It was honestly one of the best experiences and totally confirmed that I found the right industry for me.

  28. Loopy*

    As a new grad I had a great experience at a huge national conference that had a networking cafe set up. What made it positive was it was totally just a walk in type thing and only folks who wanted to be there popped in, so lots of folks looking to hire or be hired. It was a big enough conference that it drew enough people that it wasn’t awkward.

    They had a physical job posting board and a leave your resume board. I ended up leaving my resume and got contacted with very little effort (very lucky).

    Mostly, I think anything like that versus a one on one cold calling type thing is much easier. I would definitely seek out similar large group networking! I’ve also had decent interactions at large job fairs where folks are at booths and there with the mindset and time set aside to chat with job seekers.

    I think trying to get someone out for a coffee or phone chat is much more nerve wracking.

  29. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    If you don’t have a lot of expertise to offer people, offer your energy instead! Industry groups are often looking for volunteers to put on events, line up speakers, and edit the newsletter. Doing those jobs helps you showcase your skills, demonstrate reliability, and meet a wide range of people in the field.

  30. ThatGirl*

    When I got laid off from a job in March 2017, it included three months of “outplacement services” from Right Management. And I find the whole thing sort of eye-rolly, and very much like pep talks/support groups for white-collar workers who had never been laid off before, but the resume service was actually pretty solid, and I did get networking to work for me. Every week they’d have a meeting where people would share their success stories of landing a new job, to kind of talk up the services and say goodbye to the group. And a few weeks in to my unemployment, a guy got up and talked about how he was about to start HR at a well-known company that I hadn’t realized was local. And my interest was piqued — hey! I could work there! – so I talked to the guy afterward and he said hey, sure, let me know what job you might be interested in and I’ll make sure the right person sees your resume. And, three months later, I started working at that company myself!

    1. ThatGirl*

      I also got my first job out of college through networking – I was looking for a newspaper job and went to a job fair at a nearby college, specifically for college students looking for journalism jobs after graduation. Editors from papers all over the state were there, but it happened to be the day the Challenger exploded, so maybe half the people there left early to go back to work. We went anyway, and I talked to an editor who said they might have a summer internship open and to keep in touch. I did, and had all but locked up the summer internship when I got a call from a different editor – their sister paper across the river, who had a full-time copy editor job opening and the first guy had recommended me and was I interested in that? And sure enough I got that job and launched my journalism career (which was short lived, but hey).

  31. Lonely Bat*

    For reference, I am a woman in a male dominated STEM occupation that is currently still kind of sparsely populated in my industry (Let’s call my job Lightsaber Designers). Everyone wants to network with people in my job because it’s a cool job, but there aren’t many of us that do it.

    The best networking experience I had was when I went to a Zoom meet up for folks who are interested in Lightsaber Design. There was only one other woman on the call, and she was new to the org and was trying to make connections because she was looking for ideas of how to do Lightsaber Design full time in her role. I set up a meeting with her just on the basis that we are underrepresented and in case she wanted to talk about career things or bounce ideas, etc.

    I kept in touch with her over 9 months. During that time she got really into one specific branch of Lightsaber Design that my team now needs to build some expertise in. Because I had just kept up with her as a human being and not as an “asset”, she has been the most enthusiastic resource for us and offered to connect us with others in her branch.

    Sometimes it’s best to just assume you’re interested in the same work stuff and build a connection on other topics.

  32. Honor Harrington*

    Here’s a “how networking helped me not take a nightmare job” story.

    I had applied for an executive level IT job, been through several interviews, and was down to being one of the final two candidates. I talked to a couple of people in my network about the company, even though it had a very energetic, fabulous reputation and sounded great. They put me in touch with the person who had resigned from the job I was interviewing for. That person told me about the budget (tiny), responsibilities (crazy large), management (nuts) and that the company’s PR team had individuals assigned to ensure they had a good hiring reputation. I withdrew my application. That company has had the executive level job posted 3 times in 6 years.

    The person who held the job previously is now in my network, and I referred him to a company and helped him get a job there a few years later.

  33. Junior Dev*

    with the awareness that this is not something everyone can do…

    For me, the most organic networking has been from people I had pre-existing relationships with, or connected with over something other than the job search. Mostly this is from attending meetups and doing volunteer work. (For context, I’m a software engineer)

    My company had hosted a bunch of meetups pre-pandemic so if I saw one I was interested in I would attend after work. Also, I had a couple friends who were involved in organizing the meetups, and would ask me to give lightning talks.

    There were other types of meetups where we’d gather at a coffee shop with our laptops on a weekend and work on whatever, either job stuff or job searching or a side project or work for a class or tutorial. Those had associated Slack channels that people would post job postings in. A lot of these were “women in tech” or “women who ” groups.

    I also have done volunteer work–the two examples that stand out to me are volunteering as an instructor for free beginner classes put on by a usergroup, and contributing to an open source project related to a political issue I care about (which I did during the pandemic, by opening a pull request against the project and the maintainers emailed me).

    All this is a lot of work, but for me, who has social anxiety and likes volunteering, it’s a hell of a lot less onerous than going to a bunch of meet-and-greet happy hours. (The social anxiety is a lot worse in open-ended “everyone get to know each other” environments than in ones where I have a job to do, like teaching.)

    Feel free to ask me questions about my experience!

    1. Junior Dev*

      the commenting system ate stuff that was in angle brackets – that should be “women who (insert programming language or specialization)”

        1. just passing through*

          If that isn’t already the name of a Women in Software group somewhere, I hope it will be soon!

  34. Temporary Burner*

    My field is really small and subject to a lot “OMG THAT IS SO COOL,” so networking is really important, but the way we structure it is actually really informal and open. Ongoing beverage hours (any beverage welcome! I always order a club soda and lime). Seminars, webinars and conferences with lively and respectful backchannels. In the before times, during conferences we had volunteers who wore buttons that signal they’re there to be approached. We also establish affinity programs for entry-level workers so they create organic cohorts as the move through their career. By creating multiple channels for differing levels of comfort and setting the industry expectation that people are going to want to talk, we try to make it easier on people looking for inroads.

    On the receiving end, as someone who is relatively senior, I don’t mind the outreach I receive. That might not be the case for everyone, but I’m particularly invested in making my field welcoming and accessible. I try to make room in my schedule or to connect them with someone who can help.

  35. NYWeasel*

    I went for my MBA in my forties, which according to a lot of colleges is useless, since clearly I’m washed up and ready to be dumped on an iceberg. At the orientation session, one of the professors spoke about how the program was just as much about networking as the classes. After she spoke, the other students were standing around chatting and avoiding the professors, but I marched up and introduced myself.

    That small introduction led to a friendship with that professor that so far has resulted in me becoming president of an MBA society, meeting all sorts of influential speakers, teaching an a special session class at the school, developing my own network of contacts from the college, being brought back as a guest speaker for multiple classes and schools, and giving me a great friend who I share parenting adventures with, since our boys are the same age.

    I found that many of the younger students didn’t have (confidence? experience? motivation?) to engage the professors directly, but I knew I was already considered to be at a disadvantage age-wise, so I stopped caring if I might seem pushy or not bc I was paying to get an education and I was going to get the most out of my $$ possible. It makes me wish I’d had this confidence at an earlier age, but I think it evolved out of everything I’d faced up until then.

    1. Dan*

      It’s funny… I found so much success in life just by sticking my neck out a little and having a conversation with people. Heck, I got a good co-op as an undergrad through one my professors. He taught a somewhat niche programming language to the undergrads, but it was also a language used by a local company (well, big national defense contractor with a local office) that I was interested. That particular work also involved one of the hobbies I developed outside of the classroom. I simply asked my prof, “Do you know anybody over there? I’d like to co-op and I’m doing X outside of your classes.” Next thing I know, co-op! I was making $17/hr (back then, it was worth *something*) while my politics-minded friends were working for free on the Hill.

  36. Lisa B*

    I had just moved to a new state hundreds of miles away from home and was really pushing myself to get out and meet people. On the walk from the parking lot for a United Way event, I was chatting with another attendee and mentioned I had just moved from Llamaville, Old State. Usual pleasantries about how nice Llamaville is, and then once inside we went separate ways. Towards the end of the evening she suddenly came up to me towing another lady and said “Didn’t you say you were from Llamaville?? So is she!!” And I’ve had a delightful friendship with my fellow Old State Transplant ever since! (Hi Mary!)

  37. Mama llama*

    Networking at conferences:

    Imagine you’re at a bar, and they’re giving out free drinks. Then you realize that you have the same job as everyone there – or you know someone at their company! Also you know that they just spent the day at this conference. Also you know that their goal is “to network”, and literally no one will give you the side eye for saying hi to strangers or for saying “nice to meet you!” and ending a convo after 2min.

    So you drink your drink, and you do a kind of “speed dating” – maybe you don’t click with anyone, but maybe you find someone in an interesting spot in their career. If you are having a good chat you get another drink. And if not, when you finish your drink you leave.

    Anyway, that’s how I found the friendly faces in the first place. It’s work, but it’s not painful.

    1. Mama llama*

      I usually set a goal of “3 conversations”, so I feel like I am accomplishing something. Often I only have to initiate the first one – everyone else is so relieved that a convo is happening that a group forms. then boom. more than 3 people whose names and faces I know.

  38. irianamistifi*

    When I did my internship at Big Consulting Firm, there was a heavy focus on networking because you had to find your own work and projects, so it was critical to learn to self-promote and really talk yourself up. I’m an introvert and found this to be SO uncomfortable that I turned down a job offer at the end of the internship (and also for other reasons such as limiting pay scale based on your educational institution rather than experience).

    My best networking experiences have always been one-on-one time getting to know someone. To me, it’s much more important that others get a sense of my personality and make sure I come across as likeable and a little vulnerable. I don’t know… I guess talking about where I’ve faced difficulty and how I resolved it (kind of like in an interview!) gives people a sense of my resilience. I’ve had a few instances now where people I had these 1-on-1 convos call or email me a few months later and ask if I’m interested in a role they saw at their organization. That’s a great feeling, knowing they’ve thought of me!

  39. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I’m very interested in small town networking success. How can you tell the difference between networking and nepotism? (Four of my younger siblings being shoo-ins for my former summer tech job posting because we were the “nerdy” family comes to mind.) And in a different small town, I was applying for a recruiting position at a construction firm when, unbeknownst to me, my Grandma BAKED THE SECRETARY a cake and the secretary called me for an interview. The secretary was her long-time neighbor, but something about that connection felt unfair to me. What is fair in these situations?

    1. apparently I can network now*

      The smaller the pool you’re drawing from, the more likely everyone swimming in it is to have some kind of connection already, I think. I work in a very niche field now, for example, and I don’t know of anyone in it who is more than two or MAYBE three degrees away from me — it’s rare for me to come across someone (except brand new entry-level folks) who I haven’t heard of or crossed paths with or shared a co-worker with or something.

      So I think small towns are fundamentally not that different, except the effect is even more widespread. Should your grandmother have baked that cake ( ❤️ )? Probably not. But people use personal connections to get interviews all the time — “someone who knows someone who knows who the hiring manager is” being the best way to get a foot in the door and all — and it’s what you, personally do in and after the interview that speaks most to your own skills and sense of fairness, I think.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        This is the first emoji I’ve seen on this site!!! How?! <3 (I'm trying haha).

        For some industries I would definitely imagine that having such a small pond is both a blessing and a curse because you can really know who you're working with, but also probably know too much? Or, have you not found this to be the case?

        Yeah, when I found out what Grandma did I was so embarrassed but then I did have to ace a ton of interviews so that helps me feel better. But bless her heart, they teased me for weeks after I got there, "Your Grandma can really bake!"

      2. My Brain Is Exploding*

        Well, I kinda love your Gramma! I think of nepotism as a person being hired because one of their family members has power in the hiring organization. We have kids who have been hired because the older sibling had a good rep at work; the youngest was often asked if there was another one coming up!

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Haha, thanks, I love her too! And this is EXACTLY what happened. We had a great reputation for work ethic (we came from a farm), and also had been building computers for fun for years. When they got to the last one, my old boss said, “Shoot, now we have to create an actual application form” :P

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      In my opinion, nepotism is when you’re hired because of who you are related to, and networking is when you are hired because people out there know who you are and what you can do.

      1. Beth*

        Yes, this. With the added element that a nepotism hire is assumed to have no qualifications for the job, could never have landed the job in any other way, is unlikely to be compentent, and might not actually ever do any work other than picking up a paycheck.

        The root is the Latin word for “nephew”, and dates back to the Renaissance Catholic church, when the illegitimate son of a high church official (an ordained priest with an oath of celibacy) would be introduced as the given official’s nephew.

  40. Always Late to the Party*

    I got my first non-temp job out of college because of a connection from my childhood. I was temping at my current org and knew a woman who worked there from our youth choir, so asked her to get coffee. She recommended me for a job in her department that didn’t end up panning out. Then a few months later she emailed me saying that her husband got a really great job and she was leaving her current position to raise her kids – literally she said “do you want it?” They hired me temp-to-perm and it ended up starting a great career trajectory for me.

    I paid it forward 8 years later. In my current role my boss said he was looking for someone with a particular skillset for part-time work. I had worked with a woman 5 years prior who had that skillset (who had also left the org to raise her kids) and reached out to her on LinkedIn to see if she was interested. Turns out it was a great fit – my boss is happy with her work and she ended up taking on more hours (and became benefits-eligible at a time where her family really needed it).

    Networking isn’t just chatting up strangers at events (which I despise). Doing good work and asking my connections to advocate for me has done way more for my career than any cocktail party. Also timing is *so * key in networking your way into a new job.

  41. Disney lover*

    I used to manage an entertainment offering that was very close to Disney World, and my boss made me get a membership to the Orlando chamber of commerce. I went to a networking event through this, where I saw a couple of well dressed dudes with golden WDW name tags- they were reps from Club 33, Disney’s super elite, exclusive club for the rich and well-to-do. I was so nervous, but I ended up walking up to them, introducing myself, and explaining that I felt like my entertainment experience was incredibly cool and high end, and would be inline with their client’s high expectations and I’d love to chat about putting together an exclusive event with them.

    They ended up being super open to the idea, we met up later and I took them through my experience- they were blown away! This led to a few months of working together to plan something super cool. Our Founder, who is a big Disney nut, ended up getting involved, he was going to fly out to give a presentation at the event for the Club 33 members about our tech and creative process. Also, Club 33 hosted me and my leadership for a tour of their lounges, which was a really cool, once in a lifetime experience.

    Sadly, Covid then happened, everything fell apart, and my company doesn’t exist anymore. But if Covid hadn’t happened, this would have been a huge thing for my career, and it all happened because I mustered up the guts to say hi to a couple of guys in golden nametags :’)

    1. Rocket Surgeon*

      It still could be a career opportunity! Reach out to the WDW guys – maybe they’re hiring?

  42. Serin*

    When I first came to town, I joined an evening newcomers’ class that was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. We chatted about our work and our lives, and at the end of the 4-week class, we all exchanged contact information.

    Some time later, a whole bunch of jobs were listed at a company that I was interested in. (I guess a hiring freeze was lifted.) I was able to contact a couple of people from the class who worked there and say, “So how much tech knowledge does this position require? How much math? What kind of skills are they looking for?”

    Because of those conversations, I knew which jobs made sense to apply for, and I knew to have stories ready to talk about being flexible, being able to get oriented with minimal formal training, and other things the company needed. And when I got an offer, I was able to go back to my class acquaintances and say, “So what do you think of this salary offer — how does it stack up to what you know about the pay scale?”

    None of them found me an opening or put in a good word for me, but the information I got from them was incredibly helpful. And I’m still working at that company today.

    *About the newcomers’ class, I wish more towns would have one. It was a fantastic idea — we met at a different restaurant each week, took drives to important local places, talked about local traditions, heard from people with the city and the universities and the Extension Service, learned about why that one bank tower downtown was lighted up in different colors depending on the weather …

    1. D3*

      Pretty sure we live in the same town. I’ve been here 20 years and just this year learned about the color/weather forecast connection. But no one seems to know what the various colors mean, even the people who DO know it’s connected to the weather! LOL.
      Maybe I should just google it…

  43. Aly_b*

    The biggest successes that I’ve had in networking have been having left a good impression on former colleagues within my company, who scatter to the four winds over time. Since moving on to start my own company, a lot of those former coworkers have become my clients, have sent me possible collaborators for individual projects, and I hope to lean on some of them to send me potential new hires in the future. Same deal with outside collaborators I’ve worked on individual projects with – they remember years later.

    This isn’t a fast version of networking that lands a job quickly, but does build up over time to a lot of people doing a lot of different things. I’m trying to think of quicker networking success, but I think over time I’ve come to believe much more in shared projects, whether it’s a quick volunteer project, a work project, or even a shared, like, sports team or something.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      Yes, I do think this sort of networking often isn’t considered, but it’s been very valuable to me. I have my current job because someone I worked with in my previous job left for a new opportunity in the same field. Six months later, someone at her new organization was retiring and they wanted to revamp the position a bit. Former co-worker thought my skills would be a good fit and she thought that as a new mom, I would appreciate the schedule & flexibility of her new workplace over my current workplace. I was not looking to leave and she had to go through our former director to get my number to even contact me, but it turned into one of the those things that Alison would say was “an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.” And it was almost completely because I was competent in my job when worked together.

      I would also say that works the other way. When you know of an opening that someone you used to work with would be a good fit for, there is nothing to lose by passing that information to them.

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        I got hired for a job in my 40s because I impressed someone on a shared project all the way back when we were in high school, and we stayed in touch via social media. You never know…

  44. Jay*

    Professional conferences and organizations have been the best networking tools for my career. Those groups enabled me to meet and work with the national leaders in my field. That helped a lot when I was networking with another person in the same organization and was looking to shift position – I saw him at a meeting, pulled him aside and said “I’ve done some work in your area and really loved it. Let me know if you have room for someone part-time.” He called me a few months later and offered to train me. I said no, thanks, I’m pretty comfortable with my skills, which led to a discussion of what I’d done and who we knew in common. He mentioned my name to one of our mutual friends, who said “You have Jay in your org? You need to get her working with you. She can help you train other people.” 18 months later I changed full-time jobs to what I’d dreamt of doing.

  45. Dan*

    The topic is pretty open ended (e.g., not restricted to “official networking events” or some such thing), so here’s mine.

    1. Getting out of grad school, I applied to several jobs online. I had interviews but no real successes. I went to an industry conference, and there were two presenters in different sessions whom I spoke to afterwards. I chatted them up a bit about their presentations, and ultimately got offers from each of their companies. Best $100 + travel expenses I ever spent.

    2. More recently, I went to another academic conference in my industry. There was a professor who had a bunch of students presenting on a topic that I knew well, but was also something where it’s super difficult to get the right domain expertise when doing that modeling. I offered to give him and the students advice on how to approach that work. It turns out that he has a panel of about a dozen industry and government experts for that work, and he invited me to participate. Ironically, I do *that* for the “networking” opportunities. (My org values external visibility…)

  46. Perry the Platapus*

    My company make an electronic holiday card. As a networking tool, I send it out to people that I know with a short message. I call this networking because it reminds them that I exist, but it doesn’t feel pushy or weird.

    I’ve also had good experiences talking to people at conferences and asking how they are handling specific issues or customer service problems.

  47. Person of Interest*

    I got advice once to share resources, articles, webinars, etc. that I thought a specific person might be interested in, and that has been an effective way to keep in touch with people in my network. For example, I recently sent a link to a new DEI training program that I knew would be of interest to a former colleague, with note saying, “hey, hope you are doing well, I saw this and thought you might be interested.” It usually leads to a nice email or text exchange, or sometimes a catch-up phone call. An easy way to keep contacts warm.

  48. Van Wilder*

    It’s telling in itself that 75% of these comments are about “networking events” (usually with regards to hating them.) I guess when people hear networking, they think of crowded bars and drunk guys named Chad handing you their card while looking over your shoulder for the next person to talk to.

    Nothing that fascinating but I can attribute at least 2 out of 3 of my professional jobs to networking:
    – First job out of college, I got through the standard application process through my University’s career center. But I had also spent four years going to all the career fairs, so the recruiters knew of my existence.
    – Second job, I got the interview because my step-brother-in-law passed along my resume to someone at his organization that was hiring in another department.
    – Third job, I got by reaching out to former colleagues from my first job. One of them was now the head of a department at a competitor and hired me.

    1. Van Wilder*

      There’s a quote that’s passed around in comedy, I thought it was Amy Poehler but I can’t find it on google. So allow me to misremember it here: “If you stick with it long enough, one of your friends will give you a job.”

      Which is to say, if you all keep at it together, someone will be able to pull you up to the first rung of the ladder. It’s an important lesson in networking to connect with people at your level, not just be aiming up for people who can help you the most.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, I think “networking” brings up that image of drunken events, but in reality it’s really just … having friends and acquaintances?

  49. zutara*

    I think networking for networking’s sake is where it feels like a chore and kind of phony. Networking that occurs organically through coworkers who move on to other companies, social acquaintances, and even customers of your current business will naturally expand your connections. In college, I worked at a hardware store and made small talk with a customer who was opening cafe and was remodeling it himself. A few months down the line, I left my job to work at his cafe. When I was job searching more recently, I remembered a former coworker is at a company I wanted to apply to so I asked her what she liked/didn’t like about her new company. That conversation gave me insight into the types of questions to ask the recruiter and hiring manager. Additionally, if your connection’s company has referral bonuses, they may be willing to pass on your resume since there’s a financial incentive for them if you do get hired.

    I guess all this is to say that networking is often framed as trying to connect with someone who has an open job waiting for you, but often it’s feeling out the connections you already have for leads that make you better informed/positioned than you would be when you are job hunting on your own.

  50. Suni*

    Keeping in touch with coworkers and old bosses. Don’t “network” with strangers to get a foot in the door.

    I’ve had multiple senior colleagues randomly reach out with offers for me to join the new team they’re managing. Just an occasional “hey how’re you doing?” once a year on LinkedIn is enough to keep in touch.

    I also have “success” with informational interviews. I wanted to go back to school to get a masters in UX Research, but before I applied, I reached out to a UX Researcher in my company and asked all sorts of questions about her job. I ended up determining it was not for me. It was a “success” in that I didn’t waste time and money getting a new degree I wouldn’t have been happy with.

    I did the same informational interview for a transfer to a new team. I wanted to know what their managers were like, how stressful their team was, etc. So I sent an email to someone in the same role as me on the new team, and sat down with them to ask. It took 20 minutes to realize I should stay clear of this new team at all costs, and didn’t apply for the transfer I was thinking of.

    Don’t do informational interviews without coming prepared with a dozen questions. And don’t waste their time if you don’t actually want information, just a foot in the door. Strangers aren’t going to vouch for you; that’s what your old bosses and coworkers are for.

  51. Mari*

    I work in a very niche and shaded blue-collar industry. My partner is in a very big, very traditional, white collar one. A few years ago, my then-boss and I were given four tickets to a waterfront fireworks event in a city about 90 minutes from ours that we had a small part in planning. I brought my partner and my boss brought his cousin, who lived in the event city. It turned out that my boss’s cousin worked as a manager at a very well known and well regarded company in my partner’s industry. They talked shop for about 1o minutes, then we all watched the fireworks and had a nice evening. About 9 months later my partner was laid off, along with 70% of his coworkers, and through my boss, he reached out to the cousin about an opening at her company. Almost 4 years later, I’ve moved on, but the cousin is still my partner’s boss. It’s not exactly replicable, but it’s hilarious to us that my “network” from my tiny niche industry helped my partner land such a great job.

  52. Res Admin*

    I work at a large institution. There is a group that regularly hosts networking/training opportunities for those who do my category of work (actually, there are multiple groups for different types of specialties–I am just familiar with my own). It works out great. These events host 100+ people on a regular basis.

    When we were in person, then it would be a day at a central conference facility a couple times a year. There would be 2-3 speakers on topics of general interest in the morning and usually 2 time slots in the afternoon with 3 different special topic options for each. Wrap up and mingling at the end. It is organized with people at large tables in a huge ballroom. Breakfast and lunch are provided. Seating is choose your own. It is always a good opportunity to meet people who you only deal with via phone or email, meet new people in other areas, and generally make connections with other departments (super useful) as well as learn about relevant topics. There are typically activities that encourage table mates to interact and people move freely between tables during mealtimes and other breaks. I have never sat at a table with only people I know well–the tables sit 6-8.

    Currently, that has been adapted for Zoom. Complete with breakout rooms. Everyone is assigned to groups for the breakout rooms so you will definitely meet new people as well as reconnect with new people. Use of the chat function is highly encouraged. Bonus of Zoom, we get more people from off-site locations (there are offices spread across several states). Downside is less spontaneous conversations and mingling.

    Anyway, although it is internal to our organization, I have found it invaluable in keeping up with changes a the top and people who move around departments–and it is definitely better to have faces with names.

  53. Heffalump*

    I’m the poster boy for networking. 7 years ago I was abruptly laid off from company A. I had been dissatisfied and putting feelers out anyway, and I’d recently re-established contact via LinkedIn with a former coworker from company A. I let him know I’d been laid off. Around this time, his current employer, company B, had 2 job openings for someone to do what I do. He asked me to send him my resume to pass on to his manager. I didn’t know it at the time, but my former community college instructor for my current line of work was also at company B. They put in a good word for me, and I was hired.

    I was out of work for only 3 weeks. I was old enough that I was a bit concerned about age discriminations. The stars just aligned! :)

  54. ABK*

    I was in business school transitioning between careers. Went to a Christmas Party for my partner’s alumni network and met a Dude who had an interesting job at Huge Company. chatted for a while, connected with him on Linkedin.
    Got a summer internship at Huge Company where Dude worked, didn’t like the division I was in but thought maybe his division would be better. Set up a time to get coffee. Chatted, he connected me with his colleague who was in charge of recruiting from business schools. Set up a chat with her. She didn’t recruit from my school, but since I knew her and knew what roles were available I could apply on my own. Got interview, got job, have been happy here for 1+ years!

    If I hadn’t met Dude and followed up with him, I’m not sure I would have met his colleague and would have had a much harder time finding this job! Also, I went to a second tier b-school on a full scholarship and am working alongside folks who went to Top Five schools because I networked and found out about roles typically only available to those students. We make the same salary in the same job and I paid nothing for my MBA.

  55. voluptuousfire*

    Not networking per se, but a candidate I scheduled for a role with my former company reached out to me on LinkedIn when her current start-up was looking for a recruiter. It wasn’t a fit since I’m not a recruiter but I was really surprised she remembered me since it was like 3+ years ago. It’s nice to know I did my job well enough to have a former candidate reach out to me!

  56. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    Here’s how I wound up with a new job in roughly a week via the most successful networking of my career:

    Day 1: Reached out to an old boss for leads. She suggested a contact (P) who specialized in helping small companies grow their businesses.
    Day 2: P introduced me to L, who had a small data analytics firm. He was not hiring, but suggested I reach out to J, who was a manger he knew at a local recruiting firm.
    Day 3: J hooked me up with one of his recruiters (L), who had a job that looked right
    Day 4: Phone interview with L. She scheduled an in-person interview with the employer for the next day.
    Day 5: In-person interview at Employer
    Day 6&7: Weekend
    Day 8: Was offered the job and accepted.

    It was a crazy whirlwind and although the job turned out to be awful (I quit after 6 months), it allowed me to have another job lined up the day I resigned at my previous job.

  57. Sans Serif*

    My best networking episode was when I was unemployed and asked all my friends to just keep an eye out if they happen to hear of any openings in my field. My old roommate from college had a friend who was in the Marketing dept. She didn’t know what he needed but she put me in contact with him. It turned into a 3 month freelance job which turned into a permanent job. And this was in 2009, not an easy time to get a job.

    Don’t know if this one counts as networking; it was more like serendipity – but that’s my favorite type of networking – effortless. ;)
    I was unemployed and doing some freelance work. I was recommended to a small agency and they started talking to me about writing a brochure. The woman I was talking to was friends with a creative director at a corporation, who needed a writer. She passed on my resume. As I was sitting down one Monday morning, looking at the Want Ads in the paper (yes, this is a LONG time ago) the creative director called me. We set up an interview and he hired me a week later. It’s not often that a job lands in your lap, but this one did.

  58. Hotdog not dog*

    I accidentally networked my way into my entire career. I was unemployed and struggling to find work (any work at all) and wasn’t getting many assignments from the temp agency I had signed up with. I happened to mention this while hanging out in a bar with some friends, and a friend of a friend overheard me and gave me a card for a temp agency he was using. When I called the temp agency, they said, “oh, he’s a great guy! When can you come in?” After the temp agency hired me and started sending me on assignments, I became friendly with the temp recruiter (it probably helped that I got good reviews on all my assignments) and she recommended me for a full time job with a local company. I was hired for entry level clerical work, but it was a fascinating industry so I started asking questions about the business. One of the “almost retired” sales guys ended up going to the manager and recommended that I would be a great candidate for additional training and a promotion. 25 years, several professional licenses, and multiple steps up the corporate ladder later, I’m very thankful that my friends convinced me to go out with them on a random Tuesday!

  59. Silly goose*

    The best I’ve had was an introduction on LinkedIn where someone connected me to another person as a resource for learning about, say, the Llama Grooming culture.

    Why it worked: we both really like the person who connected us, the person is passionate about the topic, I had a need to learn about it, so there was an instant place and desire for discussion.

    In short, the point wasn’t “networking” it was topical… So the networking happened as a by-product.

    And now I know about Llama Grooming culture.

  60. Damn it, Hardison!*

    I belong to a small industry consortium that has been great for networking. I think the key aspects that make it so great are that it is small (usually 20-40 people on a call or at an in-person event) and that the meetings are focused on specific topics, so there’s always something to talk about. It also has smaller working groups, where you can get to know people better. Folks in that group will readily introduce you other people in their organization as well.

  61. Fire Ferret*

    I have always HATED networking. I have social anxiety and I’ve always found the concept transactional and mercenary. What’s helped me is to change my mindset from looking for people who will potentially do me favors to building legitimate professional relationships. Whether it’s former co-workers, bosses, people I meet at conferences or through work I try to see them as a whole person. That doesn’t mean we become friends, but I don’t wait until I’m looking for a job or need advice to reach out. I try to stay in touch a couple times a year offering news about my work life and genuinely asking about theirs or sharing articles that might interest them. I also reach out to congratulate people if I see or hear positive news about awards, promotions, or new jobs.

    When it’s time for recommendations or job hunting I don’t feel like I’m exploiting a contact, but enjoying a natural part of a professional relationship. I also try to build relationships and make myself available to people I might be useful to like junior colleagues and interns in my field. It feels good to feel like you are “plugged-in” to your field or the business culture of your area and it keeps me from feeling like a vulture out collecting the most valuable contacts.

  62. Fried Eggs*

    I think the best networking isn’t intentional networking. I got my foot in the door in a new career through a distant acquaintance by complete chance.

    I’d moved to another country for grad school, and while I was there, a former coworker from my old city came to town on a business trip. We had drinks, and she brought my replacement along since they were traveling together.

    We chatted about the kind of work I wanted to do after grad school, and a week later she forwarded me a job ad an old boss of hers has posted to LinkedIn. It was exactly the kind of work I wanted to do in an industry I hadn’t even considered as an option.

    I applied, got the job, and have since leveraged that experience into many other opportunities. I wasn’t actively trying to network or get something out of this person. Just getting to know her and having a nice chat.

  63. KuklaRed*

    I have always felt that maintaining my network was really important to my career and that has proven to be true over and over. I’ve been able to connect a lot of people and that has resulted in shared information, new jobs, and friendships. It has helped me personally as well. My current position was the result of getting a text message from a woman I worked with almost 20 years ago who said “I woke up this morning thinking why doesn’t Kukla work here?” And now I do.

  64. Lacey*

    My best networking has really been having supportive friends. They’re always showing people my work (I’m a graphic designer) and I’ve had a variety of freelance jobs that way, which have also helped me have a more diverse portfolio when I interviewed for full-time employment.

  65. gbca*

    I have a great success story, as someone who is very much not a natural networker. Two years ago I was unemployed since my husband and I moved across the country for his new job (to be near my family, so definitely a mutual choice). At the recommendation of a recruiting firm I was working with, I attended an event for a local women’s networking group. I did. not. want. to. go. I almost didn’t. I’m an introvert, those things feel awkward as F to me. But I forced myself to chat with people, and let them know I was looking, even though that was uncomfortable to me too. I met a woman who didn’t do anything related to what I do, but gave me her card and told me to let her know if any jobs on her company’s website were a good fit (I’m in finance so I can potentially work at any company). Sure enough, the perfect job was listed – at a company I never would have looked at otherwise – and she passed my resume along to the hiring manager, and I got hired.

  66. len*

    Just want to share a straightforward positive experience that I didn’t expect to work out but which has helped motivate me to continue networking despite being extremely shy. Once at a conference I pushed myself to go to an unstructured evening “women’s networking event”, and then forced myself to join a table with strangers even though it already seemed to be cliquey. We briefly introduced ourselves and talked a bit about our work. The woman I stood next to worked in my niche field, was currently hiring, gave me her card, and later followed up to offer me a job.

  67. gbca*

    The other comment I would add on networking is that people WANT to help other people. Passing along a resume is an easy thing to do, some people even get a referral bonus for doing so! Most people are happy to chat about what they do or offer advice if you have some sort of connection to them, even a flimsy one – friend of a friend, college alumni, etc. People are a little more leery of 100% cold asks on LinkedIn, but even then, if you are super polite and friendly and very explicit about exactly what you’re looking for, you might have success there.

  68. 1234*

    I recently met Bob, who is looking to hire FOH staff. He asked me if I knew anyone looking for that type of work. I didn’t, but I belong to an email list-serv of people looking for work in the hospitality industry where jobs are routinely posted so I connected him to the person running the list-serv. They connected with each other and Bob’s job was promptly posted. I’m hoping that Bob gets some great applicants and that I helped someone in the local area find their next opportunity.

  69. Nikki*

    I’m pretty awful at what most people consider networking. Meeting new people makes me anxious and it takes a while before I’ve built up a rapport with someone. Instead, I’ve built up my network by making an effort to stay in contact with people I’ve met and worked with at previous jobs. I add them all on LinkedIn and sometimes Facebook and I’ll check in occasionally to see how they’re doing and where they’re working. I’m in the tech industry and it’s pretty common to change jobs every few years, so over 15 years I’ve built up a pretty extensive network. I’ve gotten two jobs as a direct result of people I’ve met at previous jobs and kept in contact with.

  70. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I’ve had great networking experiences. My grad school really emphasized networking and helped me feel really comfortable with it.

    The best was the meeting that launched my career. I networked my way to an interview for a job I wasn’t sure I wanted, but the field was interesting. I met with the director and the VP. I didn’t get the job for a few reasons, but the VP called me and offered to pass my resume to some of his colleagues– all C-suites at huge companies. I got hired a few months later by one of them and stayed there for over 8 years. After that I went to a firm and the director from that job became my client. I got the loveliest email from him saying he was so happy to see I had stayed in the field. Nine years later! I still credit him and the VP for getting me started.

    From the other side, I gave a presentation at a client site to a big group. One of the attendees asked for my card for his sister, who was a senior in college and looking for jobs in my field. The sister and I spoke, I was super impressed, and a few months later I passed along her resume for a job on an adjacent team. I took her to dinner with my referral bonus.

    The key with networking is to start the conversation without expecting to be offered a job– just expect to be intelligent and interested and personable, and make a positive impression.

  71. corinne*

    Years ago, I got a new job in a different state. I emailed a dozen or so of my former colleagues and internship professors to let them know about the change, give them my new number, and tell them I enjoyed working with them. One of them replied saying “You’re such a good networker! Love hearing how you’re doing!”

    It was a mental breakthrough for me. I always thought networking was something ELSE or MORE, and thought I didn’t know how. But this told me it can just be regular old keeping in touch, checking in with people, sharing news. It really changed my whole mindset around networking, and changed it from something I dreaded to something I was already doing (and like to do).

  72. Emilia Bedelia*

    Most of my “networking” is within my company. I work for a giant corporation with multiple divisions, so I have built a lot of connections both within my division and outside of it. I never thought of this as networking per se, but I’ve become known for always knowing who to ask when questions come up that are outside of my team’s scope.

    The tips that have helped me:
    1) Don’t limit your networking to people in your immediate specialty – some of my most interesting and fruitful networking experiences have been with people who are tangentially related to my role, but not the same. Even if someone isn’t obviously useful to you as a connection, you never know what might come up in the future.
    2) Networking isn’t just for finding a new job. Having a good network of people in your company (or with the people you work with regularly, if not internal) is really helpful for developing in your current role, and it just makes work more enjoyable. Make an effort to learn about people’s roles and how their teams/workflow are structured.
    3) Ask questions! If you feel a spark of interest or connection, follow it. Even if they are really busy, people love talking about things that interest them and their role. One of my favorite “networking” conversations happened because someone gave a presentation to my team that I found incredibly interesting, so I followed up and asked to talk to the presenter in more detail. We had a fun 30 minute chat where I got to ask all my in depth questions, and now I have a friend on another team! This topic isn’t super relevant to my current job, but now I know a colleague more personally, and if this particular topic ever comes up, I already know who I can talk to about it.
    4) If you can, volunteer for cross-functional projects or teams that will give you an opportunity to meet people outside of your immediate work sphere. Make sure that your manager is aware of and okay with any “extra” things you’re doing, but I’ve never had an issue with this, especially when I am able to say “Here are the connections I have made and here’s how we are benefitting”.
    5) Most importantly, consider your own reputation. Get things done. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be pleasant and communicative. Be someone who makes people’s lives easier, and they will remember it. If people know that you are a good colleague, they will NETWORK FOR YOU, just by speaking well of you if you come up in conversation. There is no point to networking if the people in your network won’t say good things about you.

  73. LadyByTheLake*

    Here’s a recent example that turned out well. Years ago I worked with someone, let’s call her Arya. Although we were in different departments and in different states, we hit it off. We became Facebook friends and although I left that company over a decade ago we’ve kept in touch, mostly through FB. Suddenly she got laid off (Covid) and she reached out to let me know. It turned out that right then I knew about a company who could use her help — I made the introduction, and she started out with the company shortly after. So it wasn’t “networking” by going around a cocktail party shaking hands, but it was keeping a long-term, long-distance work acquaintanceship alive and then when suddenly a connection made sense, there it was!

  74. Bookworm*

    The only “good” networking experience (ie, it led to a job) was because a friend of mine was willing to pass along my resume for a temp job where she worked in a connected but different department. My friend had gone through a horrible family tragedy while working there but was still willing to pass along my credentials. I hated the connection but she was happy to do it and happy when I got the job.

    I know we’re to keep this on the positive parts of networking so I’ll just say I’m glad it really does work for other people. Thanks to all for sharing. I’m reading through the replies to see if there’s something else I can do to make it less awkward and get more results. :P

  75. Olive*

    My best times networking happen when I can clearly answer the question, “Why am I at this event and what would be a good outcome?” In recent years, the answer is usually “I want to better understand all the different parts of my industry including areas I don’t usually work in”, so I ask people questions about what their companies are doing, and most people are happy to talk about it as long as the questioning doesn’t feel like a formal interrogation. My worst times networking were when I was younger and my answer to the question was “well… I guess I’m here because networking is something young professionals are supposed to do… right?”

  76. meyer lemon*

    In university, I would have said that networking was something I was completely incapable of, but I think I accidentally networked my way into my career. When I was working as a co-op student, I made a lot of connections just by being pleasant and easy to work with, and by going to a few social office events. I actually got a part-time job during university and two post-graduation job offers just based on working hard and being helpful as a co-op student, and I’m still working in one of those jobs now. But I definitely didn’t think of any of this stuff as networking while I was doing it–the idea of mingling at a cocktail party would have made me head for the hills.

  77. Non-Networking Networking*

    When I was a finalist for one role at an organization I was VERY interested in, my interview panel included folks from all areas of the organization, from Admin up to Exec Director. I didn’t get that job – but a few weeks later, one of the Admins who’d been interviewing me walked up to me at Trader Joe’s and re-introduced herself. We got to chatting and I learned that her daughter was leaving for grad school in the same city where I’d gone to college, so I shared some thoughts about my favorite restaurants and a couple of other random tips about the area.

    She then caught up with me in the parking lot and told me that she knew of another role that was open at the organization that she thought I might want to consider applying for. (The title wasn’t one that would normally catch my eye, so I hadn’t zeroed in on this role at all prior to this.) I did, and ended up staying in that job for nearly five years before moving on to a different position in the same organization.

    I always point to that as a reminder that networking doesn’t have to feel slimy – it can come from simply making human connections and being open to wherever they might lead.

  78. Echo*

    I agree with all of the comments saying that while we hype up networking as this very specific, formal process involving dedicated events, networking is actually just talking to people you know about work. I found out about my current job through…a fandom meetup. Someone I met there realized we worked in similar fields, thought I might be interested in a job at her company, and ended up referring me. (Referrals at my company work more like “I’ve met and talked to this person, here are my thoughts on their candidacy” than “I have previously worked with this person and would categorically recommend them.”) I’ve done the same now for several others. And there are lots of people with really cool jobs who are willing to speak candidly about the pros and cons of their industries in several other friend and hobby groups I’m part of.

    Also I think as a society we place way too much pressure on “maintaining your network” as in working constantly to keep in touch with previous coworkers. It’s totally fine to reach back out to me if you’ve fallen out of touch with me since we worked together! “What is it like to work at your job” is not closely guarded arcane knowledge that I’ll share only with a chosen few. (Probably the exception is if you are a public figure, or work at a company that is so coveted that you get these kinds of requests constantly.)

  79. Pauli*

    I have a great one! I was at a big conference and made friends with someone who had a related but not identical interest in the topic (he was a lawyer, I was a researcher). Since we weren’t in competition with each other, we helped each other out. So where I knew the head of this important foundation, “Oh hello, Jane, have you met Fergus, he’s doing very interesting work in….” and where he knew some of the conference speakers he could say, “you know, Pauli and I were just talking about something you mentioned in your talk.”

    It was much more fun to have a buddy, and it encouraged me to talk to people I might not have met otherwise. Team success!

  80. Linda Evangelista*

    I’m not sure if it counts, but my best networking successes are pretty organic and have never seemed like forced networking! A former supervisor of mine in an internship basically got me my whole career – introducing me to people they knew who were hiring, which snowballed into more experience, getting recruited on LinkedIn, etc. This former supervisor is still a friend of mine. :)

    Also if you’re involved with coalition groups as part of your job, I know meetings and other in-person events are good opportunities to meet folks in your industry in a pretty organic way (at least this was the case in the before-times).

  81. BB8*

    I found networking easier (as an academic in the sciences) when I started asking folks more open ended questions, rather then ‘where do you work’ which….then 3 seconds later I now need to have another question ready

    now I ask things like ‘what are you most excited about in your work?’ or ‘what is the best thing you’ve seen at the conference this week’ things like that, people like to talk about things that they like generally, and can be a good way to learn about them, what they do, and find common interests

  82. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

    I was attending a monthly writing group at my local library, run by a librarian, Jane, that I got moderately close with (I helped her present resources on submitting to lit mags and we talked after every session). Two years in a row, I applied to a summer learning program job in the same system. Never heard back until I got the “we have placed another candidate” call the first year.

    The second year, I went to Jane to ask her if she knew anything about the program. I didn’t even really intend for her to put in a good word for me, I just wanted to see if she knew what kind of candidate they were going for, and how I could emphasize the right qualities in my application materials. But she was immediately excited, said I would be great, and went and recommended me to the hiring manager, the Director of Youth Services. I got hired, and if it hadn’t been for covid I’d be getting ready to do my third year with the program. As it is they were closed last year, and I’m declining to participate this year because I live with someone at risk, but I am welcome back next year.

    I’m also in a Silent Book Club with several people who work at the largest non-medical, non-public employer in my city, and they would all recommend me to work there if I so desired.

    I’m not very career-focused, so I mostly network semi-socially like this.

  83. DE Engineer*

    This is such a timely topic for me. I was just thinking earlier today that I’m finally at a point in my career that I know other professionals in my field outside my workplace. I kept in touch with a fantastic colleague who was abruptly reorganized out of a job 2 years ago, and after I got an interview at his current company I told him, and he put in a good word for me. Today this happened (I told him about the interview last night). I’m really excited about it. Early in my career, I didn’t know anyone outside my workplace professionally. I’m mid-career now, and networking feels less forced and more effective. For me, it looks like keeping in touch with work friends, similar to keeping in touch with friends. I’ll send an occasional text message, sometimes to share work gossip or find out what they’re up to now. It also helps to live in a small, tightly knit state (Delaware). I once connected a friend who was looking to fill a position with a friend looking for one. They knew each other but weren’t aware of the job connection. It feels so good. So for folks who are looking to take advantage of networking, when it works, everyone benefits. There’s nothing slimy about it. I feel like there is a giant divide between people starting in a career vs everyone else, and once a person is past the first 5 years, networking is so much easier.

  84. Brett*

    My best networking experience was as a man at a women’s affinity group for my industry.

    First off, it was a fantastically run affinity group that was great at putting women starting their career in touch with women who were already successful as well as women who were moving up the career ladder (more on this later). The events themselves were not focused on the industry, instead we did other interesting productive activities, often supporting area non-profit groups. This put the focus on just communicating instead of talking about work.

    For me personally, I was there because I am part of a larger team with many early career women (and, importantly, only early career women) who were not participating in these groups. If I wanted them to participate, I needed to be an example. I couldn’t just tell them to go, I had to show them that I was also taking time away from my desk work to show up and participate. On top of that, it was valuable for me personally to be a supportive person to the affinity group from outside the target population. I am not sure I can explain this well, but I realized it was good that events planned by and executed by women were not just attended by women.

    The third part of this, though, was how the event was personally valuable to me. One of the activities we did was blanket making. Way outside my skillset, but I tried and one group asked me to join them since I was clearly a bit lost. Unbeknownst to me, one of the members of that group was one of the international leaders of our org from another country, about four levels above me and visiting our site for the first time (so most people didn’t know who she was). She just thought blanket making sounded fun, and we happened to be two people in similar parts of the org. I got to spend nearly an hour chatting with her about the organization, my role and team, how the work we did fit into everything else. It was the most random networking contact over blanket making, but we’ve been able to help each other out over the last couple of years thanks to it, and it ended up being a great example to the women in our team of why they should participate (and I did introduce all of our team members at the event to her too).

  85. Crumbledore*

    During my recent job search, I started out using a somewhat scattershot approach, looking for skill matches in my area. There was no movement for weeks, but when I a) figured out the kind of work I really wanted to do and b) started talking to my network contacts about it, I had a couple of interviews lined up within a couple of weeks, and an offer just a few weeks after that. I really credit networking with turning my job search around. It was hard to do, though – I’ve always felt a bit squicky about networking; it felt too much like using my relationships with people for my own gain. As I progressed in my career, though, the conversations I was having with industry contacts became richer over time, and felt like true exchanges where we were able to learn from each other. Moreover, I occasionally found myself in situations where I needed to hire someone – and my first step was to run through my existing contacts to see who might be a good fit and whether they were available. So when I was looking for work and contacting my former colleagues and vendors, I tried to keep that perspective in mind and maintain the spirit of mutual learning, reminding myself that I would always want to help out a good contact who was looking for work, so why wouldn’t they?

  86. Sparkles McFadden*

    I always enjoyed industry conferences and trade shows as those were centered around new technology. It’s easy to network with humans when you’re both interested in learning new things and looking for solutions to similar problems. Exchanging ideas with other attendees is another form of research.

  87. Laura M.*

    Ok, so not really an intentional networking example as such but definitely an example of how the power of personal connections can completely change your life.

    Back in 2013, I was an unemployed graduate who after several months of intense job-searching was still living at my parent’s home, living off unemployment benefits and begging a temp agency for occasional days of data-entry work. It was the full-on post-university existential nightmare – I don’t think I’ve ever been more miserable. My ultimate goal was to work in politics or for a charity/campaigning organisation but at that point I’d have taken any job that paid enough for me to live on and to move out from my parents house. I was 23 and yet to find a full-time job.

    One evening a friend of a friend (let’s call her R.) invites me to a party at her place. I don’t know R all that well, was kind of surprised to be invited, and not in the best frame of mind to socialise so almost don’t go. But it’s a cheap evening out so I turn up and we get talking. I end up telling R I’m unemployed, miserable and can’t find a job anywhere, and she says the organisation she used to work for is hiring, so I take their details and call them the following week on her recommendation. They offer me some part-time work, it isn’t great, but at least I’m finally earning some money. It turned out that organisation has links to a particular local politician, who they do some consultancy work for, and after about six months that politician advertises for an intern, and I get hired. It’s only part-time so I do the two jobs for a while (actually I did four jobs for a period… trying to live in London on an intern’s pay is TOUGH). The internship comes to an end, but with the experience on my CV a few months after that I’m offered a full-time job in Parliament, where I worked for several years, before going to work at the party’s headquarters. Now I do political lobbying for a charity, which although dream jobs don’t exist is probably about as close as I could get to one, and I hope to stay in this role for several years. Oh, and I met my partner through one of my jobs in politics. It continues to blow my mind that if I’d skipped that house party seven years ago pretty much every aspect of my current life would be different!

    1. SeluciaMD*

      This is such a great story! We so rarely have those (if you’ll forgive the reference) “Sliding Doors” moments where we can pinpoint a precise – often a very innocuous – decision or choice that changed the entire trajectory of our lives. Congrats on finding your way into your (near) dream job!

  88. Andrea*

    Oh man, I am so late to this, but I have a great story.

    A few years ago, when my (terrible) boss quit, I was picked to go to a conference in his place. The attendees were not my usual professional crowd, so I didn’t know anyone, and it was overseas, so most of them were not speaking English during the networking events. But I read nametags during a networking lunch and found someone whose name I recognized, but I didn’t know very well, and we ended up eating together. We talked about non-work things for a bit (hobbies, family, etc.) but also our professional backgrounds and what we were each currently working on.

    It turned out that he was on the planning committee for a conference that I do usually attend, so through him, I got invited to join that planning committee. Because I was on that planning committee, I found out about a particular event early and was able to advocate for myself with the right people as a featured speaker. And, when I submitted a technical paper for that conference and he was the session organizer, I already had a connection with him, which made me a lot more comfortable asking for an extension on the submission deadline, and probably gave him a lot more assurance that he could trust me enough to offer me an extension.

    All because I took advantage of a networking lunch!

  89. Properlike*

    I got my first post-college job two days after I moved across the country to a new metropolitan area that has a high number of people from my former metropolitan area. I sat down at a table of strangers, the guy next to me happened to be looking for a temporary assistant, so he offered me the job. I worked there three months and then they offered me a full-time position. I got my next job in much the same way – a connection with our hometown.

    Almost every other opportunity has come up through volunteering in professional organizations. I get to know a lot of different people and show off my skills. Invariably someone will ask me about my professional goals and how they might help.

    But the best networking example was getting introduced to someone at a job site. I recognized their name from a different project I’d worked on that had wanted to bring them on board. “You’re the one who got away!” I told them… in front of their boss! Major points for them, and that person became a friend and colleague later on.

  90. Looking Forward*

    I had my own business for years and while I did I did a lot of networking and while yes some went bad mostly mine went well. But the best one was when they connected me to a realtor who needed my services repeatedly. And when I repaid by introducing them to a person who opened a whole new channel of work for them. That is how it is supposed to work. Business died during COVID but I am still friends with these people

  91. JI*

    From the experience of the networkee, I once had a young senior from my college reach out via linkedin… she was looking to move to the US as I had. I was able to set some realistic expectations, suggest 3 year plan. We worked on her resume, talked through interview strategy.
    I encouraged her to consider my consulting company as in a couple of years she would be able maybe able to get a transfer. I also headed off some combined gumption/risk-averse advice from her parents (both public school teachers who had no idea what they were talking about).
    She joined my company. Didn’t end up in the US, but eventually got a transfer to Australia and is doing well.
    I only physically met her once, we had lunch when I was visiting Ireland. Her boyfriend was there. He casually mentioned if he was going to miss a deadline, he would not tell or lie to his manager so they wouldn’t get mad.

    I was astounded. I explained that if I had found out he had done that to me I would kill him with my bare hands.
    With. My. Bare. Hands.
    She was looking at him pointedly, nodding her head approvingly at what I said.
    She had a good head on her shoulders

    1. JI*

      One thing, I took pains to explain to her that I wanted her to feel under no obligation to accept a job at my company (a big 4 consultancy), just because we had been working together. If she got a better offer she should take it (She was waiting to hear back from McKinsey. Her parent’s advice was to take the first offer she got immediately, whereas I was telling her she was in a very strong position to wait a day or two).

  92. Corporate Lawyer*

    About 15 years ago when I was between jobs, I reached out to various lawyers I used to work with at Big Law Firm to meet for coffee/lunch. I felt weird about contacting them after not being in touch for years and feared they’d wonder where the hell I’d been all this time and why I was contacting them now, but I forced myself to do it – and was amazed to discover that everyone was delighted to hear from me and happy to take time out of their busy schedules to get together! Once I reestablished these relationships, I’ve kept many of them going over the years, getting together for coffee, drinks, and meals from time to time (pre-COVID), which ultimately led to the job I’ve had for more than 10 years now, when someone in my network got me in touch with someone in her network who was looking to hire someone with my skillset.

    What I learned from this experience is: Don’t feel guilty or weird about reaching out to network with former coworkers and other people you’ve lost touch with. Chances are they’ll be happy to hear from you and appreciative that you made the effort to reconnect.

  93. Alicia*

    I always loved doing informational interviews. I’ve transitioned careers twice now, and they were invaluable to help me learn the ins-and-outs of my new industries, understand what roles I would/would not be interested in, and so on. Prior to working at my current company, I had done an informational interview with a recruiter here just to get an idea of the corporate culture, structure, etc. About 3 months after that she reached out with a job opening she thought I might be interested in, and I ended up taking the job.

  94. awesome3*

    That’s one thing I feel like we miss out on with all these virtual meetings, in the past, the time before the meeting while you’re waiting for it to start is such a good time to network. People share what they do, ask questions, and then it naturally might lead to new ideas or connections. Same with after a meeting, when someone said something during the meeting that was interesting, or from an organization someone else was trying to get ahold of, they’d pull them aside afterward.

  95. Networking in the DMZ*

    While on my study abroad, I spent spring break with some friends in South Korea, and took a guided UN tour of the DMZ. I was chatting with another group member, an older gentleman, on the bus who was surprised by our enthusiasm for the topic of Asian affairs. Turns out he worked for an Asia-policy think tank in the states and told us we should email the boss of their DC office when our study abroad ended because “they were always looking for enthusiastic young people.” I did just that and ended up getting an internship there in my senior year of undergrad! It was a great opportunity though I did not end up staying in that field for various reasons.

  96. yala*

    Not business so much as a hobby I occasionally get paid doing, but I was at a comic convention and stopped at the booth of an artist I liked. He wasn’t there but his wife was and she was very surprised to see that I was wearing a Great Big Sea t-shirt–a band from Nova Scotia (also where she was from), while we were much further south than that. We got to talking, and then later her husband was kind enough to give me a portfolio review.

    Cut to not quite a year later, completely different city, completely different con. I’m walking the floor and hear someone yell, “Hey, Braids!” (I had braids at both shows). It was her. She was talking to a writer who was trying to find an artist for her book, and remembered me. And that’s how I landed my first paying gig. (Sadly, the book never got picked up, but I still got paid, so I’ll call it most of a win. Even if I had to draw. So. Many. Horses.)

  97. Madame Bluet*

    Ok, so a quote and a story.

    First, the quote. I had a boss who used to say “The relationship is the deliverable.” Which I thought was complete nonsense at first, because *the deliverable* is the deliverable, and if you have to work with some other people to get it done, just get in/get out/leave people alone. But over the years, I’ve learned that if you’re pleasant to deal with, the interaction for the *next* deliverable gets easier. And if you build up a reputation for being pleasant and helpful, there are people who are happy to take your call when you need something (like, a new job). In a way, every interaction you have is networking.

    Now, the story. Last year, I decided that if I wanted to make a change, it would have to be a big change, because all my possible “next steps” bore me to tears. I had my eye on a particular department, but I’d always assumed they needed people to work in person, and I’m long-term remote. Last year, I signed up for a zoom info session run by the head of that dept, and when Q&A time came, I asked her how she was coping with working from home during Covid. She explained all the changes they had made to accommodate. So then I followed up with an email explaining why I’d asked, and if I could learn more, and here’s my background… I took it as seriously as a cover letter. She gave me 1/2 hour, and invited one of her directs, “Xena”. We all hit it off, and I started taking some of the online classes they mentioned. I followed up again after a couple of months, with some insights from the training, and she responded “love your passion – talk to Xena.” So I got to attend a team call and a work session with Xena. Then life happened, and a couple of months later, I followed up with Xena, and we talked again… and I told her I’d jump at the chance to work on her team. She doesn’t have an opening at the moment, but it’s a lot more aggressive networking than I’d ever done before and I’m patting myself on the back a little bit!

  98. IdahoSmith82*

    This may not seem like a “good” networking thing- but it all worked out. It was more of a relationship building with vendors and other peers than with clients- but schmoozing was required.

    I started attending events from one of our partner carriers (I am in insurance). It was at those events that I learned about larger companies who were actively hiring, and what I was really worth. It was the first event like that I’d gone to without my boss, who would watch over me like a hawk, and it was really eye opening.

    Nothing came of that specific event- but it allowed me to learn my worth, learn how I was being mistreated, and to toot my own horn rather than depending on her. Within a year- I was with my current job, in a much better role, making a little over 25% more than I was (plus bonuses I wasn’t getting at the old job).

  99. SarahKay*

    So, my imposter syndrome and I read various articles, including lots of Alison’s advice on networking, and at least one of us thinks “Yes, but that sounds hard”. We contemplate the fact that in my current role there are very few conferences that I’d attend, that building a network is far too ‘grown-up’ for me (I’m in my forties!) and that small-talk is not my forte.

    This week one of my colleagues on another site gave me the heads-up that a position at his site (in a city I’ve wanted to move back to for some years now) has just opened up if I wanted to apply for it, and that he’d happily recommend me to his site leader.

    Suddenly, I had the revelation that just chatting to this guy from time-to-time (and the same with others on the cross-site team I’m part of), by asking each other for advice on a topic and then often a bit of social chat is networking.

    He knew I wanted to move to that city because it’d come up in conversation, and because we’ve helped each other out, plus been on joint team calls he had an idea of how well I worked. I hadn’t had to force the small-talk, it just happened naturally. It’s really opened my eyes to how networking doesn’t have to be this big scary thing; it can be just a part of doing a good job, being approachable, and being helpful.

    In fact, that revelation made me notice a previous occasion when I’d been networking without even thinking about it. Back when I worked in retail I’d been helpful to an external company that rented floorspace from us. When I was put at risk of being laid off I had a call from their area manager, less than an hour after the news came out, offering me a job with them instead.

  100. new gov employee*

    I was working in a pretty boring technical job after college (I studied electrical engineering), and went to a Women in STEM panel thrown by AAUW on a whim (I’m not a member, I saw a random post and that it came with pizza and decided to show up). One of the women on the panel was leading a project to basically re-use NASA satellites as weather satellites, which sounded so much cooler and more interesting than my job. After the panel, I went up to her and asked more about how she got into that career path and how I could transition from my very niche technical job to that project management type job. She was AMAZING, and gave me her email.

    She helped me figure out what jobs to look for, when to move on from contracting companies, and what certifications and education benefits to use to advance my career. I asked her how to thank her, and she said to just pay it forward later in my career. I’m not sure I would have found a job I love without her volunteering for that panel and continuing to give me advice years later.

    Later, I kept in touch with two government employees I had worked with after I moved on to another position. I asked them for advice and how to transition from contractor to government. They were able to send me roles they knew that were opening up and craft a good resume/cover letter to eventually get a government job.

  101. AnotherLibrarian*

    I was at a national conference in my field while also trying to negotiate a new job at the same time. It was super stressful, because I didn’t think I could really tell anyone what was happening yet. I was worried, because the new job would be a promotion, a move, and would mean taking a bit of a risk. I had signed up for Restaurant Night at the conference, where you eat dinner with strangers. I didn’t know any of the older women at the table and rapidly learned they were all much higher up in their careers than me. So, after a glass of wine, I confessed that I was negotiating and I admitted how nervous I was about singing the offer letter. In the end, they made me realize that what I was really scared of was change. They all encouraged me to take the risk, telling me about how scared they’d been at various times in their careers.

    The next day at the conference coffee break, two of them cornered me to know if I’d signed the offer letter. I said yes and they both gave me big hugs and told me I was doing the right thing. It was the right thing and I am so grateful these strangers gave me the push I needed.

  102. pam adams*

    I am in higher ed- an academic advisor. We have lots of small groups scattered in departments across campus. I always try to move out of my subgroup at meetings and events- maybe I sit with the financial aid group at our union meeting, and hang with the Engineering advisors at a workshop. That way, I know more people, and we can assist each other.

    1. OtterB*

      This is a good one and applies to a lot of workshops and conferences: sit with someone you don’t already know. Sometimes it will be weird and awkward, but lots of times it won’t!

      1. OtterB*

        I am reminded, when I was a PhD student I and several other students attended a conference with our advisor. He made a point of telling us that he did NOT expect to see us at the talks/papers he was giving. He said we could hear him talk any time, and this was a chance to meet other people. He, on the other hand, made a point of attending any of our papers or posters and of introducing us to people if we were nearby at social events. In some respects he leaned toward the narcissistic, but he got this one right.

  103. Generic Name*

    This is such a great topic! I work for a small woman-owned engineering company. I am more of an “ambivert”, but like others, I dislike how “salesy” some types of networking can feel. The owner of the company is an introvert, and she’s been great at helping me feel more comfortable with networking, and has given me lots of good advice.

    Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

    -Networking isn’t a one-time activity. You don’t meet someone and hope to “get business” from them right then. Approaching it this way is what feels icky to lots of people, me included.

    -Networking is basically getting to know people in your industry over a period of time. The easiest way to do it is to join a professional organization and attend it regularly.

    -When you attend meetings, pick one person to talk to. This is honestly the hardest part when you’re first starting out. You may feel like everybody already knows each other and is deep in their own conversations. Sit next to someone you don’t know and ask them where they work. Ask them about what their company does. Ask them about their specific job. See if you have mutual acquaintances. Honestly, it took me years to go from being a newbie and feeling super awkward at meetings to having people recognize me and remember my name and strike up a conversation with me.

    -Once you’ve been going to meetings for a while, people will remember you as a “regular” and will say “hi” to you. then you can start more of the “relationship building” part of networking, which is really another way of saying “being friends”. At least in my industry and part of the country, there is a ton of overlap between people’s personal and professional lives. You start seeing people regularly and talking to them, and then you realize they are pretty cool, and that “networking thing” you did with them was mutually enjoyable, so you invite them to a brewery for a beer, or on a bike ride, or skiing or whatever and then suddenly you’re legit friends.

    -I like to have several broad topics of conversation in my back pocket that I can bring up and have a discussion with others while at meetings or events. This will be different for everyone, but for me, my 3 general topics are kids, dogs, and hunting. I don’t think I’ve met a single person of any gender in my industry who I can’t connect with on at least one of these topics. These topics are obviously pretty specific to the types of people in my part of the country and my industry, but you’ll probably realize that you end up talking about similar things with people you meet while networking.

    -The biggest things to remember are to be friendly and open-minded and approach networking by taking an interest in people rather than “making a sale”.

  104. A Genuine Scientician*

    I asked for and managed to do an informational interview once, which was a great experience.

    An organization I’d been part of for ~8 years at that point had someone in a very specialized role. Her title was “Managing Director”, but she wore a lot of hats there. Several people I know who were part of this organization were applying for a grant to fund a similar organization since the first one was coming to an end, and had asked if I would consider taking on the equivalent role in that organization if the grant was funded, because it looked likely that the person in the first organization was going to be promoted to a higher level position before the grant came through even if it did. So I researched everything I could about what that would entail, including finding the 3 interviews the person I knew with that type of role had given, because it’s an unusual sort of position. I then asked her if I could schedule 15-30 minutes to meet with her as I had some more specific questions that she hadn’t addressed in these interviews. I also indicated the types of things these were about: what in her background had been the best preparation for what the role entailed, for the given breakdowns of how much of her time was spent in various tasks was that more in any given week vs seasonal throughout the year, what types of decisions were in her realm to make vs what she was bringing to a committee, what sort of metrics did they evaluate her on, etc. I got to ask some pretty nuanced questions and get a much better feel for what that role entailed, what parts of the organization were really her wheelhouse vs. what was decided by committee, and she assured me that I had more preparation at that point than she did when she first got hired for the role.

    The grant ended up not being funded, but it was still a very positive experience to me in the networking realm. I think it helped that the person who agreed to the interview knew me, and also wasn’t in a position to be hiring anyone — it made it much clearer that I was genuinely looking for information, rather than trying to do an end-run around a job interview.

  105. Colette*

    I’ve gotten a couple of jobs through networking. In the first one, I mentioned to a neighbour that I’d been laid off; his wife’s company was hiring a few months later. I’d never worked with her, but we knew each other through community events I helped with. The second time was a person I’d worked with many years before, who also knew I was looking – so let people know when you’re job hunting!

    The other way I’ve found networking to be useful is meeting with former colleagues to find out where they work, what they like about it, what path their career has taken, etc. Even though that has never resulted in a job for me, it was very helpful when I was laid off because it’s good to talk to people who know you to be competent (especially when your job hunt isn’t going anywhere).

  106. Bloopmaster*

    For me, the very best networking occurs when neither party has any expectation of, or interest in, using that networking relationship for personal advancement (e.g. getting a job or getting an “in” with a person or organization), but all parties are invested in improving processes, cultures, or organizations to which they all contribute. The resulting “how can we fix our shared (or sector-wide) problem with X” conversations–which sometimes lead to real collaborations or even actual change!–are so gripping and energizing. By contrast, being in a position where you are trying to leverage networking for advancement or trying to get hired is just so soul sucking.

  107. Tech Writer Tucker*

    My best networking experience is still in progress! I recently read a Twitter thread on how to get a new tech job when you’re already in tech, and it boiled down to “figure out who you know at the company you want to work for and chat with them about it.” So when I saw a job opening at a company that I actually wanted to work for, I took a quick scroll through my LinkedIn contacts and found an ex-coworker who’d jumped ship for that company a few years earlier. I sent him a message with “Hi, I’m thinking about applying for this job, would you be open to talking about your experience at the company?” and we had a fifteen-minute Zoom chat. I’m now in the second-stage interview. :)
    The real advantages aren’t “it might get me this particular job” but 1) it was nice to catch up with that coworker again, and 2) having done it once I now feel a lot more comfortable doing something like that the next time I see an opening go by that I’m interested in.

  108. LMM*

    I answered a call on a website I admired to describe your perfect job with them. I expected absolutely nothing – maybe, at best, a nice form letter.

    The woman who responded was someone I knew of through an online group we are both in, and she was the head of the department my “perfect job” would fall under. She said, we don’t have any openings, but I like your ideas, and please pitch us, and if something does open up, we’ll have you apply. So I pitched some ideas, one was accepted, I wrote a story for them, and there’s more on deck.

    I have low expectations for full-time employment, but I was super happy the way this extremely nebulous letter I wrote into space panned out. And I’m thrilled to see my name in print on their site!

  109. retired*

    Story from volunteerland. Introvert here. I know people from my faith community, my work, my community. I learn about them because I’m interested in them. I think of it as sitting in different chairs to think about how they see their lives. Recently I had the chance to write a grant for a volunteer group I’m involved in. I know how to write grants, but didn’t know much about the point of the grant (water quality). I knew I would need consultants (part of the grant). So I reached out to a friend of the attorney the group uses, a planner who is a consultant. I said, “I know I need a consultant. Are you that person?” He wasn’t. He not only helped me write the grant (edited my work, added jargon, ideas, structure), but connected me with the right consultants. Free. A former accountant I know through a faith group that focuses on indigenous rights helped me (free again) with the budget stuff. And people from 2 environmental groups I’ve met through the work the volunteer group does wrote letters of support. So to me, everyone is connected and you just need to think about that.

  110. Hawkeye is in the details*

    Due to medical issues, I needed a mid-life career change from front of house hospitality/entertainment to something in an office environment. I had zero professional experience in that capacity, and no contacts outside of people in the position I needed to get out of, but was willing to start bottom rung in almost any position or industry and learn while paying my dues.

    A friend of a friend whom I had met once and chatted with at a concert happened to post on FB that her company’s summer intern had fallen through, and they were looking. I asked if I could apply, despite not being college aged or in school for marketing. From our conversation, she knew I liked to write and edit fiction and she had a hunch I’d have a good eye for proofing materials. She forwarded my resume and lo and behold, I was hired. 2 months later I was a permanent employee, though she left the company not long after.

    Not only did we become great friends, but she has been my biggest supporter as I’ve grown in the roles I’ve had over the last several years. I fully credit the fantastic job I have now to her help 6 years ago.

  111. Mariana*

    After the management in my department basically screwed me out of my position (which I enjoyed), I immediately put out feelers for a new job. My financial advisor introduced me to a friend of hers who knows a lot of people in my business. After I introduced myself and gave him some background about me, he instantly expressed interest in hiring me himself. This has led to a year+ long open job offer, which I think I’m about to have finalized, and accept. Woohoo!

  112. Workerbee*

    One of the aspects of networking that’s easy to forget is that you’re doing it all the time, just by having conversations with people. It’s not that you’re going into every encounter with that agenda, it’s more that you never know who knows about a job or who knows someone else who knows about a job.

    Someone I’d met a decade before at an event, and whom I hadn’t talked with since, thought of me when a job in line with my experience opened up at a place he consulted at. I had only just thinking of moving on from my company, and there’s no way this person would have known that. I got the job but would never have even heard of this place without this key connection, nor would I have run across the job because it wasn’t being posted where I normally look. Whatever impression I’d made all those years ago was thankfully a good one.

    When I think of “networking,” it makes me a little nervous, like I have to present myself in front of an audience, have small talk and my elevator speech prepared, and hope they want my contact information after. When I think of it as just meeting people as people, it feels much more natural and easy. (Using one’s network to actively find a job is a little different, of course, though you still want to remember you’re a person talking to a person.)

  113. New Mom*

    I LOVE networking (I’m pretty extroverted) so here are my success stories:

    In high school I was very close friends with Sally, and got to know her family. I really liked Sally’s mom and would often chat with her when I went over to their house. I think most of Sally’s other friends would mostly ignore her mom, or shuffle by quickly. Well, her mom ended up hiring me for my very first job and she was my boss for three years in college. She was a great boss, and she took a chance on someone with no office experience since she knew me personally.

    I had been actively working towards getting a really great student job my senior year in college, everyone on the program liked me, and the way that they had all talked about it, it seemed like I was a shoe-in. I had worked with everyone for another student job in anticipation of getting the second job, and got along really well with the permanent and student staff. The only person I had not met was the department head because she was on maternity leave. She actually came in during her leave for the final round interviews, or for whatever reason she torpedoed my candidacy after meeting me once. I was crestfallen.
    Well, I’m glad I didn’t burn any bridges after what happened because one of the other staffers thought I was such a good worker that they personally recommended me for another job that I ended up getting in another department.

    After college I worked as a teacher, and the majority of my friends ended up being other teachers at various schools in my city. After I finished two years at my first school, I wanted to move to a different age group with better hours and a friend of a friend was leaving her position at a school that she had told me about when we had all hungout that sounded like a really good fit. I would have never known about the school if I had not spent time with other teachers and learning the behind the scenes of various schools so I was able to apply for a school and already know what it was really like.

  114. Tech and Pearls*

    I am usually a bit introverted in networking situations, but I find that I really enjoy more informal connections made outside of events specifically intended for networking. The best example I can think of is that one time, after a national conference, I was sitting in the airport bar before my flight (pre-Covid of course) and I overheard two people next to me talking about the suburb in which I worked (halfway across the country!). I said something along the lines of “Excuse me, I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but I thought I heard you mention [town]?” to which one of them said “Yep, I live there!” I said “Oh, I work for X Organization!” and it turned out that we had a number of mutual connections. He worked for the largest professional association in my industry, we exchanged cards, and he’s been a totally fantastic connection to have.

  115. OtterB*

    My experiences aren’t job hunting experiences, but doing-my-job-better experiences. I vividly remember the first one because it was so empowering. I was working on a project team at a customer site away from our main office. We were having a computer problem we didn’t know how to solve. I was a very junior member of the team and hesitant to put myself forward, but I picked up the phone and called a guy I had met in a training class, who did something related I thought but wasn’t sure, and who had a reputation for being an expert but difficult to deal with. I introduced myself and said something along the lines of “I’m working at site Y on project X and we have this problem. I’m not sure if that’s something you do but I thought you could tell me who I should talk to.” And … he fixed it for us. I didn’t know exactly who to ask, but I started with the person I knew who was closest to the answer and asked politely, and the problem was solved and my onsite team was very impressed with me.

    My more recent connections have been similar. Information-broker kinds of conversations or emails, where I ask a friendly question of people I’ve met at some meeting or workshop, looking for research on a particular problem. Sometimes I get an answer, sometimes I get a suggestion of where else to look, but in either case I’ve strengthened the connection a little bit. And it works both ways; part of my job is that people often ask questions of me. Sometimes it’s information I have collected and I can answer them or send them a report. Other times I can say, I don’t have that, but have you talked to so-and-so? They’re doing something similar and I can give you an e-introduction if you’d like.

  116. Animal worker*

    Decades ago, I wanted to pivot within my field to a longer term goal in a facet that was just starting to become a new specialty. I knew that I needed additional/different skills to get there someday. I both reached out on my own and was given some references to a handful of people in my field who had some of these specialties in their experiences or roles. To a person every one of them was willing to talk to me and help me figure out ways to move towards that future goal, and a number of them became great friends and colleagues. I look back and realize how fortunate I was, but I think the fact that I had educated myself to the extent possible before reaching out, had concrete reasons/questions for talking to each of them, wasn’t asking for a job, and followed up with appreciation and in some cases kept in touch afterwards were some of the keys to the success in these networking efforts both in the short and long-term.

    1. Animal worker*

      As a follow up, I always try to ‘pay it forward’ since people were so gracious to me. I also believe really strongly in taking advantage of professional conferences for networking but know that newer people in the field, or those trying to get in, frequently aren’t comfortable initiating conversation at times. So at conferences during breaks I look for someone on their own and go up and introduce myself and strike up a conversation.

      Once I did this, and it turned out the young woman was a college student who was about to come to my institution for an internship with a colleague. She and I struck up a great conversation, and because my colleague and my job’s were somewhat related, she ended up working on some joint projects for us both; and afterwards I was able to hire her for a part time position as part of a grant. Win for all involved.

  117. GreenDoor*

    I was working as a political aide in city government. Talking to my Grandfather, who retired from the city as a sewer inspector, he starts recalling some of the “young hotshots” that used to work for him back in the day. One name sounded familier – the current not-so-young-anymore sewer supervisor. Mentioned my grampa to him and sure enough he used to work under my Gramps. Years go by and at some point in our conversations, he asks how I landed in politics. I said, by accident because I actually have an accounting degree. A few months later, he calls me. His wife runs a department that includes internal auditors. She’s got a position and would I like to interview? I go to the interview, she actually has two positions – one for an auditor and one for an analyst and which one would I prefer? Chose the analyst position because it paid more, worked my way up, and now I’m second in charge of the department. All because my Grampa was naming names of young people on his crew from 40 years back that annoyed him.

  118. JohannaCabal*

    In my experience there is Networking and networking. Networking with a capital “N” is the image everyone has of a group of people in business suits inside a restaurant or conference center room exchanging business cards.

    True networking is building up a reputation of doing quality work while also maintaining relationships with not expectation of a job. This takes time. For the ten years after I graduated college, I worked three jobs. I found these jobs by applying for a position via a job board. Despite my best efforts at going to networking events, I could not crack into a Network.

    I felt that I was a total failure at networking. Also, I fell into the trap of believing the whole spiel about the “hidden jobs market.” I’m here to tell you that there is no “hidden jobs market” that requires “the right networking strategy.”

    Yet after these three jobs, my next two (including one that I’m still in) came to me via connections I’d made in my field. These include some work I did on the side and a good word was passed along to someone who had a role to fill. The second was due to an industry connection I met regularly at tradeshows.

    With networking (lower case “networking”), it might take years even to find jobs this way. And this is okay. I would say, particularly to recent graduates, continue looking for jobs with a solid resume and cover letter and build up interview skills. Continue going to Networking events but de-emphasize those and don’t treat them like job fairs. Think of them as places to build relationships. These relationships will likely not lead to jobs but accept this.

  119. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    I’m not sure if this was actually networking, more knowing the right people at the right time. When I reentered the work world after being a stay-at-home mom, I aimed a little high compared to my previous jobs, because it was a long-time dream job. My sister happened to know the president of the not-for-profit board where I applied, and my husband knew another board member (good size city with the connections you’d find in a small town). It was enough to get me an interview, and helped get me the job. Then when that place hit financial difficulties and I was one of the cut staff, the board member my husband knew physically took copies of my resume to several places, and when I directly applied to one I really wanted, he made some calls to people he knew there. Plus my ex-director’s wife worked there and she also put in a good word! Once you’re in the loop of local not-for-profits, it’s really all about who knows who as everyone seems to move from one place to the next, kind of a professional six degrees of separation. Or only two or three! :)

  120. Phil*

    I was an audio engineer and while I gave presentations at conferences, sat on panels and that sort of thing, my best networking experience happened on the street. I was riding my bicycle, stopped at a light and a BMW motorcycle like the one I had pulled up next to me. I looked at the rider and said I had one too but I kept the Bings-carburetors-and he had Del Ortos, a common swap. Nest light more conversation, next light more conversation until we pulled over and talked for a while. Turned out he was a TV producer-this was in the San Fernando Valley-and needed a sound miner. Which I was. Bingo! Hired on the spot and worked in the TV business for 20 years after that.
    Not a classical networking experience but it will do.

    1. Office Chinchilla*

      Talk about funny networking… Are you the Phil the Sound Mixer who worked once on a post-apocalyptic show that shot in Van Nuys, behind the Costco?

      1. Phil*

        Not me. The only post-apocalyptic show I ever worked on was a sitcom starring Andrew Dice Clay. But come to think of it, it may have been The Apocalypse itself.

  121. Office Chinchilla*

    I work in an industry with a ton of networking (we’re still doing random networking events by Zoom! That’s how important it is!) and I honestly enjoy it, but I think my best networking experience was on the picket lines over a decade ago. Everyone would break into small groups and chat while we paced. That was also where I learned a very important lesson: The first ten minutes of any networking event suck. They just do. Accept it, and consider it part of the commute. Everyone is still arriving, getting their bearings, getting food or drink if applicable, looking for people they know. It’s awkward AF. After ten minutes, someone will approach you or look approachable and you can get into it. So don’t assume it’s going to be awful or get frustrated and leave just because of those first ten minutes. Ride them out, and you’ll have an excellent two hours.

    Also, if you’re a woman and you find yourself in conversation with a man who just doesn’t hear women’s voices, you can just turn around and talk to someone else. You don’t even need to make an excuse or call attention to the fact that you’re exiting this conversation. There’s usually someone fascinating standing right behind you.

  122. Juniantara*

    A lot of the best networking can be internal networking as much as external, especially if you work for a larger company with multiple locations. My company has (smartly) purchased management skills, soft skills or PM training and invited people from multiple different divisions, so you have people with similar titles doing the training together. I’ve actually seen new products and initiatives emerge from the chitchat between the sessions when the teapot engineering manager talks to the teakettle testing manager from another group.

  123. Swirly Twirly Gumdrops*

    I had a friend that I worked with from 2014-2017 tell me during one of our casual “catch up on the family news” that she was leaving that job for a new one. I left that job we worked together in, in 2017 for a stretch position that was a good fit in terms of tasks but it was such a high visibility position with company leadership and in the community that I was far more stressed than I wanted to be with a new house and 2 children under age 5.

    So she was telling me all about how it was 100% remote, lots of flexibility, good work-life balance, etc., and my former supervisor was actually working at this company also. So I talked to former supervisor and then I went back to my friend and told her to throw my name in the pot (multiple openings, we weren’t in competition). Sent her my resume, she sent it to her contacts, I got a link to the application… a week later I interviewed… 2 weeks later got the offer, and started my new position at the end of July!

    Networking for the win by accident!

  124. LizM*

    Honestly, the best networking I’ve done hasn’t been at formal networking events. It’s been the side conversations at conferences, trainings, etc. Pre-COVID, I made a lot of great contacts attending the every-other-month lunches that my professional society puts on. They always have some kind of speaker, but there is time at the beginning when lunch is being served to chat with table-mates.

    Also, volunteering with organizations that interest me. My church has a committee that is loosely related to my professional field, and I’ve met some great people through that. I’ve also made some great contacts volunteering on political campaigns. That’s not the primary reason I volunteer, but it’s a great side benefit.

    I’m an introvert, so small talk for the sake of small talk is basically torture, but if we have a task to focus on, I’ve found I’ve actually had some really useful conversations and made contacts that have benefited me professionally.

  125. Cascadia*

    My best experience was actually coming home from a conference. I had attended a small, 150 person conference for 4 days in my niche field. It was in a nearby city that most people flew directly to. However, from my home city you can take a boat there – it’s a 3 hour boat ride and there’s only a couple a day. On Friday night I go to get on the boat headed home, and it turns out there are about 6-8 other people from the conference all on the boat with me – all who lived in my same city and did my same job but at other orgs. I had known of a few of them before, but we spent three hours drinking beers and getting seasick together on a Friday night. We were exhausted and giddy and it was an absolute blast. I still keep in touch with all of them on a regular basis – they’re my people I go to when I’m having a work problem, and it’s been so great to have a network now. Even though it was a very rocky boat ride, it was pretty impactful for relationship building!

  126. Chickaletta*

    Best experiences were when it was genuine and not organized. In other words, my office friends, the people I work with who I actually like and who I (hope) actually like me back, have been the best references and networking buddies by far. I got my current job when I coworker knew about an opening, thought I would be a great fit, and went to bat for me by calling up the right people and talking me up. I also landed another job when I was younger through a friend who knew I’d be great. Don’t get me wrong – I still went through the application and interview process and wasn’t hired directly by my friends – but having them as references was the best thing for my career.

  127. C*

    This was a long time ago, but I was a first gen college student and we had this assignment to interview someone in a line of work we were interested in. I asked someone I felt comfortable with but she was out of town and recommended I talk to her former boss who loved mentoring young people. Except he was an executive in a field I was interested in but intimidated by. He was SO NICE and bought me cake and tea but I could barely look at him and my voice shook so so much and I was on the verge of tears the whole time. He could occasionally get me talking a bit but then I’d realize who he was and become completely overwhelmed again. At the end he was (very gently) like, being honest with you I think you’re very smart but also so shy you’ve got your work cut out for you. It was so important to me. Even though I still occasionally get nervous talking to people that impress me, I am much much better at managing it now and have a much better sense of perspective. But if he’d been (very understandably) exasperated or rude to me I think it would have been crushing at the time and I would have had a lot harder of a time imagining myself in the career path we now share.

  128. Boof*

    I’m an oncologist; there are a ton of conferences, but I limit myself to 2-4 per year (ASCO – on of the biggest all cancers conference, and CTOS, a disease specific conference, + 1-2 cooperative group conferences for clinical trial focus).
    I try to read up on the poster sessions and if there are any in a particular area of interest, try to talk with the speaker – generally because I am excited about their research and/or applications.
    I also visit the booths that are relevant and try to see what they are working on, though that is usually more pharma oriented.
    The talks are usually too big to really network but there are a few small “meet the speaker” events + if I have any relevant questions/comments I try to say something (but not an obnoxious hog the microphone way).
    Finally, I try to keep abreast of clinical trials and contact people if there is something I want to send a patient to. I try to remember who helped me out with a patient and go back to them again if I have other cases – so I have connections at a few other big institutes I can go to and ask about whether it’s worth a referral (telemedicine is improving this but used to be it would be an extensive time/travel to check in with someone else otherwise if the patient goes there themselves)
    So, I think networking can be fun and natural the key is working out who is doing what you are interested in, being excited about their work, and sharing your own work. Be friendly and available and helpful.

  129. panna cotta*

    I was laid off at the end of 2004 and really didn’t know too many people in my city at the time. But I did golf in a women’s evening club and had socialized with two women outside of the golf, but only a couple of times, and it had been a few months since I had talked to either. I had been jobhunting for about a month when I tried to figure out who I might network with and thought of them although they were really just acquaintances. I emailed both of them indicating that I’m on the hunt for an administrative assistant position. One replied that they didn’t know about any jobs going. The other replied asking for my resume. In the next email, same day, she had set me up with an interview the next day where she used to work. Did the interview, had a job offer the next day, and started the following Monday. I’m still there.

  130. KeinName*

    I got the majority of my jobs through contacts. An influential person was the coordinator of the women‘s mentoring scheme at my alma mater, she went for lunch with me a couple of times and three years later told me to write to someone who might have a position open. Lead to a three year job. Another time a colleague from work in a city I wanted to move away from reccommended me for a job in the city I wanted to go back too. Another time I was invited to apply for a position in a department by a friend who I lead a group with. The people who I would work with already knew me because I had collaborated with them 8 years earlier.
    Once I also wrote an email to a very nice seeming woman who I had briefly chatted to a year prior, telling her I was looking for a job, and she got a contact of her to send my resumee to 150 HR persons- which was a great networking success but I got not a single response ;-)

  131. coast2coast*

    Before leaving my west-coast college for east-coast grad school I asked professors for any contacts they had at/near my grad school. Once I moved, I set up informational interviews with those willing to meet with me to learn more about their career trajectories and local job prospects. About a year later one of those contacts had an internship opening–and I got it! I wasn’t expecting those informational interviews to directly lead to a job, but I think my previously demonstrated interest in their work definitely helped me stand out in the competitive internship applicant pool.

  132. Rachel in Minneapolis*

    I just had a networking meeting today with 20 other professionals in my field and it was very helpful! We meet for 50 minutes via Zoom.
    What made it work:
    – intentional facilitation
    – three different breakout room times of 7 minutes each to discuss a very specific topic that was relevant to each person
    – sharing of resources and links by peers
    – brief time at the end for anyone who is hiring in the field or looking for a new position
    Not only is this professionally helpful, it’s really great to get a feel for how others in my position at different companies are feeling. I tried to attend each time (usually once a quarter).

  133. chilipepper*

    I was in graduate school and a previous grad asked the professors for a recommendation when he was hiring. They recommended me and I got the job. It was kind of surreal how it fell in my lap.

  134. TeapotNinja*

    The best networking opportunities I’ve ever had are participating in alumni groups for (ex-)employees of former employers of mine. Nothing else comes even close.
    You already have a relationship with most people in the network, and unless you were an incompetent jerk most people will also already see you in a favorable light and would be happy to put a good word in.

  135. JekyllandJavert*

    My company did a speed-networking event for lower-level employees, where employees would give their elevator pitches to various managers and higher ups. The managers would provide feedback, and the employees would rotate to a different person every few minutes or so. I gave my elevator pitch to a manager I had seen around but never really spoken to, and he says “I just want to say, your reputation precedes you…”. He went on to say how the managers all knew how hard I worked and how I was known for being an overall excellent employee. I got promoted a few months later.

  136. It's Me*

    As strange as it may sound, the internet has been my best networking opportunity. My industry is very active on Twitter, so I’m constantly making connections—mostly because I don’t go about it *as* networking. I have my employment listed in my bio, but I like to chat with other industry people about whatever they’re tweeting about: pop culture, current events, hobbies, whatever. The rapport takes a little longer to solidify, sure, but it doesn’t feel like work this way, and regardless of whether these conversations turn into a lead in the future, I’ve made so many friends—casual or otherwise—along the way.

  137. ThePear8*

    I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of volunteers at a conference in my industry. It was incredible the positive culture and camaraderie this group had, and each time I’ve been at the conference with them my LinkedIn network has exploded afterwards. At the time I didn’t know what to do with my connections, but now I’m learning how amazing it is to have this group to be able to tap into. Most notably, I run a club for our industry at my university and have been dipping into this group to invite guest speakers to our virtual club meetings – this is fantastic not only for me to have a deeper conversation with them and for them to share their knowledge, but for other students to ask questions and network with them as well. Of course, perks of being the host mean usually after we’ve ended the meeting stream, I stick around to chat just a bit longer, which tends to be when I get the best advice! One speaker who has done some particularly notable work told me while we were chatting after the meeting that there were opportunities at her company and hinted she’d put in a good word for me if I chose to apply (I ended up not applying as I found a different opportunity, but it still felt amazing to hear and I was extremely grateful!)

  138. Engineer*

    During my time at university I was part of ASME because of free pizza, and my friends were all members. The student ASME chapter did several events with the local professional ASME chapters. I met a woman (Lisa) who worked at a company I desperately wanted to intern at, and we got to know each other as our paths crossed at several of the joint ASME events.

    As a senior, I took a leadership position in the student chapter of ASME, and had worked hard to excel in all my classes. At one of our last events of the school year when I was set to graduate, I asked Lisa if her company had any more internships available. She replied her company typically fills interns several months prior, and only picks students from top universities, which my current school was not (I was a little miffed by that comment). However, I countered I had been accepted to a top school for a graduate program. A few weeks later she called me with an offer of an internship at her company! I’m still in that same industry now! I’ll be forever grateful for that opportunity!

  139. ThePear8*

    As a student, one other great networking experience for me has been career fairs. I know some people feel like nothing comes out of career fairs and in some cases it’s true that career fairs can be drag – but in my case both of my internships that I’ve gotten came from talking to companies at career fairs! My first one happened when I noticed the recruiter for the company looking very bored and lonely, so I think he was just very enthusiastic to actually have a conversation at all when I came to talk to him and he promptly scheduled me for a phone interview, which of course led to more interviews and an offer!
    My current one happened when I spoke to the company at a career fair specifically for my major. I expressed my enthusiasm for their type of work and field, and then the person I was talking to went “Hey actually our VP is here, could he give you a quick on-the-spot interview?” and I hesitantly agreed, nervously stumbled through an impromptu technical interview, but I guess I did well enough to make an impression. Nothing happened after this career fair because right afterwards, COVID hit and I guess the company had other priorities to deal with than following up with people from the career fair. BUT in the fall when the same career fair rolled around, now in a virtual format where we had to book 1:1 meetings with recruiters ahead of time, I noticed the same company would be there and the same VP would be there, so I scheduled a meeting with him. He remembered me from before, apologized for the company’s failure to follow up with people, and promised to follow up after this career fair. Sure enough, he did follow up later instructing me to contact someone to set up an interview, and from there I landed the interviews that led to my current position. I think talking to the company again, and making enough of an impression where they remembered me, definitely helped!

  140. ArtsNerd*

    Two stories:

    1. One time I got a rejected from a job by a hiring manager who sounded legitimately frustrated that she couldn’t hire me. (They ended up not filling the position for financial reasons.) She invited me to stay in touch so I reached out to set up a coffee with her. She gave me some great mentor-style advice and we slid into a nice friendship over time, which had a side effect of introducing me to some other prominent folks in our local industry… one of whom invited me to join a massive project as a consultant (see below.)

    2. Later, I spent some time as a full-time freelancer/consultant working very closely with someone in an informal business partnership, with the intention to properly incorporate. That plan fell through, which was the right move! But… my would-be partner was the one who was bringing in all of our business. I suddenly had to build up my own roster of clients so I could make money. So, I frantically set up meetings with almost everyone in my field who I’d had a pleasant working relationship with in the past.

    I came up with a pretense so it wasn’t *just* a sales meeting. Everyone saw through the pretense but were happy to meet with me anyway. They immediately wanted to know what kind of work I wanted to do as a consultant and what kind of clients I wanted to work with. And several of my contacts connected me with *their* contacts who might at some point need the kind of services I was providing. Over time, those meetings turned into leads which turned into contracts.

    Conclusion: networking doesn’t have to look like a forced sales pitch at a happy hour full of strangers. It can look like grabbing lunch with that vendor rep you enjoy chatting with and asking them if they’ll share their war stories with you.

    Caveat: I am a woman and never tried to turn it into a stealth date. Do not schedule or agree to a business meeting because you want it to be a date. DO NOT DO IT.


    I was always terrified of networking (introvert with social anxiety here), but I was unhappy in my job and career and I knew I needed to do SOMETHING in order to make a change.

    I read a book called Designing Your Life that strongly encourages networking as a path to finding a job you’ll really love… and I’ve read a lot about the value of networking in the letters on this site. So, I stepped outside of my comfort zone, made a list of a few career paths that I thought I might enjoy, and started seeking out meetings.

    I did a mix of asking to talk to friends who were in careers I thought were interesting, asking friends for introductions to people they knew in the areas I was looking in to, and googling people and cold-calling/emailing them. To my shock, almost everyone I reached out to was willing to schedule a brief meeting with me… even a few high level, highly published academics I’d admired for years.

    I talked to people working in public health, rehabilitation sciences researchers, IT systems administrators, medical speech-language pathologists, and even a nurse in Canada. Some of the meetings were really interesting and natural, others were kind of awkward and duds… but I learned a LOT in the process. I probably had 15 meetings over the course of 2 months.

    I didn’t ask anyone about jobs directly, just asked them about their career path, what they enjoyed about their jobs, what kind of education and training led them to where they are now, and specific questions about their individual work.

    About a month later, one of the people I met with (in IT, in this case) shot me an email because she saw a job listing in an online community that she thought might be a good fit for me. The opportunity looked awesome, and was invited to interview shortly after I applied. ANOTHER contact I made while networking agreed to serve as a reference during the interview process (we’d worked together in a consulting relationship in the past, so she knew my work well enough to comment)… and I got the job! I’m now working from home for an education-focused nonprofit organization with awesome benefits, coworkers, and organizational culture. It’s almost too good to be true… that’s how much I love this new job.

    I never would have found this position had I not committed to networking. It was a contact I made that pointed me to the listing! Networking allowed me to career change in my late 30s from the health field to IT with minimal directly relevant job experience… the person who served as a reference was a lifesaver given my rocky relationship with my most-recent boss of 11 years.

  142. Nonny*

    I’ve networked through social and fitness groups. A person I train with is a recruiter and was the first person I called when I was laid off from my previous job (funny story: he tried to recruit me for a position that I was interviewer for! He didn’t realize that it was my resume in front of him when he called me). He secured my next job, and I helped screen candidates for him to submit to our pool.

    Another time I was casually chatting with someone on Reddit about a topic I work in, and they offered to refer me to a position at their company. This was many, many moons ago and the job was across the country. I made it through the interviewing and technical portions just fine, but I couldn’t relocate and remote working wasn’t an option. But Reddit! Who knew?

  143. shannon*

    Let’s say I’m a llama groomer, I belong to the (State I Live In) Llama Groomers Association. The state is divided into regions and districts. The conferences, symposiums, socials, etc. are so helpful, even the virtual stuff has been great!

  144. Dawn*

    I’m a teacher, so networking is a HUGE part of my job, though perhaps it looks different than in other industries. All teachers have this little voice running in their backs of their brains, evaluating how a connection or experience might end up being of use in the classroom. I do it all the time: meet someone with an interesting experience and ask if they might share it in some way with my students. With colleagues, I’m constantly collaborating around student, school, and district needs.

    The result for my students has been that they get to hear from people other than me, with more expertise than me, on the issues we’re discussing and studying, but it hasn’t been without professional benefits for me as well. I’ve been offered two teacher leadership jobs in my district in the last year (one on hold due to covid; the other required me to come out of the classroom, which I’m not ready for yet so I turned it down), and I am constantly tapped to serve on committees, lead professional development, and do out-of-contract work steering curriculum development for my district.

  145. Erin*

    I sort of parlayed online dating into networking. It worked out really well! I met a few men who weren’t great romantic matches, but, we turned out to be great platonic friends. A couple of then have been instrumental in my career change and growth. And I’ve been thrilled to help a couple of them with their career growth.

    Also, I met my fiancée via LinkedIn! I’m not advocating for skeezy pickup line messages in LinkedIn, btw. But, as a single person with limited time (work, life, dating, grocery shopping, gym, spacing out if I feel like it, etc etc) why not kill two birds with one stone and Datework?

  146. CowWhisperer*

    My second teaching job was at an alternative education school that had a campus that looked like a low-security prison. The building was a quadruple-wide pre-built structure made of flimsy materials surrounded on most sides by a 6 foot high wire fence. One stretch shared by a local chemical fabrication company had slanted barbed wire at the top. There were some overgrown bushes in front of the school and the standard grass strips and parking lots.

    It was literally depressing – and who would want to go to school at a place that looked that uninviting?

    So….I put out word to my gardening friends that I had a good home for extra sun-loving plants. As plants came in, I’d give them a good home in my guerilla garden. The students thought I was a nerd to start with – and watching me tote water out to the new plants barefoot while wearing professional dresses added to my reputation as terminally weird…..but they did admit that the new teacher did seem to care about the students and the school.

    Fast forward to spring parent/teacher night. A member of the Board of Education showed up and mentioned how nice the campus looked to the principal. My principal – who was for the most part a mediocre to bad boss – did believe in sharing credit where credit was due and brought the Board member to my classroom and introduced the two of us.

    I’m sure I looked like a deer in the headlights – she’s essentially my boss’ boss’ boss – and my voice jumped a few octaves, but I introduced myself and explained my rationale. Turns out that she liked gardening too and offered to help.

    We gardened. She brought transplants from her garden. I provided a young back and knees to plant a steep, difficult to mow hill with spring flowers. While we worked, I told her a bit about my job – and just how many hard life knocks our average student overcame. I also talked about how awesome I felt to be able to help a kid who had a disrupted education, limited family support or was in the middle of struggling to adjust to a new culture get one step closer to a HS diploma that would let them support themselves.

    Two falls later, the district needs to make cuts to programs. On the cutting block was the day-care attached to our program. We rounded up some former students who had used the daycare program to talk to the Board at the budget meeting – but honestly, I had no hope. Our program existed to bring money into the district, not use money.

    Our moms talk. We sit down and wait for the hammer to fall.

    My gardening friend began to talk to the other Board members.

    My gardening friend said that she had seen over the last few years how much that daycare meant to students and shared a few of the stories I had passed on to her. She was sorry that the athletic programs would take a bigger hit – but the daycare was literally making it possible for young moms to get high school diplomas – and wasn’t that what a school district was for? She had been a teenage mom herself – and she wished that someone had cared as much about her as we did about our kids.

    We kept the daycare for the next school year – and I count that bit of networking as one of my best life-acheivements.

  147. t-honks*

    I switched fields at 28 and started going to a local networking event for my new field. It just so happened that the event was just getting started, so it was small and tight-knit when I started going, and I had an immediate connection with one of the organizers because we shared an alma mater. Anyway, I wasn’t very experienced in the field, but I showed up every month and was friendly and cheerful and checked in with a few folks I knew once I got there. Ultimately I think it was 6 months or a year later, but one of the “regulars” emailed me out of the blue one day to say “I’m hiring, I’d like to hire you, please apply for this job”. At the time I thought it was sort of bonkers because he didn’t really know anything about my work, but in retrospect, there are a LOT of people at those events who are an immediate no: creepy, don’t respect boundaries, don’t listen, condescend, etc. and I can actually see how my being not a weirdo was a selling point. Anyway, he hired me, then quit himself a month later, setting off a chain of something like 8 managers in 3 years, but he absolutely launched my career (the 7th manager hired me away to my current job).

  148. just passing through*

    As an academic (in the humanities, if it matters), I think of “networking” as just “talking shop with people I don’t know very well.” Navigating cocktail parties may not be my strong point, but going on about my research and what I’m interested in is literally my actual job. And the same goes for most of the other people in my field. So I’ve started lots of great conversations by just asking people “what do you work on?” (Unfortunately this means that there’s at least one professional connection whom I remember as James Joyce Guy and can’t remember his real name.) I’ve never met a grad student or faculty member who didn’t like talking shop.

    Obviously it’ll be different in different fields, but if your work is even remotely related to someone else’s work, you instantly have something in common for a professional conversation with that person.

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