how do you network in the era of Covid?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I live in an area with a lot of rules around the pandemic still — masks are mandated for indoor public spaces, many orgs are (wisely) still offering many things online, universities and such are mandating students and staff be vaccinated to come on campus/ into the office, just to name a few. Also, I’m not American, but I live in a country that is somewhat culturally similar (okay, fine, it’s Canada).

My problem is that I feel like I need to start networking. I’m in grad school. I finish next April and I hardly know any one in my field. In the “before times,” I likely would have attempted to go to a few organizations events in a horrific and awkward and probably fruitless attempt to meet people. As it is, I don’t have time for this (grad school, internship, teaching fitness classes, family obligations, etc.) and I don’t really want to spend my limited free time at awful events where I’ll be incredibly anxious, unable to connect with others, etc. I’ve gone to networking events in the past and felt like it was a waste of time; no one is going to do me any favors because I talked to them once. If I try again, I can try to follow up later, but it makes the relationship feel so fake and contrived for me.

I have tried messaging with people in my field via social media. I would love to do informational interviews, but those also felt like a massive waste of time in the past because I want a relationship with these people, I don’t want to just milk people for information. A lot of the people I deal with at my internship are fellow interns: I’m doing my best to keep connected with them, especially those who’ve left and have other “real” jobs now, but the only staff member I have any real opportunity to deal with is my supervisor. I work in a specialized area where I don’t see much overlap between my colleagues and the people in the area I want to work in when I graduate, so while I don’t just plan to move on and never speak to my supervisor again, and I need them for a reference, it’s not like they’re a great resource for referring me to their connections in my chosen niche area. I could go on but hopefully I’ve painted a clear enough picture of my issues.

I’ve considered going to my campus career center but, beyond teaching me the basics years and years ago, I’ve found these sorts of career services to be useless. They seem great if you’re a beginner to job searching and when I didn’t really know how to interview, write a resume, or even that I *should* network (much less how). I have a hard time believing they’ll be able to provide me with updated recommendations for networking. I believe they’ll just parrot the standard recommendations which really don’t suit my circumstances or the fact that, well, the pandemic is still going on.

I don’t know where to go to learn some ideas about how to network with the world in the shape that it is in, but that’ll also give me the expansive options I need (e.g., I don’t want to be told to attend a virtual event; unless it’s a lecture, I don’t give AF).

Well … you are closing off a lot of options here! But let’s throw this out to readers to weigh in on.

{ 283 comments… read them below }

  1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    The only way to network is to meet people. That’s really the bottom line and there’s no way around it. If you’re not willing to attend events or participate in activities that allow you to meet people, I don’t know that you are going to be successful at networking.

    1. OP*

      So how do you go to events or activities that create meaningful relationships that *are not* just for the sake of networking? That’s where I get stuck; I love meeting people at yoga classes or in classes, at work etc., but events that are *just* for networking have been really awful for me historically.

      1. Marie*

        Honestly? Don’t go into networking events with the mindset that you’re there to “NETWORK”. Just go meet people, same as you do with yoga or whatever. Talk to other people like they’re some random person you struck up a conversation with at the coffee shop. Get to know them as a human being. Even just doing that, just showing up and acting normal while everyone else is trying to robotically collect as many business cards as possible, will make you stand out in a really good way.

        1. bubbleon*

          +1, it also gives you more material to follow up with afterwards, in the same way that it would for a non-work relationship.

          I also wouldn’t discount people outside of your field, you never know who’s connected to people *in* your field and what could come up. Your supervisor may see a job posting that describes you perfectly and be able to connect you with someone in your field, so don’t assume only people in your field are worthwhile connections.

          1. GNG*

            Seconding both these comments. It’s really about you meeting people and letting people meet you as human beings.

            You might also want to re-think what you might consider to be “meaningful relationships” – When you talk to people in networking events, you obviously won’t be able to immediately form close relationships. However, you would be able to form “weak ties” with people you spoke with. They key thing is understating that weak ties are extremely meaningful in networks. Many job and personal referrals are made through these weak ties. If you google “weak ties in social network” you can learn more about it. Personally I can tell you, in my 20+ years career, I’ve gotten a lot done through them.

            1. Felice*

              I agree, and I have another suggestion for you, OP. I’m a shy extrovert. This combination has been a pain in the ass because I’m uncomfortable in situations where I’ll be meeting people and interacting with them, but at the same time, I really enjoy being with people and getting to know them. So I’ve found that the more I attend things like virtual class reunions/chats, virtual social chats, etc., I get a little more comfortable attending work-related events. And, as mentioned above, you never know who in your social network might be able to help you with work-related connections. I’m also in therapy, which gives me reinforcement when I tell myself to not worry about saying something embarrassing and just focus on getting to know people. I think that’s the ticket with “networking” because every time I’ve tried to “network” (i.e., get to know someone so I could get something from them immediately), it never works. I think we should retire “networking” as a concept because it’s really just getting to know people and growing your network of people you know. The best part about that is that people usually WANT to help others, so when you do go back to someone with a request, chances are they will try to help you. And the other best part is that I get to help other people, too!

          2. Hannah Lee*

            Yes to trying to expand out of OP’s particular narrow field.

            Trade associations, professional associations for the general broader field, even professional skills groups (Toastmasters for example, for public speaking) all give an opportunity to interact with others in person or virtually in ways that can build connections. Some offer courses, or ongoing certificate programs where you can spend more time with a particular group of people, repeatedly week after week, month after month, without a huge investment of time on any one week.

            And OP could even try to leverage some of the stuff they are already spending time on to do this. For example, teaching fitness classes … is there a way this can be done that might increase the chances of people who could be helpful to network with would be in those classes? For example, on site classes at an organization that employs lots of those kinds of people? Just spitballing here.

            1. Amethystmoon*

              Agree on the Toastmasters. I have been a member for 10 years now. It works great for networking. These days, many clubs are also on Zoom or some other video platform.

          3. WoodswomanWrites*

            Ditto on these comments. The key is to walk into these events thinking that there are other people attending who are interested in what you are, and just meet them as people with whom you have something in common.

          4. SM*

            I hired someone after meeting them at a group fitness class. Not right away but after about six months of chatting at fitness class, she applied for a job I had up.

        2. Alexander Graham Yell*

          This. Even just reframing it for yourself as “I’m going to meet a group of people I know I have at least one thing in common with,” can be really beneficial for you. I’ve made a lot of great connections at networking meetings, who have then introduced me to interesting people in *their* network because I sucked it up and went to a meeting where I knew I’d feel awkward. I made the jokes about feeling awkward, I grabbed a drink, and found an interesting conversation to join.

          If you make a genuine connection with people and don’t think about what you’ll get out of it, you’ll find it way more beneficial AND you’ll stand out as somebody who isn’t just looking for the next important person to impress. Even if it doesn’t lead to a job right now, you have just added interesting people into your world and that’s never a bad thing. And because of the nature of the meeting, they won’t think it’s weird if you mention that you’re job-seeking as long as you don’t make that the focus of the conversation.

        3. Beth*

          Absolutely this. OP, it sounds like you’re viewing networking events as dreadful things where people put on a fake self in order to connive their way into career advancement. What if you instead approached them as events where a bunch of people are going “I wish I had more friends who really get my work, who I can connect with over this activity that we all spend 40+ hours a week on”?

          It’s true that you’re not going to develop a deep and lasting friendship in the couple hours of the event itself. But you absolutely can feel out a bunch of different people and see who you feel a spark of connection with. You can trade contact info with those people. You can follow up with them a couple days later and invite them to grab a coffee, or share an article about something cool/weird/dramatic/exciting in your shared field, or follow up about something you were talking about at the event. If you do that with several people, odds are at least one or two of them will reach back and put in the effort to build a deeper connection with you–and voila, you have a network, aka friends in your field.

        4. Atalanta0jess*

          This!! It changed my whole idea about networking when I realized that networking is just….asking people in the same field as you interesting and cool questions about their jobs. It’s fun! (Ok, I am an introvert and still hate meeting new people, so it’s not FUN exactly….but taking the pressure off to “BUILD A NETWORK” and just meet people and talk about cool stuff totally helps.

      2. Anna*

        I agree that it is hardest to network straight out of school. One thing you could do is lean hard on second degree connections – people who you worked with once or know of but aren’t close to, and telling them essentially what’s in this later. Depending on your industry you can be more or less candid.

        You can definitely build relationships virtually, so don’t be put off by that.

        I agree that I never built a relationship off of a networking event

        1. Xenia*

          You could also see what there is in your school. Are there any professors you were close to? Fellow students and interns? Invite them out for a coffee and chat. Don’t underestimate school connections. I have met people connected to my undergrad in the weirdest places.

          1. pancakes*

            This is someone who is in grad school, though, and I find it a little puzzling that there aren’t occasions to get to know other grad students & future colleagues, even in a pandemic. Maybe my experience of grad school was very different, but in my field quite a few people in grad school are doing interesting work already, many more hope to be, and both camps are eager to talk to one another about it. Some of them are so eager to be doing interesting work that they do a great deal of organizing symposiums, writing for and editing scholarly journals, fundraising for related causes (example in my field, fundraising for public interest law stipends), etc., on top of coursework. I suppose my question for the letter writer is, do you want to be a public intellectual in your field or do you mostly want a job? Making movements toward the former can be really helpful with regard to the latter. It’s a lot, but grad school is already a lot. If this seems really hazy early on in grad school, it will become less so over time.

            1. PT*

              Because it’s a pandemic. My husband is a professor and his research students (grads and undergrads) are only allowed to go into the lab to collect data. Come in, collect data, leave, no loitering. Everything else- asking questions, mentoring, learning new techniques- is done over Zoom. There are almost no social events or networking events, they have been canceled due to COVID. All talks and speaker series are on Zoom. If they’re undergrad or master’s students, they may have to attend an in person class, but for doctoral students, they’re just locked in their apartments with their laptops like in The Shining.

              1. pancakes*

                Lmao, The Shining! I can see that being the vibe. I think that was the vibe in some aspects of grad school well before the pandemic, I am sorry to say. It is a LOT to deal with, even for people who don’t have family commitments, part-time work outside of school, etc. My hope is that Zoom speaker series and whatnot actually even things out a bit by making this type of event accessible to people who aren’t in major cities, but there are so many moving parts.

      3. Chairman of the Bored*

        I suggest not going to “networking” events but rather going to actual trade shows and conferences related to your field.

        These are places where networking happens naturally – there is a flood of interesting information and lots of knowledgeable people to discuss it with.

        If you have a good conversation with one of these people, get a positive reaction, and swap contact information – that’s networking.

        The pandemic makes it harder, but there are still in-person and virtual events like this going on in most fields.

        1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

          Yes trade shows or conferences are a great idea. And any kind of event that occurs regularly is also good – no you’re not going to build relationships off of one meeting, but if there’s a monthly networking event and you see the same people every month, you can absolutely build relationships from there.

        2. Roja*

          Yes, this. Networking events aren’t really a thing in my field, unlike OP, but conferences or working together (there’s a lot of collaboration across people and organizations) is where it’s at anyway. It’s a much deeper relationship and doesn’t feel fake.

        3. T2*

          I am generally allergic to networking for networking’s sake. When I did go it was because I wanted to find out what kind of cool projects others were working on. But at a lot of these it seems there is supply and demand type of interaction. If you are viewed as a supply person you are swamped with people looking for you to do something. And if you are the demand person you are basically ignored because all of the supply people are dealing with a flood of all the other demand people.

          The best events are trade shows. I once got a job offer because I noticed and asked a particularly pertinent question of a supplier.

          In short, the point of networking is not to network per se. It is to meet people and learn stuff.

        4. iliketoknit*

          Yes, this is my suggestion. Anything that has a point/activity besides meeting people – some kind of training/education? volunteer activity? Some of it is honestly just a function of time – when I was in academia, and started going to conferences as a grad student, they were excruciatingly painful because I knew no one and suck at just walking up to people and striking up conversation. But the more I went to the same conferences, the more I saw the same people over and over and we developed relationships. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens eventually. Now I’m in a different field where people make connections primarily through professional associations, volunteering, and trainings/conferences – but again, there is some kind of substance or purpose beyond meet’n’greet.

        5. WantonSeedStitc*

          This, exactly. I’ve met lots of people at conferences and workshops organized by professional associations in my field. And yes, always swap contact info. And once you get it, use it! The day after the event, send a message to say “hey, it was nice meeting you at [event] and talking about [subject].”

        6. Read and Find Out*

          At conferences, if there’s a Q&A, ask a question, or note someone who asks a question you like and then chat with them–in person, or over a chat message. Some of the best connections I’ve made have been through connecting with other attendees at panels/roundtables/events, all through discussions raised by a question one of us asked.

          As a recent example of how this can work: someone asked a good question during a virtual panel at a conference. I said ‘good question’ over chat and we stayed after everyone else dropped off the call to continue chatting. We exchanged contact info; she told me about a project she had worked on that was in my area of expertise and we set up a zoom a week later to chat more about it. When I got asked to participate in a project in that area a month later, I was too busy–but I pointed them to my new contact, who had expressed interest in getting more involved in such projects during our conversations.

        7. pancakes*

          Yes! Work on developing your interests within your field, and you will be meeting other people who share those interests.

        8. allathian*

          Yeah, I’ve done most of my professional networking in recent years at an annual conference. This year it was a webinar with interesting speakers, but I really missed the in-person networking opportunities. Fingers crossed for an in-person event next year!

          I’ve been going for the last 10 years or so. At every event, I try to catch up with people I’ve met at earlier conferences, and I make a point of conversing with at least one new person. Usually it ends up being more than one, or even a group of new people.

      4. KuklaRed*

        No one makes a meaningful relationship in a few minutes, no matter what type of contact you are looking to have. It takes time. So you meet them at a networking event, you exchange pleasantries, perhaps exchange business cards (you should have some cards with your name, email address, phone number and perhaps the title of your program) and then you build from there. Perhaps an exchange of interesting articles, maybe meet up for a quick bite or communicate online. It has to start somewhere. There is no event that will give you what you seem to be asking for. You need to go into these events with a positive attitude and reasonable expectations.

      5. ThatGirl*

        In my experience, simply being friendly and open to talking to people goes a long way. Be involved in things – don’t just go to yoga; chat with people and get to know them a little. Join a book club. Get involved in friendly discussions online.

        I have never gone to a formal networking event in my life. They sound terrible to me. I’ve built a network by getting to know people – at church, at school, at fitness classes, at work, through LinkedIn. It takes time, but when I got laid off back in November I immediately had a dozen people tell me they’d be on the lookout for me.

        Basically your network is people you know and are friendly with – they don’t all have to be professional contacts, and you don’t need to meet them through networking events.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Oh! I feel like I should add – job fairs. I owe my first job to a job fair; I was looking to go into journalism, met an editor who was looking for a summer intern. While I did get offered that internship and was about to start it, I got a call from an editor at a sister paper who was looking for a full-time copy editor and I ended up getting that job.

          And, along the way I made friends/acquaintances through online journalism communities and one of THOSE people helped me land my second job. *That* is networking, not just randomly showing up and schmoozing people.

        2. PT*

          My “network” is all this sort of people, too. And none of them have had any connections that were able to get me a job because…”This is my friend, she’s smart and hardworking,” is not how you get jobs these days. You have to go through the ATS and have your resume parsed and if it doesn’t match you’re in the rubbish bin.

          1. AceInPlainSight*

            I’m going to push back on that- it depends on field and company size. I (26) got my first job out of college at a university lab through a hobby group. A couple of people at my next job were there from the same kind of network. This is all anecdata, and it’s a huge privilege that I’ve been able to and knew how to access this at all, but- letting people know you are job searching, especially groups that include mid- or senior- level people in your field, can still pan out.

            1. Bob's Your Uncle*

              I agree. I got my previous job through a fellow church member (long story short, he was related to someone big in my field and passed on my resume) and recently got a freelancer job in a similar setting.
              Some people are willing to help others out, even if it’s just passing along a resume, and that can make a ton a difference.

          2. Yorick*

            You never know how these connections can lead to something. Someone who’s in your yoga class might have a partner or best friend in your field, and might be able to tell you about job openings you weren’t aware of before.

            And “my friend is smart and hardworking” isn’t a really valuable reference, but it could get your application a more careful look and they could see that you’re a better fit than you might seem at a quick glance.


        Find places where your career intersects with another area of interest. Go to educational events and conferences in your field, or offer to volunteer if you can’t afford the admission price (also, it’s a great way to meet people!) Read what people in your field have published, and if something resonates with you, send the author a note or email. If you do go to events that are “just networking”, look for ones that will give you one-on-one time with people (e.g. “speed mentoring” events can be great).

        Remember that networking is also a process. Sometimes, you’ll go to some events that feel very unproductive; I try to set myself small goals to redefine what success looks like. For example, I might aim to meet one connection that I manage to have a meaningful chat with, or get 1-3 people’s brief advice on a question I have. Or learn more about working in x part of the field looks like, or what people seem to think about y employer.

        The reality too is sometimes, you’ll go, make few good connections and feel awkward – that’s okay! Sometimes though, that can pave the way for better experiences, even just setting groundwork for a level of presence and recognition, which you can leverage into conversations, e.g. “oh hey, I saw you at last event but we didn’t get a chance to chat. What do you think about these events?”.

        If you aren’t finding the types of networking connections you’re looking for, try to verbalize what you *are* seeking. Work on scripts that will help you find those connections when networking (e.g. “Hey, it’s really neat that you have experience in x – do you work closely with y by any chance? What’s that like? I’ve been looking for someone I can talk to about y. Is there anyone you could suggest that I reach out to, or could I share my card in case you come across someone who might be willing to chat?”)

      7. Willis*

        You probably won’t create a meaningful relationship the first time you meet people at a networking event, cause that’s not generally how relationships work with colleagues, friends, significant others, etc. But you can chat with people and if you seem to hit it off with a couple people you can follow up with an email or ask if they’d like to get coffee so you could ask them a few questions or just save their contact info until you have a pertinent reason to contact them. It sounds like you actually have a lot of ideas of how to meet people but you’re dismissing them all because they don’t result in an instant network. But I don’t think that’s generally how networking works.

        Also, don’t discount your fellow interns or classmates! They may not have doors to open for you now, but down the line those could be really strong relationships to have in your industry. The friends I went to grad school with 15 years ago are probably some of the people in my industry I would be most motivated to support or look for support from now, even if we don’t talk that frequently.

        1. Cascadia*

          This is sooooo true! I finished grad school a decade ago – some people I have stayed in touch with, some I consider my closest friends, and some have completely dropped off the grid. But if a job or something comes up I always reach out to them, and if one of them reached out to me I would 100% be motivated to help them. Because we all graduated at the same time, many of us are in similar places in our respective fields, which helps a lot too. Definitely keep these relationships close, and continue to stay in touch with people over the years. This is how you grow your network over time.

      8. AnotherSarah*

        Also, what is networking for you? If it’s “pumping people for information,” then obviously it feels bad, whereas yoga pals feels fine. But if “networking” is “meeting people with similar interests, whom I want to keep in the front of my mind for future professional questions, possible workshops, etc.” then I think you’ll feel better about it.

      9. CTT*

        Are you making meaningful connections with someone new every social event? In my experience at least, that takes time and regularly showing up. It’s been the same for me with networking.

        1. Varthema*

          Networking is like growing a garden from scratch. You are unlikely to be able to transplant a full English rose garden overnight. But you plant seeds, you stay in touch with those fellow interns and other people who don’t have much to offer *now*, but people change, they get new jobs, they meet otber people, and maintaining those connections pays dividends years later.
          For someone just starting out, I don’t think networking as such is generally going to produce immediate results unless they get very lucky. I hope you can find this reassuring (as in, phew, I’m not missing a trick) instead of depressing!

      10. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

        A few things that worked for people I know:

        -Find the backchannels that the industry uses for informal communication and engage (WITH DISCRETION). Do they use Twitter? Follow a few folks who seem open and kind, and verrry carefully engage. Are there Slack or Discord groups? See if you can secure an invite, and again, be very very careful about your engagement. I cannot emphasize this enough: do not spam.

        -Look for conferences in your chosen industry that are geared towards or accepting of early career professionals. Some even have scholarship programs and cohorts. The networking for those is so natural you don’t realize you’re doing it.

        -Look for any formal professional mentorships that might be available.

        -Some fellowships are geared towards early or emerging professionals. Try to target your searches for those (if you’re not already doing that!)

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Those sound like great ideas. Especially the caution when joining in on informal communication networks. It’s smart to lurk for a while to get the lay of the land, figure out the norms of communication and who the main participants are.

          Also, one thing it took me a long time to realize … you don’t have to just try to reach up when networking, to try to connect with more senior people, or even your peers. You can reach down … being a contact, mentor for more junior people – whether it’s new hires at work, or people recently graduated from, or currently in whatever program you came up through. Because if they are good at what they do, they eventually will be professionals in your field as well, or somewhere related and THEY will have a network of people they’re tapped into. You may also be able to connect with a network of others who are mentoring, or people organizing young professional or information sessions. Don’t go into it with a “what’s in it for me” mindset, only if you genuinely want to help out other folks. But reaching back can be both very fulfilling and provide opportunities you’d never been exposed to otherwise.

          1. katertot*

            This is a great point that I didn’t realize early on. My grad school really emphasized networking with senior level leaders- which is hard!! And I found networking with my peers and those closer to me WAY easier and has proved useful in many different situations- often they’ve dealt with problems I’ve had, they have connection points, and as you proceed through your career those people could become senior leaders also. Don’t discount peer/close to you networking!

        2. Anax*

          Agreed, those “back channels” really worked for me. Just hanging out and watching the professional gossip is REALLY VALUABLE, even if you don’t talk much. It gives you a sense of, for instance, which parts of the industry are hiring and which are fumbling, what skills are most useful to work on, who has a good reputation, etc. And then in interviews and discussions, you’re more able to cite those things, which makes YOU look like a knowledgeable person who understands the industry.

          For a real example, say… in IT, the banking industry has a reputation for really ancient software, because byzantine rules and regulations make change very hard. If you’re willing to work with archaic systems like COBOL, you can make great money and have a stable long-term position – but you won’t have the benefits of modern technology to make life easier, and you may need to fight to make IT upgrades happen. I was REALLY GLAD to know all that before applying for such a position, and talking about that in my interview made my coworkers more confident I knew what I was getting into and wouldn’t ditch as soon as I realized things were slow and frustrating.

      11. Sea Anemone*

        First, I think you need to be realistic about what networking achieves. It’s not a “we meet once and they start shooting opportunities your way.” You have to build the relationship, just like any other relationship. If you are a social media person, you do that by connecting on LinkedIn, interacting with their content, and creating your own content to keep yourself on their radar. You also continue to go to these events so you can keep seeing them in person (or virtually). You will get more enjoyment out of the relationships if you build relationships for the sake of building relationships, not for the sake of getting something. In my personal experience, it does take some relationship building to get a return on a networking contact, and that means it can take a few years.

      12. serenity*

        This hits at what I’ve experienced too. I’ve connected or “networked” with peers at industry events or conferences in the past, I’ve added them to my LinkedIn (or they’ve added me), and then…they just sit on my list of LinkedIn connections. Sometimes I’ve gone through that list and forgotten where and how I’ve met these people.

        I think the idea of “build relationships with people in your industry or the one you’d like to enter and cultivate those relationships in small but consistent ways over the years” and “go to a random networking event and meet someone and connect on LinkedIn and hope this benefits your career somehow” are two totally substantively different things. I’ve heard career coaches kind of conflate them and I think that’s a mistake.

        1. serenity*

          For what it’s worth, the best “networking” experiences I’ve had is when I’ve been introduced to people by people I know or have worked with. The mutual, tangible connection is really key to making it work. Sometimes those connections were made because I asked for them, or sometimes they’ve just popped up. But I think the old advice to just “get out there and meet people” is well-intentioned but rarely leads to anything more than a brief social conversation.

      13. Seeking Second Childhood*

        So skip cocktail party style events and look for classes in your specialty. Professional societies sometimes host workshops at their business meetings. Attending one or even better volunteering at one is a great way to get noticed.

      14. Jules the 3rd*

        I think you’re not making the most of virtual events. When you go to virtual events and lectures, just listen. After you’ve been to two or three, reach out to someone who asked a particularly good question, or mentioned an interesting project. Ask if you can ask them more about their question / project after the event / one on one. Use the events to guide you to informational interviews that are relevant and can be the stepping stones for long-term relationships. One info interview, then ‘hi!’ in the next few virtual events, then *if* you hit it off in the one on one, ask them to hang out socially. Do this with at least three people, so that you don’t overwhelm any one of them.

      15. Hermione Danger*

        One of the things that helps me greatly when I’m expanding my network is helping other people make connections.

        When I’m at an event and meet someone who does X and then meet someone who does Y and I can see how knowing each other would be beneficial for them, I introduce them to each other. It gives me additional opportunities to be in contact with them, AND helps them remember me as someone who is invested in their success as well as my own. (It also feels less like I am doing this just for me and more like I’m part of a team. That reduces the ick factor a lot.)

        Sometimes, I can do that during an event, sometimes I do it afterward via email.

      16. OyHiOh*

        A few months ago, a hobby group I draw with on weekends was invited to a swanky fundraising event at a historic building that’s getting rehab’d, specifically to document the building as it currently is. I showed up in my drawing clothes – leggings and shapeless knee length tunic – with a few business cards in my wallet because I always have a couple in there and ended up A) regretting the outfit because everyone I interacted with was dressed much more swanky and B) handed out like 8 business cards to people who are involved in things my work is involved in. I didn’t go to network; I went to draw and the conversations developed naturally from what I was doing (sitting on a stage with a quarter century of dust on it, drawing the auditorium, thank you).

      17. Ace in the Hole*

        The best networking I’ve had is from trainings/workshops, volunteer work (sometimes unrelated to my field!), and building relationships with people I know through work.

        I have a hard time relaxing and making connections at events that exist for the sake of socializing… it sounds like you may have a similar problem. Instead, focus on things where the activity is the feature and socialization is a secondary benefit. Go to an industry event or conference that has workshops or trainings, that’s a great way to meet people. Volunteering, especially if it’s for even slightly related to your professional interests, provides a good structure for building professional relationships with less competition and commitment than a paid job. And don’t discount actual paid work for networking! Temp jobs, side gigs, entry level positions, internships, etc. are how many of us build a professional network.

        When you meet someone who seems interesting, chat with them however is natural for the situation and make sure to ask for their business card or contact info before you part ways. All it takes is a brief follow-up email to get things going.

        Also keep in mind that work relationships are not as intense or consistent as personal relationships. Your “network” will include a lot of people you only see once a year at X industry event, people you’ve never met in person that you know through a teleconference group, people you worked with a few years ago and haven’t seen since, people you sporadically run into at trainings, contractors/vendors you only talk to occasionally, etc.

        For example: it’s not at all weird to contact someone you’ve only met twice at a conference last year if you have a question about their organization/specialty or want to share something they might find helpful. Once an introduction is made and you establish some kind of connection, it doesn’t go stale easily.

      18. lunchtime caller*

        The follow up is key here. Where do people in your industry hang out online? If you connect with someone at an event, ask if they’re on said website! Then add them and over time occasionally comment on relevant posts, like things, get a feel for what conversations are happening out there. That will make a “let’s catch up!” coffee feel way less awkward (and give you something to talk about at it, if you follow common points of industry interest), and over time actually build a relationship. It can’t just be “shake a hand” -> “ask for a favor” -> “the end,” and this way too when you’re actually at the event you can focus on making light, friendly connections without feeling like you have to make this person professionally love you in this ONE interaction.

      19. library-adjacent*

        It might help to talk a little bit more about what your field actually is– are you an academic in the humanities? Are you trying to get into tech? Law? For *lots* of fields there are ways to be professionally engaged without being in-person (and don’t involve unpaid labor): professional associations, online communities, mentoring programs, etc– these are resources you’ll probably use throughout your career for professional development and ongoing education ANYWAY, and a lot of orgs provide resources specifically geared towards people just entering the field. You say you prefer active events (yoga, etc)– there may be community groups near you that aren’t necessarily professional orgs, but do work that overlaps with what you’re interested (I’m talking about community directed orgs, not doing free work for a non profit). If you’re still in school, it might also be a good time to look or fellowships, which are designed to be short term, but will start giving you a taste of the kind of work you’d be doing and a chance to actually meet or be mentored by people who do it.

      20. Quinalla*

        I personally am not a fan of “just” networking events, but those are few and far between. Better to go to a conference or join an organization and attend their monthly or whatever meetings that is related to your field. Then you are not just going for networking and it is easier for the networking to happen more organically. Just try to introduce yourself to a couple people and don’t sweat it too much!

    2. AnotherSarah*

      I think that’s right–look at lectures, really, and virtual conferences. Some have grad student sessions, and with a lecture, it’s also an opening to follow up via email and perhaps a chat! It’s FINE (and probably, welcome) to write, “I was intrigued by your comment that…I’m working on…” either to the speaker or to another audience member. Truly.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Yes, this! Our big professional conference is happening right now, both virtually and in person. They do early career events and current student events specifically for networking, and workshops in addition to the usual sessions and keynotes where common-interest conversations happen too. There are a ton of potential opportunities to strike up a conversation with a session seat neighbor, a presenter, or another attendee at a networking event. Also if/when you have the chance to present, do so! People will often make a point of meeting you because they want you as part of their network – it’s very reciprocal.

        At one of my first conferences, a more senior grad student took me around to a number of people and introduced me – thing is, he was really good at the initial contact with strangers but I wasn’t so it felt very awkward to me. I appreciated him doing it, but it was hard for me to capitalize on it even though people are generally supportive and receptive to these kinds of intros. Over time I was able to initiate conversations on my own because I saw how it could be done and continued to follow up with people later when it felt more natural to do so by leaning on the common interests angle. The last couple of times I attended this main conference, I spent at least as much time in side conversations with people as in the sessions – you learn a lot either way.

    3. HA2HA2*

      I think networking really has to be a long game, and it’s going to be hardest right out of school.

      The key is building up a network of ties. Most of them are going to be weak ties (“hey, I met this person once or twice and they seemed smart”) and some of them are going to be stronger ones (“hey, I know this person is great at what they do!).

      For strong ties, the only way to get them is with time. Work with people, and leave a good impression on them when they leave and go elsewhere, or when you leave and go elsewhere. (Right now, at 10 years in the field, having worked at several different companies, there’s a lot of people at different companies that could vouch for me and go “yeah, I’ve worked with HA2 before and would love to again!”). You can also get this with non-work professional interactions – in software, contributing to open source can have the the same impact as working with people at a job, or I even know a person who became well-known in their field by being the expert on some particular niche piece of software and continually helping people out on the support forums, to the point that “everyone knew he knew the software better than its own developers.”

      These are the sort of connections that can just get you a job directly, but there’s no shortcut to getting them – you can’t go “oh, I need a job this month, let me just quickly impress people enough to offer me one.”

      Then there’s weak connections. This is the sort of thing where you’re not expecting people to go to bat for you, but might be able to ask them to pass on a resume or ask for help or info if you need it. These are possible to get faster – what you have to do is meet someone and have a quick conversation with them, make a connection. To get these, you have to put yourself in any position where you’d have a quick conversation with someone in your field. Trade shows, conferences, meetings, etc.

      …but if you’re already job searching, it’s probably pretty hard to make these connections. You’re right, it’s not really a good idea to go into an “informational interview” when the only information you really want is “Hey, got any job leads? Can you pass my resume on?”

      But in the long run, the approach is the same – do things that will get you noticed by people, in a good way, in a professional context.

      So if you’ve got time, those are the things to work on. Go to places and events where you’ll interact with people in your chosen field. Interact with them; don’t expect anything immediate, just get to know people. They’re at these events to meet people and chat about their field too, so have fun with it if that’s the sort of thing you enjoy. If you have a chance to work with people and show them what you’ve got, do it. The “network” accumulates with time.

      Networking is like planting seeds. You can’t harvest the next day or the next month; and some plants will take many years to bear fruit. Plant now so that you’ll have a bounty to harvest later.

  2. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Networking opportunities exist online, at least in my field (law). I got my current job by joining the local branch of my professional association and attending a couple of online seminars. I reached out to a panelist from one of the seminars and asked if they’d be available for a video chat about my job search. They said yes; we chatted; and they suggested I apply to the firm where I’m at now. They were kind enough to provide a personal reference, as well.

    It’s weird and stupid to network via screens but it’s what I had to do, and it worked for me.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      This is a great idea. I’ve also listened in on a few panel discussions through a professional organization in my industry. They usually have a period at the end where people “in the crowd” can ask questions (these have been held on Zoom lately). If you can think of a thoughtful question, that’s a great way to kind of show your face, so to speak, before reaching out to one of the panelist.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*


        I reached out to some people on Twitter as well, where I keep a presence, but those contacts didn’t pan out. It was due to a number of field-specific factors, but bottom line, I think that “join your field’s professional association and attend their events, which are probably still happening though mostly online” is advice that is broadly applicable across industries right now.

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        One of the meetup groups I attend has built this into the structure of their online events. There’s a Zoom room open for general chat starting half an hour before the general presentation, then the talk itself (usually on Twitch, actually), then half an hour to an hour of chat back on Zoom. The goal is to replicate the milling around and chatting that would normally happen at an in-person event (minus the pizza). Sometimes the chatting is on the subject of that month’s talk, sometimes it’s about the latest industry news, sometimes it’s just general chatter. The topic isn’t the point during the chat sessions – it’s about showing yourself as a person, not an entry in someone’s business card collection.

      3. Evergreen*

        And also, the events, panel discussions etc take quite a bit of personpower to organise, so many professional organisations are looking for grads, students etc to help organise them. I’ve found that volunteering to do event admin gets over the awkward conversation starter of walking up to a stranger and builds up a greater presence in the industry as a result.

    2. Joielle*

      Same here! Also law but I know other fields have this kind of thing too. I’m on the leadership committee for my practice area’s subgroup of my local bar association and have met a ton of people that way. It’s all been virtual during the pandemic but still really valuable connections.

      My best advice is to volunteer to help with things that are just a bit outside of your comfort zone. My group organizes a lot of continuing education sessions so that’s been a good “in” but it could be anything. If you say “I’d love to help but I’m pretty new to the field, would someone be willing to co-chair with me?” people will be happy to jump in. You’ll feel awkward and vulnerable for a bit but then you get to know the other members and it gets a lot easier.

    3. Chocoholic*

      I was going to suggest professional associations too. I did that when I was first out of school and when I first move to my current city. It was a good way to meet people. I got involved with the board and made some connections that way too.

  3. Very Online*

    In this era, being good at being very online is a valuable networking skill. In my industry people you kind of, sort of know through either LinkedIn or Twitter can be incredibly valuable job contacts later down the road, if you start out with a “let’s make friends and be part of the same community” ethos rather than an, “I need to use you” approach. It’s not so much about messaging people directly on social media out of the blue as it is about simply following along and sometimes chatting. Then, when you need a one on one conversation down the line, a relationship, however minor, already exists.

    I have gotten myself several interviews through this kind of informal networking, over the years, as well as been able to connect friends who are hiring with friends who are looking more than once, to everyone’s extreme satisfaction.

    1. OP*

      Oh so is my social media strategy actually a thing? I talk to people on social media or LinkedIn all the time.

      1. Very Online*

        (Also, I have been in the workplace for 25 years and it took me one of them to realize “networking” as in schmooze events that are popular in other fields was never, ever going to work for me, so I skipped it, but it took me another 20 to realize that my strategy of “be good at stuff, make friends, remember names” was in fact creating me a fairly astonishing, deep, and responsive network over time.)

        1. OP*

          Ok so this is 100% a huge part of the reason I dislike networking so much because I was taught a very schmoozey transactional way of networking and it’s SO MUCH not the right solution for me and made me want to do anything but something that could be called networking to build my network.

          1. Today's cake is not a lie*

            Hang out with folks outside of North America? You say you’re in grad school, and that could mean a lot of things, but in my academic field, we can spot the USians a mile away at international conferences — there’s thing distinctly American approach to academic networking that grates many Europeans the wrong way.

            I’m mostly jesting, but to echo many other commentators, try your best to view it as “meeting cool people” rather than something transactional? I’m delighted to hope onto Zoom to chat with the more junior people in my own niche field who reach out to me, not because I want something from them, but because I _like_ my field and the people in it.

          2. Chairman of the Bored*

            You’ve likely been “networking” with people in school without even realizing it.

            Do you have any classmates who aren’t close personal friends who you see on the weekends, but still people you like and respect, and you help each other out with academic stuff and maybe try to be lab partners when you can etc?

            Those people are your “network”. You didn’t build this network by schmoozing, you built it by being competent and likable in a place where interested people could notice.

            1. OP*

              I’m 100% that person at work where if someone needs help and I know how to do it, I’ll schedule a meeting with them to talk about it. Same with school. It’s what I’d want others to do for me, so even though I’m busy, I try to do that for people. I also try to make “friends” with classmates and colleagues, even if they’re people I would never hang out with as friends. So yeah I absolutely informally “network” with people at school.

              1. pancakes*

                I think you are networking, and doing some great networking, and just not mentally filing it away in a “networking” folder!

              2. HA2HA2*

                Yeah, that is absolutely 100% networking.

                It’s hard to see when you’re junior or in school, because you’re “networking” with your peers who ALSO are junior or in school, and thus it’s not like they can offer you a job. But it absolutely is networking, and it’ll grow with time. 5-10 years out of school I bet at least some of those people are going to be established in different careers – and will be able to say “oh yeah, I remember OP, they were good” and thus will be willing to pass your name along, or give you some info or help, or work with you or answer questions you have (when you have actual questions, and aren’t just using “informational interviews” as a way of getting to know people).

      2. TiredTeacher*

        Yes, social media networking is very much a “thing”. I work in education and am a member of several professional Facebook groups for my subject, follow some colleagues and industry contacts on LinkedIn – but my main “networking” is on Twitter, where there are often lively and interesting conversations about various aspects of teaching, pedagogy, professional learning opportunities and yes, notifications of vacancies coming up!

      3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        So long as you’re being a conversation partner, and not just showing up to have an argument, YES! If you’ve talked (including on Twitter/LinkedIn/wherever) about a topic, then that person is part of your network. They may be a “weak” connection, rather than a strong one, but those weak connections can be very valuable because you’re connected with different groups of people.

        So if you join, for example, a twitter conversation about new widget polishing techniques, then potentially someone else will remember you as the person who asked good questions/had good insights/did grad school research on widget polishing and reach out to you again at some point in the future about widget polishing.

        1. another Hero*

          also, very simply, following people on twitter who share your professional interests and interacting when you have reason is one way to just learn about things – not just new jobs but what kinds of conversations are happening among people in the field, which is the kind of thing you might like to be able to reference in an interview.

      4. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes, and keep at it! If you can also make thoughtful and engaging posts that are relevant to your field on LinkedIn, that will also help. There are also a ton of groups on LinkedIn for professional areas and alumni of various universities and programs. Try joining a few groups that look interesting – with the caveat that some groups will be more useful or active than others.
        If you can also add interesting posts to the LinkedIn groups you join (post occasionally so people don’t feel they’re being spammed) that will also help to get your name out there. And a lot of professional associations have student rates, so join one now if you can.

      5. Calyx Teren*

        It’s definitely a thing. Follow people whose thoughts and work interest you. Attend free online webinars—many thought leaders do these from time to time. Post comments or questions in response to their webinars and posts. Subscribe to industry newsletters and reach out to authors you like on social media. Some of these will lead to lively exchanges. Pay attention to who gets involved in those exchanges and follow them too. If a topic is especially engaging, occasionally ask if the person would be interested in jumping on a call to talk about it or answer questions. Good luck.

      6. Not a social networker*

        I’ll tell you a story about that.
        My husband is very active on twitter professionally and posts content that is relevant to personal challenges people have in the field, such as those related to diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, etc. Recently we were on a 12-hour road trip and desperate for a place to stop for dinner in a strange town. He DM’d a mutual follower who is a local, and within half an hour we had a destination for delicious dinner. I know it’s low-stakes, but it’s something that I NEVER in a million years would have thought to do. Maybe your network is already bigger than you think. Good luck!

      7. Roja*

        Yes! If you have an facebook groups (or whatever networks you’re on) that are dedicated to your field, join them and be active. I’ve made a ton of connections in my field just through joining facebook groups and participating in the discussions.

    2. S*

      Twitter has taken me to a lot of places, if you’re willing to put in the work and use it a lot! Made many friends in my field through that.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I have become well known in an industry other than my profession because of Twitter. And that was just me interacting with people and being genuine – not at all like I was trying to get job or work or anything like that.

      2. Yes Social Media*

        Coming here to second Twitter. I’ve also been in grad school for the duration of the pandemic, and w/ conferences and trade shows cancelled, Twitter (and to some extent, also Facebook) has been a lifeline for connecting me to the field. I’ve “met” top professionals in my area via Twitter; gotten advice on working / navigating my field; and found new opportunities.

        One tip here is that I try to be a real person on social media, e.g. I don’t *just* use it to meet people for jobs. I connect w/ people about hobbies, share a little info about my daily life, ask for and give advice when it’s wanted, etc. It’s less about “I need to meet people and get a job,” and more “I am connecting myself to this larger web or constellation of people who do similar work as I do.”

      3. devtoo*

        yes! one way to get started with Twitter I found useful was “livetweeting” conference presentations or meetup talks. Tweet out a few good quotes from the speaker and tag them as well as the conference, and use any hashtags relevant to the event. The speaker will usually be flattered and retweet, which can be a nice way to start a conversation.

    3. fruitloops*

      Do you have any tips for how to do this “authentically”? I’ve deleted any social media account (minus LinkedIn) because it never felt genuine to me. Even LinkedIn .. for every 1 contact I have who posts a really interesting, personal take on a topic or article, I see 5 more people sharing these overly hashtagged, robotic stuff that feels like they’ve made a content calendar for their personal brand strategy and it’s just so …. Uncomfortably curated.

      I don’t think all social media is fake at all, and I think this is genuinely a helpful tip, but I’m just so curious how people actually do it without feeling like they’re putting on a Online Persona costume.

      1. Very Online*

        LinkedIn is the worst for authenticity, in my experience. Twitter authenticity looks like… well, when I started it *was* actually a platform for talking to my friends, because I registered in 2009, but in the decade since those friends have become influential and important in their fields, some of them, and so have I in my own way. We still boost each other’s work, talk about interesting articles, share pet photos, and so on; it builds over time. So my advice is largely “be a genuine person and not a rude one,” and over time it builds up.

      2. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

        It took me almost two years build my social media. I think for it to be effective, you have to work the long game and be really intentional about who you follow and how. Recruit a few friends who you know use the platform, friend them so you are clearly not a robot, and then follow a few special interest groups you like. Follow Alison Green! Follow the Museum of English Rural Life and No Context Bob’s Burgers. Mix it up with people you like, relevant content, and a few wholesome things. Like the MERL. Be okay with hitting “follow” on people you don’t know, but do admire, and can see that they’re okay with new followers. You don’t actually have to tweet, but would be good to RT a few things you really like, and engage with accounts that are safe. AAM was actually one of the first accounts I followed on twitter. There’s a lot of bullshit out there, but I built my account around the people and things I love and care about, and it’s really paid off. You also have to be okay with being somewhat dweeby at times in IRL conversations- I’ve definitely asked for Twitter handles (when appropriate), and given out my own as a form of contact. Muting is a good thing. Blocking is a great thing. It does take effort, though, and I still find it overwhelming. But as long as you think about it as “connecting with things I genuinely adore” and not “curating a personality” you’ll have a natural presence.

        1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          EXACTLY, You Absolute Unit!

          Networking is humans talking to humans about interests they have in common. You may never know what you can learn from historical sheep pics or frozen beef sheets. Twitter is an amazing place to connect with people who are of minds that you didn’t know you shared.

          Be kind, be thoughtful, and advance the conversation.

  4. SaaSsy*

    Look for professional slack communities or other forums – those can be great networking, depending on the field (I’m in tech, tho, so we tend to gather online anyway.) Reddit forums can be OKish to an extent, but more things like Measure slack for analytics people or broader communities with subthreads you can join – which for me means joining things like OG marketers slack and hanging out in the analytics threads.

    Don’t sneeze at the people who aren’t doing exactly what you want, either – they may be familiar enough to work with the people you want to learn from and know of the openings that crop up.

    1. Elizabeth*

      Seconding this! I’m in a highly specific field and joined the professional slack group related to it. Even though I don’t have much to offer, I’ve been amazed at how many people have helped me just because we’re all in the same group – some of them very highly positioned in the industry.

      1. SaaSy*

        Yes! I’ve just started job hunting and it’s been amazing who will vouch for you/send you jobs if you’ve been hanging around the same spaces, chatting, and are a kind human – even if you’re not high profile or haven’t worked with them. Plus I get to bring useful nuggets back to work about problems or trends ‘others in the field’ are seeing, talk about things I can’t really with my friends and partner, and generally geek out.

        Totally different experience than the last time I was looking ~8 years ago. Although come to think of it, my job then came from someone I met volunteering with a professional group solving problems totally outside our usual scope, so maybe that’s another way to just meet cool people.

    2. Beth*

      In general, don’t sneeze at all. As Alison said, the LW is closing off a LOT of options, and generally givng me the feeling of being committed to failure before ever trying.

      I get it. Networking is difficult and social interactions are awkward. It’s easy to write off vast swathes of the world on the basis that it’s hard to do and doesn’t look as if it will be of any help. Except . . . writing it all off guarantees that you’ll get no help at all.

      Networking, at its base, is just making connections — of any strength, on any basis, with any pretext or none at all. You never, ever know which connections will turn out to be something that ultimately bears fruit; that’s the very nature of a network. You make connections, and this means there’s a further connection to the other person’s network, and further connections through that. Tenuous? Hell yes. That isn’t the point. The point is just to start doing it.

      At an absolute minimum, making contact means you’ve gotten a bit more practice in making contact. That’s valuable, and the value increases the more you do it. A good place to start is with the people at a gathering (or in a group, or in a chat, etc.) who seem to be the ones who like making connections themselves.

      Btw, I got my current job as a result of a casual contact at an industry conference, based entirely on a very minor shared life experience, with someone who was just that kind of natural networker. At the time the original contact was made, I had no idea I might one day want that contact again — and it was several years before I found out that I did. He was just “a cool guy to talk to for a few minutes”.

  5. KimmyO*

    You seem very unwilling to devote any time or much effort to networking. Establishing these relationships take time and effort whether it is in person or online. I would suggest you start with your internship supervisor (or others there). They may not be directly connected to your niche area but they have been in the work world longer and might have additional connections. For example, I’m a public library assistant director, but I know several deans at the state university system, a cardiologist, a forensic accountant, a teacher, etc. You don’t know the breadth and depth of your supervisor’s contacts.

  6. Irish girl*

    Do you need to network to get a job in your future field? Is that how people do it or do people just organically network after they get a job and go to event with their co-workers and peers? It doesn’t sounds like your internship is in the area you are going to go into but the interns you worked with can be the start of your network even in not in the same industry.

    1. OP*

      Yeah so my fellow interns are a bit of a network, I have connections from my previous jobs in other fields, and so on. I just need to figure out how to build it in a way that will actually work for me.

      1. bubbleon*

        Honestly a lot of network building is organic once you’re working. Connect with coworkers, vendors, clients, etc on a human level rather than just focusing on the work, and you’ll start building up a network you have real connections with *and* can speak to the quality of your work rather than just “we met over coffee once”

      2. Annony*

        One thing that might help is to figure out what you are trying to get out of networking. Often people think of networking as figuring out how to get favors from people when looking for a job but most fields don’t need that. Often, what works is staying connected to people in your field so that you will hear about relevant job opportunities and can submit your application. If you are a strong candidate, it doesn’t really matter who you know. If you aren’t strong, it is unusual to have strong enough connections to get hired over a strong candidate anyway.

      3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        A lot of this is really serendipity, though. Example from real life:

        I met a woman at a professional conference. We had a great conversation, so we connected on LinkedIn. My cousin and I are reasonably close, so when she graduated from college, we also connected on LinkedIn.

        Fast forward a couple of years. Conference connection posts on LinkedIn that her company is offering a program for woman-owned small businesses. From their LinkedIn posts, I know my cousin and aunt have started a business. So I tagged my cousin in a reply to my conference connection’s post, thus alerting her to an opportunity she probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise. That’s networking.

      4. smirkpretty*

        A suggestion: Go to a networking event, whether online or in person, and pretend (to yourself) that’s you’re there as the +1 of a very good friend who is attending for professional reasons. Let the stakes be a little lower while still making a good impression. Take the transactional aspect out of it for now. Don’t aim to sell yourself. Instead, just be friendly. Seek out areas to connect with people you meet. Ask good questions. Be curious. If you end up with a tidbit of information that can help your friend, excellent bonus! But that’s not your main role there. You are So-and-So’s pleasant friend who is bringing a little conversation to an informal professional mixer. Do what you can to make it all enjoyable for yourself and the people you interact with.

  7. Nessie*

    I think your negativity is going to keep you from networking. Because yes, a lot of networking is attending boring events (virtual or in-person) that feel like a waste of time, or doing informational interviews to at least put your face to your email for someone. Networking sucks, I can’t stand it, but it has to be done.

    You’re gonna have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince… or in this case, do some boring networking events before you see some results.

  8. Marie*

    Think about a top-down approach here: what’s your GOAL with networking? What do you want to get out of it? Know more people? A job? What’s the point?

    Once you know what your goal with networking is, then work backward. If you want to meet more people in your niche field, how can you do that online? Are there any forums or subReddits or online book clubs or whatever where you can start reading and commenting? Could you start an Instagram or other social media to talk about whatever particular interesting thing you’re learning about in your specialized program and maybe find others that way? What about virtual lectures with discussion sessions where you could ask questions or at the very least, take down names of the people who do ask questions and then follow up with them later?

    What are you good at? What kinds of activities make you really excited to be doing them? Any way you could leverage what you’re good at and what you like to do into a way to meet others in your field? If you like to write, start a blog talking about what you’re learning. Or a Twitter. Or make LinkedIn blog posts. Or lots of comments on articles that other people write about topics in your field. If you like to talk, start a podcast? See if you could be a guest on other podcasts about your field? HAM radio station maybe?

  9. BPT*

    I mean my question would be what do you want to get out of networking? Is it just because you’ve been told you need to do it? Because you want to get a job through it? Because you want to start building up a professional network for the future?

    The term “networking” often leads people to go to “networking events,” which can be fine, but (and this is very field-dependent), often don’t help you find a job at all. You’re right – nobody is going to hire you from a 5 minute conversation, or even refer you for a job (unless it’s just passing along your resume, which doesn’t usually give you a step up).

    If you want to build your network so that you are more connected with your field, then I would suggest two things. Working with people in your field is the obvious answer – that’s how people really get to know you and your work. You are working in a job, but see if there are any other projects you can jump on, even if they don’t directly tie to the field you’re working in. Other people in your workplace might have connections you don’t know about, and working with as many people as possible is always helpful. Or you could add volunteering, depending on the field.

    The second option is seeing if your field has a trade association, and joining that. A lot of times they have resources for new graduates, committees you can join, annual meetings you can attend, and educational sessions you could get a lot out of.

    1. OP*

      How do you even find a local trade organization though? I am in a licensed career, so I could start there, but Google kind of sucks at telling you about the small group that Bob or Sally are running.

      1. Properlike*

        Find the big ones. Read their websites. Some of them have regional chapters. Call the licensing agency and ask for their professional affiliates. :) Is it a unionized field? Call the union and ask what kind of local orgs the members tend to belong to.

        Again, it comes from asking questions and seeking out information. And then you share that information with others. And then you are a rock star for having done the work. :)

      2. another Hero*

        social media can actually be kind of great for this if you’re following people whose interests you share or people in your geographic area. and once you’re involved with one thing, you tend to hear about related things.

      3. Ashley*

        If your internship is in your future field ask around there. Also tag along in any places (even virtually) your internship lets you. It is a great way to start building relationships.

      4. Dana Lynne*

        You can google for the national organization’s website. Then that website will have links to local organizations, or someone to contact to find a local directory. If there’s not one in your city there may be one somewhere else in your state or within driving distance.

        The national organization’s website may also have a part of the site dedicated to people just starting out in the field or even a mentoring function.

        Many cities also have officials Chambers of Commerce where you can connect with specific industries, or organizations called Leadership Boston or Leadership Orlando that are specifically about training up and coming people in local leadership and civic responsibility. They are good places to start too.

      5. knitcrazybooknut*

        I think the only way you’re going to learn about those groups is to join larger groups, and then find your subset, or through word of mouth via your random connections at yoga, etc. I’ve seen a lot of regional groups mentioned in larger organizations.

        In my opinion, you’re thinking about informational interviews with a skewed perspective. The intent of an informational interview isn’t the interview. It’s the connection you make to someone in your industry, or even in an adjacent industry. People love to talk about themselves. Give them an opportunity, and they will remember you favorably. Even if you do this via email or Twitter, as long as you don’t overwhelm them and are respectful of their time, this is one way to network that’s really just listening. It’s not a journalistic interview, but a nice way of learning more about someone’s role, and making a positive impression. Your yoga friends won’t seem important to your career until their best friend’s uncle hears that you’re looking for a job and puts in a good word for you. You’re pushing good vibes and pleasant behavior out into the world, and you don’t know where it’s going to land until it does. You’re making your own luck. You can totally do this!

      6. BPT*

        I mean more like national organizations – there are a ton in the US, and many of those have international membership, but Canada has plenty as well. For example, physicians can join the Canadian Medical Association. Accountants have CPA Canada. Just google for whatever your field is + national association. Even national associations are usually begging for their members to volunteer in roles – it’s usually pretty easy to find a committee or work group to join. And from there, they may have more local branches of the national association that you could become a part of.

      7. AnotherSarah*

        This is where you start. Something that just happened to me–BigShot X knows my name, vaguely, from a professional event years ago. She passed on news of a workshop presentation (over Zoom) that I might like to attend. A few more people I admire where there, and I participated to the best of my ability. A few months later, I ran into someone who was there, also a big name, in person. I struck up a short conversation with him about his new project, which I knew about from that workshop. I don’t know if he remembered me, but it doesn’t really matter. We’ve now sent each other a few emails, and the next time I’m in his area, we’ll get coffee. That’s it. That’s networking. I’m interested in his work, he wants to know more about mine, maybe I’ll be in his mind for some cool new opportunity in the future. (And it goes both ways–he’s well-known but that doesn’t mean I should discount him wanting to participate in something I’m doing!)

      8. StellaBella*

        Start a MEETUP. As in, go to the MEETUP website, look for stuff in your field and attend, and also start a networking event. Do a quarterly or monthly online or safe outdoor meeting for the field and invite people, using your social media, to join and discuss and find a few key speakers to invite for the first few events. Create a network for yourself.

        1. Megabeth*

          I second the suggestion! I’ve used that site to find groups of like-minded people since moving to my new city and while it can be nerve-wracking being the “new kid”, nearly every group I’ve interacted with has been full of kind, accepting people.

      9. Cascadia*

        Hopefully the people in your graduate school could help you with this! I’m in a very niche field where I am the only person in my organization that does what I do. Low and behold, I find out a few years into my job that there exists a trade organization for all the people in the region that do what I do. We are all the lone people at our orgs doing our jobs, so it’s wonderful to connect. We have a yearly conference where we all get together, but we also have an email list serv that is super helpful for asking questions, and some of us who are in the same city have monthly chats to connect, talk about our respective orgs, discuss problems we’re having and potential solutions. It’s been such a godsend and I didn’t even know it existed.

      10. pancakes*

        Find trade publications & websites. Even if they’re not writing about organizations local to you, they might be running ads from them.

  10. kjolis*

    Are there virtual conferences in your field you can attend at a student rate? I’m attending a virtual conference in two weeks, and aside from all the panels, talks, etc., they’ve built in networking activities, but in a light-hearted way – online games, discussion topics not necessarily about our careers, etc.

  11. Elizabeth West*

    This is a good question. I don’t know how to do this either. I’ve spent most of my career as a lower-level worker, so I never really had to.

    The only thing analogous to networking I’ve done is connecting with writers online in groups on Facebook (yeah, I know), or at sci-fi cons. I think going to events where the focus isn’t solely on networking is good—you have built-in topics of discussion from attending panels, etc. During the pandemic, going anywhere hasn’t been feasible. It has to end sometime. Right? RIGHT?????

    I don’t know how to do this for regular work, so I look forward to seeing what other people suggest.

    1. Another Elizabeth West fan*

      I’m glad you use a consistent name on this forum, because I’ve been reading AAM for a few years and learned to recognize your take on things.

      I’m responding to you today because I think that the future of humanity is probably spike-protein coronaviruses stomping on the face of humanity forever. Facing this grim reality is going to be a necessity for me. I promoted into the job I hold now in September of last year, after a literally years-long effort to get here. My entire strategy for how to succeed was based on contacts in person. Now I have reinvent the role, develop an entirely new plan for success, and convince my employers that they still have to pay somebody to do this at all.

      Since March of 2020, I haven’t been able to do much about this; until recently, it didn’t matter, because my organization adopted a hold-still policy that basically froze my situation in place, on the assumption that the virus hell would end and we’d all go back to what we were doing before. But now, it appears that their planning is shifting to making the current conditions permanent, and I have to figure out how to survive (figuratively speaking, I mean career survival) even though most of the people I need to work with/help me are going to be working from home or leaving. Either way, I will never see or talk to them again.

      For me, networking was key to my success in my old job and my promotion to this one. Now, it’s useless, and impossible to restore. If my plan is to hold out until the virus is done with us, I doubt I will be able to hang on to the paycheck, let alone enjoy the kind of success I think I would be achieving now if not for COVID-19.

      Elizabeth, thanks again for all of your comments on these articles. You are appreciated.

      1. Also an Elizabeth West fan*

        I’m an EW fan too! Excellent writer- smart and funny. And I really appreciate all the work you did regarding updates here.

  12. AY*

    A bit of pushback on the idea that networking relationships are undesirable because they’re fake or contrived: well of course they can be! You might need to “contrive” a relationship with a business contact you’ll never run across naturally. That’s ok, we all do it, and it will seem less weird the more you do it.

    1. OP*

      They’re certainly not all fake and contrived. The way I have been taught to network makes me feel like a lot of relationships would be fake and contrived because I feel pressured to make a connection, so will try to talk to who ever, which is just… not optimal? Especially since I’m pretty social and feel like I am good at making connections with people where I am at (e.g. with classmates, colleagues, etc).

  13. Valkyrie*

    I’ve never ever liked networking, and have always mostly avoided it. Through my job working at a law firm I’ve had a lot of incidental networking experiences at events and such but I never sought it out myself (I’m just an admin, I don’t need to bring in business, that’s the partner’s job!).

    Several months ago I had to download the app Clubhouse for some work webinar “after chat”, and I’ve ended up using it weekly ever since. I mostly spend time in chats related to my creative side pursuits, but I’ve gotten a LOT out of it. I’ve made connections with other creatives who do similar work and I have standing invites to visit people across much of North America. We don’t always spend time discussing our businesses or projects (a couple weeks ago I managed to get us off track and we started talking about the various silver utensils and china patterns our grandmothers had), but we’re building real relationships and getting a lot out of bouncing ideas off each other.

    I’ve made some real and valuable connections using this chat app, and this week got my first blog credit as a result of an idea I shared!

  14. Colette*

    I think you’re getting hung up on the details because networking, for many people, is really hard.

    My suggestions:
    – ask your supervisor for advice on meeting people in the niche you are interested in, as well as the area they work in. Even if you end up getting a job in your chosen area, knowing people in the broader field will be useful.

    – Ask for informational interviews, and go in with no expectations of anything other than answers to your questions. Networking isn’t skipping the interview process; it’s getting help and helping others with their career. So ask what a day in the job is like, ask them to look at your resume and give you feedback, ask what kind of background people need to do well in that area, ask where jobs are usually posted, ask for whatever information you need. You may not get a job out of it – in fact, you probably won’t – but you’ll be closer.

    – if there’s a virtual event (including networking events), go. Virtual events are a low time committment, and will help you know more about your field and the people in it. Again, this isn’t because you will get a job out of it – you’re working on building your knowledge which will eventually help you position yourself better for a job.

    1. Elizabeth I*

      Also ask your supervisor if he/she would introduce you to the people in your company that do the kind of work you want to do (or the people that manage the kind of people who do that work) for networking within your company. People are much more likely to take a quick meeting with you if you are in a different department of the same company.

      You can do these as informational interviews – telling them that you want to go into this field and want to pick their brains. Ask intelligent questions – not things that you can find the answers to buy just googling.

      Example questions:
      What makes someone really stand out to hiring managers?
      What is the most challenging quality/skill when hiring for this position?
      What differentiates between someone who’s good at this job vs. someone who’s great?
      What are the unexpected bests and worsts of this job?
      How do you like working for COMPANY? Are there other companies you recommend I check out as part of my job search? (They may even volunteer to introduce you to people at their former companies if they like you)
      Are there any professional organizations /conferences or books, blogs, or other resources etc that you would recommend?
      What advice do you have for someone job searching for a role like this?

      1. Elizabeth I*

        You can also ask “is there anyone else you recommend I talk to?” – this will often lead them to introduce you to someone else (whether at the company or someone they know outside the company) – which expands your network even further.

        You then ask that person similar questions.

        The result of all this networking is that you:
        a) make connections with various people in your industry, who know about you and feel positive toward you and may pass opportunities your way.
        b) gain industry knowledge – you know more about how to stay connected to your industry/learn more/where to go for resources/conferences etc., which companies are good to work for, etc.
        c) you know what will make you stand out to hiring managers, which you can use when doing cover letters/resumes/interviews.

        And make sure to follow up with brief thank you emails to people the same day or next day after you meet with them!

        Also if their advice helps you, or you end up meeting with someone they recommended or applying for a job they pointed out to you, reply back weeks/months later to give them a quick update on how it went and thank them again for the help. People love seeing that the advice they gave you was fruitful! It can really strengthen relationships over time if you take people’s advice and then circle back to thank them.

    2. NewGrad*

      Informational interviews are a great way to network! If you don’t click, you still get your questions answered, if you do click, you’ve networked! Even if you don’t, you’ll be so much more comfortable shooting them a message in the future if you’ve spoken before.
      (By click I mean that it turns into an easy chat)

  15. Precious Time*

    Could you email instead of message on social media? And email about a specific paper/presentation/program that the person did that you enjoyed/had a question on. I am barely on social media for professional networking but may respond to an email if it catches me at the right time and clearly states why emailing ME and what would like from me. Sometimes networking requests are too vague, requiring time from me to figure out my value add. If successful could create a correspondence that leads to a video call/masked coffee or something.

  16. Shiara*

    It sounds like you’re approaching networking events with a goal of “meet people”, which is totally understandable, but maybe feeling too contrived for you.

    What if instead you approached them with the something like “learn how three people got into this field, and learn what three different people consider the biggest challenges in this field.” (Edit particulars for what interests you and is fitting for your field)

    I know for me, networking got easier when I changed my goals to learning and thinking more about general trajectories, instead of just making contacts, and then I ended up with better and more connections instead.

    1. Threeve*

      I used to work conferences and networking events, and it is suuuuper transparent when people are there with the mindset of “meet new people and learn from/about them” versus “meet new people who can be of use to me.”

      They’re people–and, if they’re in your field, inherently interesting people–not business cards and future resources to be hoarded.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        ^ this. Especially if it’s “meet people who can be of use to me” AND “I resent having to do this” – the futility becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      2. Willis*

        This. I’ve been alongside a boss who was obviously at trade shows to try and drum up business in a schmoozy way. Nothing ever came of those conversations because the other parties weren’t really invested in them. But if you actually get to know people, be a friendly person, do good work, etc. you can get referrals organically because people actually like you, not because they were the target of your sales pitch at a conference. It’s a much stronger long term strategy.

      3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Going in with the intent of “I will have an interesting conversation (on any topic) with one new person for each day of the conference” was my go-to strategy when conferences were in person and it was easier to randomly meet someone in the hallway before/after a session, or end up sharing a table at lunchtime. And being at the conference, we had a built in starter topic and could go from there. We might exchange business cards when we were done, but that was never the goal – that was a side benefit. The goal was interesting conversation.

  17. irene adler*

    Is there a professional organization available to you that pertains to your field of study or the industry you wish to work in? Maybe they offer ways to network that would fit your schedule? Or, maybe they offer some mentoring or job-finding-advice persons that would help with the job hunt?

    The professional organization I belong to has been holding on-line meetings and networking sessions. They are working to to reach out to the local universities to offer avenues of networking for those interested in the field.

    1. Me*

      Second this. My local professional organization has a mentor program. Basically students sign up at the beginning of the semester to be matched with a mentor (who volunteer before the call for mentored is conducted). Each month they one-on-ones to develop a relationship. The organization also has volunteer opportunities, even with the pandemic. You develop more meaningful connections because you are working toward the same goal. You also get to showcase your skills.

  18. Spicy Tuna*

    I’ve had a shocking amount of success networking through family and friends. I’ve asked cousins and other extended relatives about their fields and told them about my interests, and many have offered to contact their colleagues to set up connections. Even if I didn’t know the colleague at first, having that introduction from a friend/relative got me in the door better than cold-messaging a stranger. Friends and family can also be widespread geographically, and it’s easier now more than ever to set up virtual meetings.

  19. Therese*

    Yeah, maybe you just wrote in this in a down moment (we all have those for sure) but honestly, if you go in with this attitude, it’ll be really hard to make any kind of connection with people. Reread your letter and see how incredibly negative you sound – fake, contrived, waste of time, useless… Go in with more of an open mind, be interested in other people, be prepared just to learn something new, and you’ll find your connections become more natural. When you meet someone you enjoyed talking to, just learn to say “let’s connect on linked-in” or something and follow up on it. Remember it’s a two-way street, if you find any information (an interesting article you came across etc) you think the other person could be interested in, send it (not too often obviously, but more of a gesture of friendliness). Virtual events can also work for this. Just stop assuming it’s a waste of time in advance. And if your real issue is anxiety, get that treated first. If not you are certainly going to be off-putting to any potential “network”.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Right – my only thought on reading this was “yeesh”. There’s a vibe of just relentless negativity coming off this letter. Of course networking isn’t going to go well if you’ve decided in advance that it’s a boring, fake, useless waste of time.

  20. annakarina1*

    There have been virtual events that are more like “lunchtime/hangout” social hours with various industry organizations. I attended several last year, and even if I didn’t have much to contribute, I still liked knowing what others were up to, putting faces to names, and having some casual familiarity with people I had met in person pre-pandemic. There have been some in-person events, but it’s still mostly virtual, especially with Delta. A lecture is good, but it’s usually very one-sided, and not as much of a community gathering, with exception of screening questions from the audience in the chat box.

    I’m not really sure how I network now. I’m on LinkedIn, have FB friends in my industry, am in an FB group for my career, and attend events sometimes. I also used to volunteer in a couple of groups in my industry at events, so even if I don’t do it anymore, I still casually know some people here and there through my work, but it’s more of a casual professional way than anything closer. I do hope you can make some good connections, and that you can find a good pathway into your industry.

  21. BlueDijon*

    I also feel super awkward networking, but what I’ve found helps me is to re-calibrate my understanding of what networking is. I think I had a misunderstanding of what networking is – what helped me was thinking about it as just being an interested, engaged participant in my community/field/life. It helps me to think about the goal of networking as being less about meeting people and getting contacts, and more about getting to know the *conversations* that are happening. This obviously has the side effect of connecting people, and is super sustainable and also lower pressure.

  22. OP*

    Yeah being fresh out of school is the hardest part. I think that’s partially where I struggle: I’m still IN school, so networking for me feels so one sided (like “hey let me milk you for your resources”) because I’ve probably been taught some messed up networking skills (it feels very transactional the way I’ve been taught, which is largely why I don’t like networking, where as I’d much rather have people in my life where it’s like “oh you’re a therapist who likes star wars?! me too! let’s get coffee!”

    1. ThatGirl*

      LOL if you’re a therapist(-to-be) who likes Star Wars I actually know a few people who fit that description, including one in Canada :P

      But really, the thing is – people know that if you’re finishing up/fresh out of school, you’re going to need a little more help. And that’s fine! Because then, as your career advances, you can pay it forward. It doesn’t have to be 50/50.

    2. Reba*

      I get what you are saying about one-sidedness, and you are right not to act entitled to people’s time and knowledge. But also consider that for more established people, talking with people who are at the start of their career or new to the field is like paying it forward, and it doesn’t hurt them to talk to you! You’re not going to them as like a supplicant, you are a junior colleague. (I’m not inundated with requests like this, so perhaps if I were in a hot field my attitude would be different. But I like doing it!)

      I do think that your idea of networking is perhaps too rigid and that’s holding you back. There absolutely is networking that deserves its bad name! But all the social interactions you are describing, the friendly connections that happen to take place in the work-related sphere, those ARE your network.

    3. Red*

      I think your approaching networking with the wrong mindset. Granted, I haven’t gone to a networking event in a few years now, but when I went my goal wasn’t make as many connections as possible it was usually a ridiculous and arbitrary goal: Find out the names of five pets, figure out the person who traveled the farthest to be there, find another person who likes horseradish, etc.
      I would pick one and it would give me a goal for being there but instead of the goal being make contacts for later use (which leads to schmoozy-ness) it was to talk to people like people and form genuine connections because it was the only way to find out the info from my goals. And when everyone else at the event is desperate to sell themselves, this interest in the other person as well as the slightly offbeat topics left me memorable in people’s minds.

    4. LadyofLasers*

      If you’re still in school, then I’d relax about building a network tomorrow. I’m not a super active networker, and I’ve found that I’ve built up a pretty robust network over the years from different jobs, grad school, conferences, ect. It can take awhile to build substantial relationships.

    5. Therese*

      But networking IS like that, OP. The only meaningful professional connections I made were also built on a human aspect. Connecting over star wars is just fine! Early in my career I was like you. But now that I’m in a position to help junior people, you know what I found out? I like helping people, I really do, especially if I see myself in them a bit. But of course, I am more motivated to help people who have not only technical skills / good grades, but who I like (and feel comfortable recommending to my colleagues who are hiring for example – I don’t want to refer jerks). For me, it’s really important the person is positive, polite, and shows humility but also initiative. You’ll really stand out with that. I found a lot of new grads, even from top schools, are shockingly lacking in manners, in particular. Read AAM and you’ll find good pointers (if nothing else, there are countless examples of what NOT to do!).

    6. drpuma*

      Sounds like you’re getting down on yourself for networking because you feel like you have only things to get and nothing to give. Before you reach out to anyone, put together a list of skills you can share or offer. I mean, you are a fitness instructor! To me that inherently sounds like you have some expertise in building rapport, leading groups, motivating others, and many other things I’m sure. I’ve heard of “give and get” networking events, where everyone comes in with one thing they’re looking to give and one thing they can offer others. Maybe you’ll feel better about borrowing this approach for your own networking adventures.

    7. knitcrazybooknut*

      That’s exactly what networking is!

      Traditionally, I’ve been someone who does not ask for help. This has been occasionally pretty catastrophic in my life, but I’m stubborn and weird, etc. etc. I had to reframe it to make it acceptable for me to ask for help.

      Do you remember the last time someone asked for help and you were able to help them? How did that feel? Now, when you ask for help, you’re giving someone else the chance to feel that way, too.

      It’s a little woo-woo. But consider that there’s an entire swath of people in the world who love teaching people and helping them get somewhere. I leaned in on a conversation of college students the other day. They were talking about their first 401ks, and how they weren’t sure what to do with them. I couldn’t help myself, and said take it from me, don’t touch it! Slight obnoxious? Yes. Do I hope it helps? Yes. If nothing else, they have a story to tell about a purple-haired older lady who was totally weird one day. When you find someone like that who has information to pass on, you’ll make them feel like all of their mistakes didn’t go to waste!

    8. bamcheeks*

      The thing you’re missing about that “let me milk you” stuff is that many, many people actively like talking about themselves, and like helping newer entrants to the profession. This is not one-sided: a lot of people really, really enjoy the chance to talk about themselves. Some others enjoy the enormous sense of benevolence that they are helping the next generation. Some others know that today’s new graduates are tomorrow’s colleagues, project-partners, connections for their own mentees, maybe even bosses. It’s not the case that if you don’t have something tangible to offer then and their, you’re taking without giving back.

      The best way to build those relationships is to be authentic in your conversations. Unrewarding, transactional networking is when you ask for stuff you’re not interested in because you think it sounds good, or what you’re ~supposed~ to be doing. But when you’re asking about stuff that you either really need to know– like, what are the local trade organisations in our area that you’d recommend I join– or which you just find genuinely interesting, (“So you’re looking for ways to get the llamas to groom THEMSELVES? Wow!”) that comes across and it’s how you build warm relationships with people.

      But you can’t go straight to “great relationships” with people, just like you can’t go direct to “mentorship”, or “person who can offer me a job”. Some of the people you network with will</E turn into real relationships, whether they are collegiate professional relationships, or actual friendships. You don’t know at the outset which is which, though, so you talk to seven people. Two of them it’s awkward and you both tap out after five minutes. That’s fine! Four of them you have great conversations and leave on good terms promising to look them up, but actually you never speak again. Also fine! The seventh drops a reference to Star Wars and you laugh, flash your own geek credentials, and arrange to get coffee. Better than fine! In my experience, you can’t filter out the awkward conversations or the great conversations that don’t go anywhere, though– you just have to consider them part of the process and adjust your expectations for your hit rate.

    9. Joielle*

      I did a bunch of informational interviews when I was in school and recently graduated, which I found through my school’s alumni network. I found them really valuable and not, like, slimy, because I went into it with a mindset of “I think I might be interested in this specific niche of our shared field, you work in that niche, what is it like/what do you like and not like about it/what is the typical day like?” The conversations all went really well and weren’t awkward because I there was specific information I wanted to know and the people I met were very happy to share their experiences.

      I’ve also been on super awkward informational interviews where it was just like “uh hi, I would like to network with you” and that never leads to a useful conversation. But if you really think about what information you want and who would have that information, you can make some genuine connections with people even through the guise of an informational interview.

    10. Eeyore is my spirit animal*

      But it won’t always be one sided.
      I spoke with a new college grad about the pros and cons of different companies in our field. He was young and applying for his first full time job.
      He is now an absolute Rock Star and a leader in our field. He has given back to me way more than our initial 15 minute conversation.

    11. anone*

      I love meeting people right out of school! And giving professional advice and answering questions helps me stay sharp and fresh in my field, plus I always want to be building *my* network, which means meeting new people and staying connected across professional ‘generations’/cohorts. I think you are underestimating the value that you have as a contact and assuming you have nothing to offer just because what you are offering isn’t what *you* need right now (you need what other people have to offer!). That’s the wonderful thing about reciprocity is that value is relative.

    12. Daisy-dog*

      Networking can be fun for the more experienced people – that’s what they get out of the transaction. They get to tell the story of their career. They can share fun tips or stories. It may not turn into anything right away and it may only provide you with a long list of other things to do to get meaningful connections, but it may not be actually painful.

      This applies to introverts too. I’m very much an introvert, but I love a good one-on-one conversation about careers or school, etc. I’ve become a mentor through my alumni association.

    13. JustaTech*

      Have you tried your department’s alumni association? You’ve got two advantages there: you already have a connection with those people (you went to the same department/program at the same school) and, importantly, they have chosen and are volunteering to interact with fellow alums.

      The people who don’t want to be bothered get themselves off all the alumni mailing lists and never show up to events. So if they’re on the mailing list and show up to events they know that there will be younger alums who want to talk/network. They’re offering, take them up on it!

      (I also hate “standard networking”, but I’ve found in the sciences that in general most people also hate “standard networking” so we’re all starting from an awkward place. I did find the book “Networking for Introverts” to be helpful for figuring out how to be more myself when trying to network.)

    14. Feral Humanist*

      Think of it this way, OP: If you were lost and you asked for directions, would that be “milking” the person you asked? In one sense –– sure, kind of. But also, people like to help other people, and most people are happy to help others when it costs them nothing. Informational interviews should be fairly short (20-30 minutes at most). Most people do not find talking about themselves to be a hardship, so it tends to be pretty painless. I do a LOT of these for folks coming up in my field, and I love it! It lets me meet really interesting up-and-comers.

      And here’s the thing: you might not have anything to offer in exchange RIGHT NOW. But in ten years, you very well might. I have mentors who I met while I was in school with whom I’m now a peer, and we help each other all the time. What was once a unidirectional relationship is now very much a reciprocal one. You won’t always be a student.

      Also, at least check out your career services center before you completely write it off. At the very least, they might have an alumni network in your field that you could tap into. You’re writing a lot of things off before you’ve really given them a chance.

    15. Very Online*

      It doesn’t help you now, but — stay in touch with folks you met in school and you would be amazed how quickly and strangely your network grows. Two years later you suddenly know people in a whole lot of fields and companies. (My graduate school cohort largely turned out to be kind of weird and unreachable but the folks I met in undergrad and high school are all over the map!)

    16. Feral Fairy*

      I wasn’t sure if my suggestions would be relevant, but if you’re in school to become a therapist, they probably are. I used to work in a sort of niche direct service non profit field. I volunteered once a week at an organization starting mid junior year of college. i didn’t go into volunteering knowing that this was the work that I wanted to do, but the focus was something I was very passionate in. Through volunteering at that organization and increasing the amount of time i spent there, I got to know people who worked in the field and even became friends with some of them. I also went to a conference that was attended by people from this field and other related ones from around the country. This conference was focused on a specific social justice issue so I got to interact with a whole bunch of people with similar passions as me and I learned a lot. I spent some time talking to people who worked at other organizations in the city where I was living, and it was easier to have these conversations because we knew people in common already. Anyways, I stayed in touch with some people or connected on social media, and when someone I had talked to a lot was hiring, he contacted me directly and I ended up getting the job.

      The main thing I wanted to convey in this comment is that none of this felt like networking and networking was not my primary purpose in volunteering or going to conferences. I was just passionate and wanted to learn more. I didn’t think of the conversations I had with people working in the field as transactional because we were just talking about the work itself and in general, people like sharing about their opinions and exchange ideas. That is part of why they’re at the conference. It doesn’t even have to be a whole conference. While working at the organization, I would go to trainings and meet people there from organizations all over the state. If there are trainings open to grad students, go to those as well even if it’s not for a specific job yet.

      I am not a particularly socially adept person and have never been the best at making friends, but I was able to make a lot of connections just by getting to know a couple of people who introduced me to other people and by taking advantage of conferences and trainings.

    17. happybat*

      As someone in a broadly similar position (looking at the end of grad school too, too soon) I was initially very confused by networking. To make it make sense for me, I need to frame it as ‘being excited to meet cool people who do amazing work that I want to learn from’. An unexpected benefit from that is that people sometimes seem to quite like being the ‘cool person who does amazing work’ that I am excited to meet.

      I feel like what we can bring to professional conversations is enthusiasm, joy, genuine interest in the person and their life and their experiences, and sometimes a fresh ear for a problem or a puzzle. And I think (with a little bit of evidence) that can lead to some new opportunities.

      I do wish you luck!

  23. AnotherAlison*

    Like others have asked, what are you trying to get out of this? Connections in your niche field for future jobs?

    If not for jobs, I honestly don’t see the point right now. I mean, if you wanted to and were to be the very energetic student member of local industry association or whatever, great, but you don’t have to do that. Is your field not a field where you can just apply for jobs or be referred more generically? I’ve done plenty of referring for new grads , but it’s not networking quite like you describe. More like, my financial advisor’s nephew was a mechanical engineering major from my university, and I worked at an engineering firm and could get his resume directly to the ME department manager. That is more how I see it work for new grads. You reach out to the network of personal connections you already have and ask THEM if they know anyone at ABC company or XYZ industry, and then you can use them to reach those connections for the networking coffee or zoom or whatever they want to do. It might not be that person who ultimately helps you, but you can ask if there is anyone in their network they would be willing to refer you to for another chat and so on.

  24. Grits McGee*

    OP, I think part of your issue is that you’re looking at these relationships as a one-way street, when in fact the best networking connections are mutually-beneficial relationships. At this stage in your career, it’s much easier to do this with your peers, but I’ve also done this with former supervisors- share articles you think someone would find interesting, email congratulations or condolences when you hear about professional/life events, check in when something work-related happens that reminds you of that person. Keep it light, keep it periodic but relatively infrequent, and keep it brief.

    As far as informational interviews- what made them unhelpful for you in the past? Were they not in your area of interest, or was the information too general to be helpful? I’m sure there’s fields where informational interviews are a pipeline to job opportunities, but there’s just as many that aren’t set up like that.

    I’m sure this has been said before, but the most useful informational interviews are ones where you go in knowing exactly what you want to get out of it- recommendations for places to apply, advice about the most useful additional education or certifications, insight about work culture in a particular field, etc. Your supervisor might not be in your exact field of interest, but there’s a good chance that she knows people who are; it’s always an advantage when there’s already a connection between you and the interviewee.

    1. Colette*

      OP, I think part of your issue is that you’re looking at these relationships as a one-way street, when in fact the best networking connections are mutually-beneficial relationships.

      I agree, and it’s important to realize that your side of the relationship might not be job leads at this point, but it might be listening intently and asking thoughtful questions, respecting the time the person you’re meeting has set aside and coming prepared, thanking them after the meeting, and keeping in touch when you get a job.

  25. KHB*

    In my experience, networking for networking’s sake is overrated. It seems like a lot of young people have heard these sayings like “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and these misleading statistics about how X% of job openings are never publicly advertised, so they have this idea that if you’re not out there schmoozing with people nonstop, you’ll never amount to anything. I had that idea too, when I was new to the working world, and it had me worried sick, because I hate schmoozing with a passion.

    And yet, not only is it perfectly possible to build a great career for yourself by applying to advertised jobs and letting the “networking” come naturally (i.e., building relationships with the people you run into in the course of doing your work, but not necessarily going out of your way to “meet people”), but that’s how the vast majority of people I know have built their careers.

    I don’t know what field you’re in, so maybe it’s one with different norms. But I think it’s very likely that you don’t have to worry about this quite so much.

    1. Joielle*

      I do think the “X% of jobs aren’t publicly advertised” thing is mostly not true (at least not in my field), but I’ve gotten a couple of publicly-advertised jobs through networking. Like, I applied to a posted job but there were dozens or hundreds of applicants, and the fact that I knew the hiring manager or someone in the office is what got me an interview.

      It’s not a guarantee that you’ll get a job, but when there are tons of applicants with pretty similar backgrounds, SOMETHING has to set people apart, and if they know you as a nice, reasonable, smart person, it can give you a leg up in a competitive situation.

      1. OP*

        I’ve gotten 2 jobs cause I knew someone for a publiclly advertised job who put in a good word for me. But yeah they make it sound like X% are basically a boss hiring the friend of a subordinate, when a lot of companies in my area require managers to list the job and accept applications… probably because hiring Bob because Sally said he’s good has been problematic in a lot of cases.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      Yes, I also was super worried that my lack of schmoozing prevented me from getting any job offers after graduation. It was really because the job market sucked.

      I actually read the first chapter of a book about making meaningful connections. In that chapter, the author outlined everything he had done to be successful and would share more tips in the rest of the book. It really read as the story of white privilege for a very nice, otherwise mediocre guy.

  26. BitterMelon*

    Not to sound harsh, but your issue has nothing to do with COVID– you’ve shut out in-person opportunities as you’ve deemed them “awkward” or “useless”. I was once a grad student, and I found these events somewhat awkward as well, but in a workplace setting, you will need to push yourself past these feelings to do your job: think presentations, meetings, etc.

    If you’ve done a Master’s during COVID, I can see the lack of events available to you, both in person and online. If you’ve done a PhD, you have had a lot of resources since 2+ years ago. If these never yielded any fruit, my suggestion is to reach out to past grad students and see where they have ended up. Are they in a field/job position you’re interested in that you can reach out to them about? Reaching out to a peer is way easier than a stranger and feels less like “milking for information”. I found that to be extremely helpful trying to get my foot out of the door. Start up a LinkedIn account, no matter how lean you think it’ll look and start looking up past members of your department or even friends you may have outside your department to start building a network of peers.

    1. Chris too*

      I’m another Canadian and I think currently avoiding “face to face” meetings is cultural – as a country and a people we’re taking covid more seriously than the US or UK. I wouldn’t be impressed if somebody wanted to meet with me in person when online would do. It would leave a negative impression.

  27. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    One thing that has helped me enormously in my career in joining online forums for my specific skill set (tech support – DBA – general techie) and just gradually fit in there. There’s a lot of people on one forum (now sadly defunct) that I’ve either referred jobs to or they’ve passed along opportunities to me.

    Don’t go into the forums with the intent of getting a job though – that looks kinda bad. Read a bit, join in, contribute, get settled, then you’ll generally find the opportunities and information come your way anyway.

    1. Colette*

      Don’t go into the forums with the intent of getting a job though – that looks kinda bad.

      I think this is key for all networking. For it to be effective – and for it to not feel fake and insincere – you have to be in it for the experience (i.e. you want to learn more about X), not the outcome (a job).

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Yeah, it’s like joining a social group with the sole desire of finding a girlfriend/boyfriend. You don’t start off by asking people out on dates, you gotta show that there’s more to you than that.

        Basically people are more willing to pass job opportunities and such onto you if they know you and know you’re an approachable friendly won’t take rejection hard kind of person. That can often take time and effort but is so worth it.

        I’ve got several good tips from various Facebook groups I belong to with members all over the globe.

      2. bamcheeks*

        you have to be in it for the experience (i.e. you want to learn more about X), not the outcome (a job).

        Agreed, and I think this is why it’s so interesting that OP dismisses “milk people for information” as a goal of networking– the people who are genuinely looking for information and interested in what they are asking are the best at networking, at least at the cadet stage. Once you get more established then being able to provide information and link people up becomes just as important, but in the early years the stars are the people showing genuine interest and curiosity.

  28. ProdMgr*

    Volunteer more! Find events and organizations that are related to your field, even a little adjacent, and offer to help. You will meet people naturally because you are working together. You will have something to talk about because you are working together. You will be busy instead of awkward. Keep it up for a year or two and you will have a network of people you know from volunteering.

    (Also read Adam Grant’s book Give and Take if you haven’t already. Volunteering is one way to be a strategic giver. You’re helping people in ways that also support your long-term goals, so it’s win/win.)

    1. x*

      This is what I was going to suggest because it sounds like you connect better with people when you meet them while doing something you like to do (ie, yoga classes). Is Meetup a thing in Canada? There might be local Meetup or community groups related to your field.

    2. Bayta Darrell*

      Yeah, definitely +1 to finding activities like volunteering to use as your excuse to network. Join a club at school or work with an organization in the community. Plus, it could end up being a great thing for your resume too!

  29. I should really pick name*

    Networking is like any skill, it needs practice.

    Networking events might suck, but the more you go to the better you learn to make use of them.

    Don’t think of it as asking people to do you favours. You’re talking to find out if you can mutually benefit each other. Find out more about what kind of work the company does, the specifics of the kind of roles they have available, and who it would be good to talk to. Sometimes you learn useful industry buzzwords, sometimes you find out that a job description doesn’t actually match the job duties.

    One of the main benefits is that you’re around people who are there for the same purpose. They know you’re building relationships for employment purposes, not for social reasons. They won’t be offended.

  30. FD*

    Hi, OP! You sound really frustrated and overwhelmed right now. That’s very understandable, given the last couple of years and that you’re graduating during a really scary time.

    In my experience, networking is something that isn’t that useful in your early career unless you happen to have the sort of family connections that will make someone take a chance on you sight-unseen. Real networking, in my experience, takes years and it’s more about building a good reputation, being great to work with, and being good at your job. For instance, I just got a job through a recommendation from a person at our local library (not at the library; the person knew someone who was hiring and suggested I apply). We’d gotten to talking in the past, and I did a little volunteer graphic design work for them.

    The thing is, I didn’t think to myself, “Oh, I want to do this so I’ll someday get a job.” I just liked our library and got to talking with one of their employees there. I did the volunteering because I wanted to. In the same way, when I announced I was leaving, even though I’m going to another field, some of my clients and vendors wanted to keep in touch, and when one vendor heard I was going into event planning, he wanted to put me in touch with a family member who may be looking to hire in a few years.

    I think it’s OK to just…not network right now and focus on applying for jobs you want with a fantastic cover letter and resume! Once you actually have a job, focus on being great at that job, and asking good questions. Learn the trick of being really interested in what other people do, even if it’s very different from what you do or are are interested in. Do favors when you can, just because you can.

    1. Nerd Boss*

      I completely agree. Networking wasn’t something that really helped me until I was at least a few years into my career. OP, what exactly do you think you need to network for? Like what do you think you will get out of it that will make or break your career trajectory? Because it’s possible you don’t really need to network at all right now!

  31. Properlike*

    You’re looking at networking all wrong, even in non-Covid area. The very common mistake is to approach it as “what concrete things will I get out of it right now?” rather than “this is a career-long process that is about building relationships and the reciprocity goes both ways.”

    From your letter, I don’t see you as wanting to build relationships unless they are beneficial to you. Everything is a waste of time unless you can see the immediate payoff. I’m going to chalk this up to pandemic stress, grad school, and possible introversion and social anxiety. You’re going to have to drop that attitude first. You’re not going to be able to fake your way through it. People will pick up on it and not want to have that relationship. “What can you do for me?” is NEVER a part of good networking.

    Good news! With a little practice and the right mindset, this seemingly overwhelming process is very doable.
    – You’re building relationships. It doesn’t matter whether this person is useful to you at this moment.
    – Those other interns may not have power right now, but they will have power/connections/needs later. When you’re coming up in the same industry, that’s going to be critical at multiple stages. If their boss needs to hire someone next year or in five years, you want them to say “oh, I know this person I interned with…” (And you will do the same.) When I was an assistant, I routinely called up assistants and asked them to lunch/coffee and it was given that we were all assistants looking to move up, but it was also seeing who we liked and who would be good to work with.
    – BE THE HELPER. The more you try to do for other people (without being creepy about it) that shows you’ve paid attention to a person’s likes, dislikes, and needs — that you know them as a *person* rather than an opportunity — then the more likely they will feel compelled to return the favor later on. It is not a zero-sum game. You will be rewarded in real life AND in karma.
    – Networking is getting to know people. That’s it. When I go to networking events, I have a goal of meeting two new people, finding out about their work, their pets, and what they like to do in their free time. I don’t ever expect to discuss opportunities or jobs unless that’s the point of the event. The more interest you show in others, without expectation of payoff, the more “attractive” you are to them.
    – Join professional organizations, and volunteer to do something useful there. Let people get to know you and see that you’re competent and add value.
    – You never know who knows someone. My dentist happens to be friends with someone who worked with my brother ten years ago in a different state. When your dentist hears you talk about looking for a job in X field, they may know someone in X field and offer to connect you.
    – But only if they know you’re going to be gracious and use it for a personal, pay-it-forward connection.
    – I willingly field these types of calls all the time, because people did it for me when I was coming up. I don’t mind, especially if someone I know connects us and the person is respectful of my time and reasonable about their expectations. It’s in my interest to help the really strong and capable people rise up.

    Hope that helps! Good luck!

  32. Keener*

    It sounds like you’re seeking to develop some more on-going relationships rather than typical meeting someone once at an event. Volunteering with a relevant professional organization/committee can be a great way to do this. Many roles don’t need someone who is an expert in the field. Roles such as taking meeting minutes, or arranging venues for speakers/being the zoom master are all great ways to get exposure to others in your field in a genuine, re-occuring way. If you do what you commit to doing on-time, you’ll be noticed.

  33. Jawn*

    I’m a little surprised OP seems to have forgotten about networking with their classmates! I just finished grad school and, while it will take a little while for my classmates and I to get to places where we have the leverage to help one another professionally, I feel really secure in that professional network. It might be a little late for OP to build meaningful relationships with their classmates, depending on how close they are to graduation, but it’s still worth trying! I get extremely intimidated by trying to network with people who are further along in their careers than me because it feels like I’m coming across as entitled, but being friendly and kind to my classmates comes quite naturally to me. Because your classmates are in the same program as you, they are very likely trying to enter the same or similar fields. You can get practice by networking with them and hopefully they will remember you down the line as someone who was nice to them or did good work on that group project.

    1. bee*

      I was surprised about this too! OP, you have a whole cohort of people who are going to be professionals in your field, and if it’s a niche area you’re almost certain to encounter at least one of them somewhere in the future. Just being nice, smart, and good to work with can pay dividends down the road (plus it’s part of being a good person).

      Relatedly, your professors are almost certainly also a good resource! Depending on the field, it’s likely that they have significant professional experience and contacts, and are happy to share their thoughts about career paths, pitfalls, and even companies jobs that are suited for new grads.

    2. not a doctor*

      Absolutely. I got my last job (which was a mess, but got me to my current job, which I love) because a former classmate was leaving her role and, because it was a relatively senior position at a tiny startup (see again: mess), was able to essentially offer it to me herself. We weren’t even particularly close! She thought of me because the position benefitted from a particular and unusual combination of skills/interests that she remembered I had.

      And I paid it forward by contracting a coworker from the crappy part-time “pay the bills” job I’d been at before that, because we needed some voice work done, and I remembered she was building up a voiceover reel and had a lovely singing voice.

      Don’t step on the little people on your way out, OP. They’ll remember you better than you think!

  34. Lady_Lessa*

    Not knowing your field, may I suggest going to trade shows. Frequently, the vendor portion is free (vs the talks), and walking around, getting a feel for what is out there, instruments and materials, etc. If you choose a slow time, you might find that the salespeople will talk your ear off, and provide some leads.

    Another thing, don’t put your local career services down. I found them, at my local community college, to be extremely helpful and I was at the other end of my career i.e trying to find another job at 60+.

  35. another Hero*

    I’m an early-career professional and have inadvertently built a pretty decent network via a small professional organization. I joined because its focus is an area of interest for me, of course, not just to know people, but it’s led to fruitful relationships with colleagues outside my organization and opportunities to work on things I wouldn’t have sought out on my own. Some of the members are students. Can you find people in your field – not necessarily local – who are gathering to work on issues in the field that interest you? I learned about this one from twitter, and it’s worth mentioning just like facebook or discord groups (fb ones you can probably search for) as a thing with a low barrier to entry where you might be able to interact with a few people and hear about opportunities. Either way, my suggestion is to join a couple things. And even if you start with big facebook groups, that might help you hear about more targeted stuff going forward – but there’s no reason not to google, like, “(political affiliation) nurse organization” or “(specialty area) social worker groups” or something like that.

  36. BlueBelle*

    I have found that networking is easier in the Covid times! I can join a free webinar or lunch and learn I find on LinkedIn and then people chat together in the chatbox for the topic and we end up connecting on LinkedIn. I also attended a virtual conference for a week and from that connected with a bunch of people. With those people I have set up an every other month Zoom call where one of us presents on a topic of interest for 30 minutes, we have Q&A and discussions, and then we often sit back and just talk.

  37. MsMarketer*

    Eh… I’m not in sales which is where I think ‘networking’ does have an instant benefit but I do try and do these things with a positive attitude. First the idea is that networking will find you a job… if all you’re doing is meeting people once for 5 minutes of course that won’t work. But ‘networking’ for me is keeping in touch with former colleagues, either through linkedin every so often, or going for coffee or lunch with the ones I know best. Interviewing with companies even if I’m not ‘actively’ job hunting is also effective (don’t time waste but if you’d be open to the job) if they’re left with a positive impression of you, great. This has 100% helped me get jobs and interviews in the past. When you DO go to those networking events aim to get different things out of it. How does that senior woman carry herself? What job does that person do that you never thought of before? What experience does this person have that you could replicate? Learning in those areas will help you in future. As with anything in life, it takes time.

  38. LK*

    I know you said you aren’t a fan on virtual events – but do a little research and see if there is a professional conference in your industry. A bunch of folks have said this – but my twist is offer to volunteer. If you like social media – perhaps you could join a communications team and help them get the word out on social media. That’s how I’ve made my best connections – by volunteering!

    1. Anon for now*

      The one word of caution I’d place here, is that some professional associations have paid staff to manage the organization and its associated programs and events. So I’d be sure to take a look to see what sorts of employees (if any) the organization has so that you can customize your volunteer offer.

    2. devtoo*

      yes, agree that volunteering can be a great way to get involved with a professional organization/industry meetup. When I was just getting started in my field (tech) I signed up to be part of an organizing team for a volunteer-run conference for women and gender minorities in tech. It was a lot of work, but it helped me create real connections with people without so much of the awkwardness of standing around with a nametag at a meetup. I ended up later finding a job through a connection from the conference, as did multiple people who even just signed up to be day-of volunteers directing traffic, running the registration table, etc. At least in my area, meetups of this kind are currently running virtually and always looking for volunteers

  39. Anon for now*

    How involved are you with your professions professional society/organization? To me that is the best place to network, especially as many of those organizations are set-up with student and nw professional groups to facilitate networking. I’d start by joining perhaps the local chapter of that type of organization, and then volunteer for projects as they come along. If you can get more involved at the National level that would also likely provide some great opportunities.

  40. Former call centre worker*

    I have never “networked” in my life and I have a job that I’m happy with that pays my bills. I got it by seeing an advert and applying for it, not through having contacts or getting someone to put a word in. I know there are some fields where you really do need to network, and my advice is, if you really hate networking, don’t choose those careers, in the same way that if you hate kids you shouldn’t be a teacher, if you hate animals don’t be a vet, etc. But are you sure your field is one of those? Can you not just look for relevant vacancies and apply?

    1. Loulou*

      Same here. I haven’t ever really “networked,” though I’m a pretty friendly person so I do have a fairly large “network,” meaning classmates and former colleagues I’m in touch with.

      Despite my field being one where we’re told that we need to network, most people I know just saw their jobs on a job board and applied. The “networks,” such as they were, came in handy later — eg a current coworker knew someone high up at ProspectiveJob and put in a good word (and who knows what impact that had). Or, on the flip side, a contact would warn me against a job that seemed fine on the outside, because she knew the person who was leaving it. As we all move up in our careers, those networks may become more important, but for now, I’m not spending too much time worrying about it and instead am concerned with doing good work and developing a good reputation.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think this is too narrow a definition of what “networking” means. I mean, to me, “developing a good reputation” is part of networking– how is anyone hearing about that reputation except through your networks? You might not see it as networking because you’re not actively promoting yourself, but that is networking. Similarly, it’s not just about “getting a job through networks”. All of my jobs have come through seeing a job advertised and applying for it, but my networks have helped with things like understanding the field and the bigger picture, being able to talk about good practice, knowing where the jobs are advertised, knowing what jobs to apply for at what stage, and so on. Networking is about a lot more than just someone offering you an unadvertised job!

        1. Loulou*

          I see what you mean. I was referring to developing a good reputation *within my organization* but you’re right that if I had meant in the broader profession, that would be networking.

    2. Former networker*

      I’ve never gotten a job as an adult from seeing an advertisement and applying. I’ve held four jobs in my career, and got all of them through connections.

  41. JLZ VRN*

    As someone with social anxiety, I’ve found Twitter to actually be a very powerful networking tool in my field (transportation). This isn’t always the case for every field, but if you’re not already active on Twitter, I’d highly suggest making an account and following people who work in your field, which includes but isn’t limited to – fellow grad students + peers, major employers in your area, high-profile people who work for said major employers, networking groups and job boards, community orgs/nonprofits/publications related to your field, and so on. It’s a great way to meet people, keep up with news in your field, and learn about events or job opportunities in your area.

    A huge amount of discussion happens on Twitter, and I’ve found it much easier to form organic relationships through there than via a platform like LinkedIn or through traditional “networking” events, in large part because the conversations are less forced and stilted. After 5-6 years of being active on Twitter, I’ve made a ton of friends + professional connections, and landed my current job through a Twitter connection. I even met my boyfriend through Twitter, and we’ve been dating for over two and a half years now! Twitter can be a bit exhausting and overwhelming as a platform, but on the whole – if you put in some elbow grease and people in your field are active there, you can make it an immensely valuable resource.

  42. Annony*

    I think you can make the informational interviews more useful to you. It is a chance to say “I would love to eventually do what you are doing. Here is my background. What would you suggest as next steps?” You just have to be open to advice that you may not like such as doing another internship in the niche area, volunteering, taking an additional class ect. It may not lead to a networking connection but it could help you break into the field.

  43. sara*

    I think a lot of this is really specific to what kind of field you’re in. But I will say, there’s starting to be some hybrid events that seem maybe promising. For example, medium-sized conference called CascadiaJS is having local events in Vancouver, Seattle & Portland where you can watch the live stream with people, go to the after party, and generally “network”. Or you can watch fully online if that’s what you’re more comfortable with. Fully online networking is hard (or maybe impossible depending on how the event is structured). But this hybrid approach might be a good solution if you can find something similar in your field. You’re all in a room for a purpose, conversations will more naturally happen about work/industry stuff, and maybe you’ll meet some people to add to your network. Or just make work-adjacent acquaintances (which is basically an easier way to think about networking).

  44. WomEngineer*

    On LinkedIn, you can find people in your field for informational interviews. If there were older peers (<10 years ahead of you) at your internships, you could reach out to them. Otherwise, type in your target job title (i.e. “Teapot Specialist”) and search by People. If you want, you can filter by alma mater or current/former companies.

    UC Berkeley’s career center website has some great tips for how to reach out and examples of good questions to ask. I’d also ask how they got to their position, and if there are any professional organizations you should join or any other colleagues they could connect you with.

    If you’re open to more informal networking, Clubhouse is a drop-in voice chat app. You can join the conversation or just listen. They have various “clubs” that host “rooms” that range from informational to entertaining. For example, “Small Steps and Giant Leaps” talks about facets of space exploration. “Build Volume” talks about weekly 3D printing news and general “how’s it going” chats.

    Most of my networking during COVID has been through professional orgs (virtual events) and Clubhouse (which I found through professional orgs).

  45. Evonon*

    LW, if you are resistant to the traditional (proven to work) suggestions of how to network, then I would suggest changing your attitude on networking. You frame your supervisor as the only person at your internship as offering a “real” opportunity. You think informational interviews are a waste of time because you’re “milking information”. You don’t want to do any virtual networking because you don’t want to waste your time.

    The common theme in this is you only measure these experiences by how they benefit you right now. Relationships take time and are a two way street. You can only build these connections by meeting with people. When I go on informational interviews for my grad program, I’m also offering my point of view as a student and I’ve had great chats about the dissonance between what’s taught and what’s practiced in the field.
    The people I interned with don’t work in my same field but provide valuable insight into a different space that may overlap with mine and vice versa.

    So if you won’t network virtually, do info interviews, or chat with people at your university, I would suggest you try to change your attitude.

  46. AH*

    networking is a very vague term. lots of people think they should do it, but what do they mean?

    would it help to focus on what you want to get out of networking? Do you want to learn about a particular area? if so, go for those information interviews which could be the start of something else. Do you want to just know the names & the terminology? go for those online events even if you just sit silently & take notes.

    I reckon 90% of networking is a waste of time, but you have to go to some of the silly / dull / annoying events to find the 10% which is gold. You seem to be asking how to find the gold easily, but no one can do that.

  47. deesse877*

    I’m an academic, so not exactly the same, but what is similar is the sense of all options being closed that I had early in my career.

    Storytime: My advisor, a mild-mannered specialist in ancient texts by day, turns into a socializing superhero by night, and he genuinely didn’t get why it was hard for me. One day I just point-blank asked him “but why bother people? I have nothing to offer them” and he was GENUINELY SHOCKED. “You are a young scholar!” he said, and expatiated for some time on how people want to help and are obligated to help, and also need networks of junior colleagues themselves.

    That had literally never occurred to me.

    [Therapy for family-of-origin issues was my ultimate answer, but] remember that a power imbalance doesn’t make you valueless to the powerful. You are in their network once they are in yours. Thereciprocity is asymmetrical, but real.

  48. Xenia*

    I mentioned this up thread, but you’re in grad school, yes? Take advantage of your university. Reconnect with some favoured professors. Reach out to fellow classmates, especially if any of them are about to graduate—“let me buy you a coffee to celebrate your success” will absolutely net you some chats.

    I have met people connected with my undergrad in the weirdest places, including but not limited to a dude ranch in the absolute middle of nowhere with only one other group of guests in residence. School is a built-in framework for a network.

  49. HigherEdAdminista*

    The first thing you have to do is to change your way of thinking a bit. You sound very negative, which… I’m not saying that we have to be all rah-rah positive thinking all the time (Steve Rodgers knows, I’m not!), but if you go into everything assuming that no one can or wants to help you that is going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As an anxious person (and forgive me if I am incorrect, but you also sound anxious), I find I slip into this way of thinking because I want to protect myself from disappointment and the anxiety of having to make an effort. If I assume everything will be a failure or that I will get disappointed or hurt, then the only sensible thing is not to try!

    You’re right that it is very possible the career center won’t be a revelation, but it is also possible that there are a couple of good eggs there who might be able to help you. If the career center is like ours, they might also have access to an alumni network and set up mentorship programs and meetings. Perhaps you don’t need to a full on mentor if such a program exists, but it seems unlikely that they wouldn’t have connections to people in your general area of study, even if it isn’t your exact niche. I would reach out to them and see what they have to offer. Attend an event there, even if it feels pointless. Does your school have an alumni office? They could be a good source of help too. Do you talk to the faculty and staff in the program, and if not, can you? Maybe it feels very mercenary, but don’t do it expecting them to connect you to an amazing opportunity after the first meeting. Do it thinking that you will get to know a person a bit more and let them get to know you. Since you are doing internship, the same thing applies there. Don’t just talk to the people in your area or your fellow interns. Get to know others in the organization even if you can’t see an immediate benefit to doing so.

    If you feel awkward asking people for favors, one way to reduce this is to put yourself out there to do things first. I know you said you don’t have much time, but you don’t really need a ton of time for this. Are there committees you could volunteer for? Is there a project that interests you that you might be able to talk to faculty about? Can you write about articles or studies related to your field of study? It doesn’t have to be much, but what if you become known as a person who posts interesting things on your social networks of choice 2-3 times a week with a little commentary. Make your posts sharable, so that others can interact with them.

    Do these things with the idea that a lot of them will not lead directly to an opportunity. If you are ambitious and goal-oriented (which most people who make it through graduate school are), it can seem pointless to do something without a goal in sight, but life is rarely a point A to point B situation.

    When I was younger, I was very down about my relationship status and my best friend said to me that I needed to put myself out there and do things; she said I had to be in the world. As someone who was shy and anxious, this was very intimidating. One night, I got all dressed up and went to a coffee shop by myself. I sat there with my headphones off, reading a book, but occasionally pausing to just sip my drink and quietly look around, and when nothing happened I thought… clearly this doesn’t work. I went out into the world once and my whole life didn’t change, so obviously there was no reason to keep trying because I didn’t manifest a secure relationship from one, low-effort attempt.

    To this day, I’m still trying to learn these lessons. That I should engage with people with hopes, but not with expectations. That everything doesn’t have to be part of The Plan. That sometimes things are beneficial, even if they don’t take me directly to where I want to go. Perhaps that staff member you talk to can’t help you in getting a job, but perhaps they are good friends with a staff member in another department whose partner actually works in the same field you are interested in. Perhaps you will post things on social media for a month and nothing will happen with them, but quietly a classmate is reading them and is going to strike up a conversation with you that leads to something after the 25th post.

    I understand that COVID and many people’s response to it has made the world seem even more intimidating. I’m not suggesting you run and attend a maskless conference in a location that has a ton of spread. But find the places where you can do things and do them, even if it feels awkward or you don’t see an immediate benefit. Being engaged with people, with life, and with our work is the best way to make yourself known to others and open to opportunities.

  50. Eeyore is my spirit animal*

    I have no idea how it works in the days of Zoom, but when I was starting networking a lot of it was repetition. The first conversation might be general small talk (name, company, school, job descriptions, favorite movies), then each additional conversation becomes more in depth, more expansive and the relationship becomes more organic.
    I followed up informational interviews with an email congratulating them on an award, a publication, questions about a presentation they did at a conference. As I have gotten further in my career, I have had several people reach out to tell me what they did with the information they go in the interview. One explained how he took some of the things we talked about and used it as part of the proposal for a small project at the company he was interning with. Another followed up with how our conversation helped them develop their approach to a class project. Another picked up a class he would not have otherwise taken.

  51. Meep*

    My cousin found his first job after undergrad because my grandmother set up an interview with her friend’s husband. The point is, you probably have a network already that you are not even considering.

    1. Meep*

      Also as another anecdotal story – I got into grad school for Engineering Management through a recommendation from my former boss at a science center. She has an MS in Visual Arts. It really comes down to making real, meaningful connections in life.

  52. Richard Hershberger*

    This is not unlike an author pitching a book. Interacting with people solely to “network” is like the author who accosts random strangers on elevators to tell about his book. I hate those guys. My online approach is to hang out in online circles that interest me anyway, and to try to post interesting stuff. In baseball circles this will be baseball history, but in other contexts it usually will not. These posts (this one notwithstanding) almost never include an “oh, by the way, let me tell you about my book…” But neither do I hide my light under a bushel. So when it comes up naturally (Strike Four: The Evolution of Baseball, available at your favorite online bookseller!), some portion will think of me as someone who has interesting stuff to say, and some portion of that will be interested in the subject, and some portion of that will be willing to pay the (frankly a bit high) price for it. Ka-ching! Job networking is really no different.

  53. Mx. Chuck*

    I think the LW is looking at this stuff a little too transactionally — yes, Capital N Networking can feel a little awkward, but in lots of fields (law, for example) it’s expected, and ultimately, folks who might be up for connecting with you are doing so because they may benefit from your being well positioned somewhere else in the future.

    Which brings me to my main point: Show the people you’re networking with (or want to network with, or even the public at large) that *you* are a valuable resource, an up-and-coming expert, and a big thinker! Make the thing you’re in school for a big part of what you post on your own social media. Write a blog. Submit LTE’s and op-eds on your subject matter (student publications are great for this if you’ve never done it before). Organize presentations with other people at your same level where you can practice talking about your work and establishing yourselves as burgeoning issue area go-to’s on whatever it is you do. Make sure you’re doing the most modern/contemporary iteration of what’s happening in your field – i.e., if your field is known for being pale and male, can you make sure you’re bringing an eye for diversity and new-thinking, prioritizing new interventions/innovations in the work, etc.?

    You can be new to your field *and* be a leader in your peer group. Which might not totally make that icky feeling of “this is a one-way transaction, I’m just a student” go away, but it will help!

  54. Sans Serif*

    I hate networking, too. But then I realized that part of networking isn’t just the obvious industry events and get togethers. It’s just getting the word out in general what you’re looking for, among your friends and family. It’s amazing the connections that show up that you had no idea existed. I got one job because I mentioned to a good friend of mine that I was looking for a job. I’m a copywriter and she’s in actuarial. I was just talking to her as a friend, it never occurred to me that she could have any connections. Well about a month later she ended up talking to a friend in Marketing whose company was looking for a writer. I ended up getting the job. Another story – my daughter just graduated college this summer. She went with us to a family birthday party and ended up talking to a good friend of her cousin’s. Turns out he was looking to hire people with her exact major. She started working there in August. You just never know.

  55. Ellen*

    Informational interviews are not a waste of time! I’m fairly senior in my field and do a lot of informational interviews (people who reach out to me on social media/LinkedIn, people who are referred by my HR department…) and have referred more than one of them to entry-level jobs. (Sometimes they get them, sometimes they don’t.) I’ve also connected them with other people in the industry, depending on their interests… and how well they come across in our interviews.

    Some important things to remember, maybe:
    1) Networking does not have to be schmoozy or slimy; you won’t be close friends with all of the people you network with, but neither will you be close friends with all of the people you work with. It’s a business relationship that serves both people in different ways, and it can be authentic without being deep and close.
    2) There are (at least) two kinds of networking: one is connecting with more senior people in your industry who can be mentors and referrals, and the other is peer networking. BOTH are extremely useful, but you go about them in different ways. You’ll meet more senior people/mentors through things like informational interviews and working for them. You’ll meet peer connections at events, from being in the trenches together in internships and jobs, etc. Right now, those senior/mentor relationships will probably be more valuable to you, but peer relationships can pay off down the road, too, and often happen more organically.

    I would also suggest not dismissing your current supervisor’s usefulness in connecting you with others. You think you know what niche part of the industry you want to work in now, but you may change your mind! And even if you don’t, you never know when knowing someone might come in handy. (Maybe you’re a creative and they work in finance, but they’ll end up working for a company where you want to get a job and can refer you despite being in a different specialty. Or maybe their aunt/boyfriend/college roommate/podcast co-host works in your niche and you’ll get to know them.)

    I suggest always going into new relationships (and events, etc.) with an open mind, but never EXPECTING something specific to come out of meeting someone. Get to know people, talk about work with people, be friendly, and you’ll make natural connections that will eventually pay off.

  56. Yes Social Media*

    I advocated for social media connections above, but one other comment here –– as a fellow awkward person, I want to push back a little on the idea that networking events aren’t worthwhile b/c all the relationships are fake and contrived. What makes these relationships more fake and contrived than any other kind of professional relationship, e.g. an informational interview where you might “contrive” to meet up with a friend of a friend? Or even friendships, where people might “contrive” to make friends by attending classes (yoga, art, gardening, etc) they’re interested in, rather than waiting for some kind of a special spark?

    I guess my point is that all relationships, professional or personal, have to start somehow, and just because a relationship starts at a networking event doesn’t inherently make it lower quality than other kinds of relationships. Sure, people can be a little awkward and weird at these kind of events; but get a drink in your hand (water is fine, you don’t even have to drink it, it’s just a prop), smile, and circulate the room bit. Find a fellow student to go with you, as a wing-person. I think if you go in expecting to boom! get a job out of this one-time contact, that’s probably not going to happen; but you’re making an initial connection which could flourish a bit more down the line, as you (re)meet these people during another job or conference, etc.

  57. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Well, you’ve already started a network, by engaging in contacts with your fellow interns who may have moved on.
    There’s one starting point.

    You don’t say what you’re doing work-wise, specifically – but – in your internship, do you deal with customers/clients? AH! Remain business-like, but keep a notebook of contacts. It might be useful if you find yourself “in the street”.

    Are there any professional associations in your field of endeavor? Join them… many offer student rates. And, one you are able to CONTRIBUTE to them through your efforts – delivering a seminar on a topic, for example – that might be interesting – gets your name and persona and knowledge base out there.

    Finally – you may have to organize your time in a way that you don’t want to. You say you’re busy teaching fitness classes. When you hit the working world, sometimes you have to give up things like that. Family obligations? You may have to juggle your schedule to accomodate your career goals. A work-life balance is important, to be sure, but *sometimes* in the “real world” you have to make choices that sacrifice the “outside life” for work.

  58. LilyP*

    What is your actual goal that’s making this so urgent? Are you looking at networking as the thing that’s going to get you a job in an impossibly competitive market, or are you in academia where you’re expected to find collaborators/projects from your network, or do you just have the general sense that you need to “have a network” in order to have succeeded at grad school/life/being an adult?

    I think that building up a significant network of genuine connections is something that really takes years and years of slow progress and maintenance to do — you can’t get one overnight by going to the right event or having the right tagline. And using hello-stranger networking for job leads is often only effective if you’re already a really strong candidate for the role (i.e. someone they’d be headhunting already, i.e. *you’re* doing the manager a favor by applying).

    Maybe if we knew better what you were trying to accomplish we’d be able to give better advice? And it’s possible that networking isn’t actually the best tool at all.

    1. LilyP*

      It also seems like you might be transitioning from academia to industry, assuming for a second that “grad school” means PhD, and I think “networking” is different between those two. In academia, from my observations, networking with people doing similar research and your professional reputation in your sub-field is pretty important to your day-to-day success — you need people outside your institution to collaborate with, bounce ideas off, coauthor papers, get peer reviews from, etc (and that’s one reason conferences are so big, and really the ideal networking tool in that context). Whereas in many industries having a strong network is great for *finding* a job, but not super important to your day-to-day success at a specific company, where you just need to get along with your co-workers.

  59. jules*

    A couple suggestions (from a fellow Canadian, eh):

    1. Check if there’s a Slack team for the field you want to go into. For example, tech writers have Write the Docs, which is a great way to casually join conversations and make connections with other writers, without it feeling slimy/transactional.

    2. Even if they’re not going into your field, people from your school can still be valuable in your network. I was recently looking to hire for an entry-level position and one of our former (superstar) interns from a different department recommended someone she knew from school. Although they weren’t in the same field, what I knew of the intern’s work ethic made me confident that anyone she was recommending was definitely worth talking to. And as it turns out, the person she recommended was exactly who we were looking for! Your current supervisor, your classmates, and your profs might have random connections in your field, just like this intern did.

  60. Nona*

    So, this is likely a very industry specific thing ( I work in a very niche area of science research): I felt like you did about networking at the same career stage. I’m a little shy, and not particularly charismatic, and just didn’t see any value in having a couple of awkward conversations with someone senior in my field, but thought that perhaps I was just doing it wrong. Fast-forward to today, I’m now established, and grad students occasionally try to network at me, and it feels just as pointless. Grad students get hired on the strength of their work (papers, presentations at conferences), not chit-chat. By all means if you have something very specific you want to talk to someone about, go for it. Two examples from my first job out of grad school: I had sent a cold email to my eventual boss – leaning on his having worked with my grad adviser – and never got a response. A few months later, he advertised a job, which I applied for. I didn’t get that job, but he created a second one for me based on that application. The woman I shared my office with got her position after emailing him because she didn’t understand something in one his papers / thought he’d made a mistake, and that email turned into a long discussion / collaboration on her grad work.

    Also, don’t discount your fellow interns! Easily the most value I’ve gotten from networking has been from people at a similar career stage – we both have things in common making conversation more natural, and often there’s someone out there who has recently done something your doing, and can offer useful advice. This is especially the case for me as I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry, and I don’t think I’d have stuck it out without a group of womanto lean on / commiserate with.

  61. The Smiling Pug*

    I’m going to second everyone that recommended using social media. It’s a powerful tool that can do some pretty amazing things and connect you with people that you didn’t even know existed, let alone have connections.

  62. Scout Finch*

    Doing night school with full time day job (and sometimes part time jobs as well, depending on finances), I finally graduated college at 36. I would be MORTIFIED if I had to go into a room of strangers in the name of networking – especially being older than the traditional student.

    My entire department was outsourced from HugeMultiNationalPaper Company when I was 43. I was scared. The weekend after my last day, I got a call from a lady. She was moving & needed help trapping (and relocating them to her new house) her outside feral cats. I had helped her fix them years earlier. Told her “I have plenty of time – just got laid off!”. After inquiring on what I was looking for, she says “I think my work had a job posted that mentioned words like what you said” . :-) She was in Finance, I am in IT.

    I looked on the website – found the job & applied. Got the cats moved safely. Got called for an interview & got the job. The lady had no influence on the hiring. All she did was tell me that she thought there was a job like that at her workplace. I asked no favors of her. I was a good fit & had the skills they were looking for. I just didn’t know about the job posting until she told me – in a conversation about cat trapping.

    Turns out I was networking & didn’t know it!

    1. Scout Finch*

      So what I am trying to say is talk to ALL people without the burden of expectations. People WANT to help.

  63. Teapot Repair Technician*

    If the idea is to go to a networking event and come away with contacts who immediately start helping you, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.

    The number of people from my network who have directly helped me get a job or promotion can be counted on one hand. On the other hand (so to speak), the number of people who I’ve met and gotten to know to one degree or another would be counted in the thousands.

    My approach has been to try to be generally outgoing and communicative (despite being an introvert), in a non-goal-oriented way. Focus on enjoying the process rather than waiting for a result.

  64. anone*

    I did informational interviews (giving) all the time before the pandemic and I still do them now! A zoom meeting can still be personable and relationship-building as a coffee shop meeting. I really enjoy meeting new people in the field and helping them connect to resources and opportunities. People often find me via social media as well. I was trying to think of pandemic-specific advice for this but…. honestly all the same principles apply as in-person informational interviewing!

  65. Sami*

    As Alison frequently notes here, it’s the right thing to do, not to mention smart and beneficial: be warm, friendly, and open. You’re not looking for a BFF or an immediate job offer.
    Building relationships is hard- physically (even in these zoom times), but mentally and emotionally too.
    One important key to making a strong connection is to have a few conversation starters about your school and program. And have a few convo starters on things non-academic. Also, importantly, have lots of questions on your repertoire that partially academic and part social/life. Hopefully you’ll be able to use both with someone and you’ll stand out as a friendly and knowledgeable person.
    Be sure to exchange info. Follow up with an interesting article on something you talked about. Asking a question may get you a reply. Repetition is important! When you see someone you’ve already talked to previously, make the effort to talk again.
    Good luck!

  66. Maker of Big Things*

    I want to suggest first that you take a breath, OP. You’re just starting out and the world is pretty hard out there. What I’m hearing is not negativity but a desire to form real connections rather than contrived ones for the sake of using the person to get a leg up later. Remember, networking is a long game. Sometimes the payoff doesn’t happen for years.

    If you land an entry level job in your chosen field, you’ll be networking whether you like it or not. Your new workplace will likely be a smorgasbord of vendors, people who know people, and people passing through. If you establish yourself as a hard worker and nice person to work with, you’ll make good connections! Sometimes, years later you’ll get a call from someone who remembered you and thinks a job will be perfect for you.

    School is networking. Those other students and former professors may get a job lead later down the road and think of you. Believe me, if you have a bad reputation as someone who isn’t nice to work with, they’ll remember that too! My current job was found through a former visiting professor and I’ve actively reached out to old school friends and professors when I need to hire to see if they know anyone who would be a good fit.

    I definitely recommend joining a professional organization for your field if there is one. Since you’re in school now, it’s the perfect time too! Some organizations give discounts to students.

    It all sounds slow and circumstantial, I get it; but part of starting a new career is working hard for those first years as you slowly build a network of people and start to establish a reputation in the field. There isn’t a shortcut for the hard work part unfortunately. I get your aversion to networking events and to calling people out of the blue. You’re not wrong that those things don’t work for some people. BUT, networking doesn’t have to be fake as it happens organically in our every day work and life.

    Best of luck, OP. You’re getting a good education and starting to ask questions about what works for you and that’s the first step.

  67. K.K.*

    I would highly recommend attending an event, like a conference or workshop or speakers’ day, with as many people from your niche in attendance as possible. In-person or online. Either can be hit or miss in format. If you can talk to peers or supervisors or professors to figure out which have the better formats, focus on one or two of those. In grad school you definitely want to focus on your field of interest, not generic offerings by your school’s career office, and often not even your department (though the latter may vary).

    Then at the event find people who do things that you find exciting, and tell them that. Send a message or go up to them, or send an email that evening, and say something like, “I saw your comment on teapot handle construction, I just finished a course on teapot structural design and it was really interesting to see how you do it in practice! Have you had similar success with teapot lids?” and then take the conversation wherever it goes.

    My field has a couple virtual conferences that have really done this right, complete with networking hours where you are assigned to a random room for 10-15 minutes. Many people already know each other and spend the time learning what the other has been working on since the last conference. New faces are welcomed and people graduating soon/looking for jobs are noted. I’m going to guess many fields have some places that are actually doing it right, or as close to right as can be under the circumstances.

  68. DrSalty*

    Informational interviews can/should be about meeting people in your field and making connections, not just milking people for information.

  69. Me*

    Linkedin can be beneficial for this. Not to link with random people you don’t know though.

    There’s lots of industry groups and organizations on there. Join the ones that are applicable to you. They will post seminars and events you can attend virtually or safely in person to interact with others in your industry.

  70. AvonLady Barksdale*

    An informational interview is not what you seem to think it is. Yes, it’s about “information,” but it’s information about a person and an opportunity to ask questions. Last week, a junior at my university looked me up on LinkedIn and asked for 15 minutes of my time. We set up a Zoom call and just chatted– he asked me great questions, he wanted to learn about me and my work, and it was a really nice conversation. Will he get a job out of it? Maybe not, but now he “knows” me and I’m in his network. That IS building a relationship and it’s really not a waste of time.

  71. BananaNanna*

    As an extreme introvert, the pandemic has been a living dream, insofar as not having to talk to people. What I do to keep me connected to those outside my team and company is to attend live webinars on topics I’m interested in. You can be vocal, reach out to people, sometimes there are breakout rooms. Most extroverted types are talky talky. Whereas folks like me have sidebar conversations or speak when relevant. I’ve made a few connects across the profession which have been very helpful.

  72. Storm in a teacup*

    So I have a decent professional network, a number of whom I initially connected with when I was very junior or when they were. Someone more junior often means they’ll have more recent insights into newer ideas / ways of working / recent professional training etc so don’t discount what you bring to the table.
    Think of moving away from network – it’s connection.
    Also your supervisor may well have a network which they may leverage for you so don’t discount that.
    Finally I’m a professional and our national association offers professional update meetings which are great for meeting others in the field. They also run a formal mentoring program. I’ve mentored a fair few people through it and have subsequently suggested 1-2 for jobs when I’ve heard about them in my network.

  73. RagingADHD*

    I’m not familiar with your field, but are these “networking events” literally just a bunch of people standing around chatting? Most industry events I’m familiar with have some kind of content: an educational program, panel discussion, volunteer activity, breakout groups, etc. Something to *do*.

    So go and do the thing. Reach out to the organizer and ask if they need people to set up chairs, pass out nametags, or introduce a speaker. If you’re in a Q&A session, ask questions.

    If you’re interested in the industry, then there’s someone out there doing stuff that you think is really cool, right? Make it your mission, not to collect contacts or sell yourself, but to find out who is doing cool stuff. Then you have things to talk about with them, because you want to talk about the cool stuff.

    Put your learning hat on and go find things out. The two most appealing things you can do in conversation are ask people about the things they are into, and ask their advice. The next most valuable thing is when you have the skills they need and can offer help with something they actually need done. And you find out what you can help with by listening to what they said.

  74. PDXPoster*

    See if your field has a membership association that offers meet ups or training events. I am a professional development chair of a membership org and all of our trainings and networking events went virtual in the Spring of 2020. Still great connections occurred! Also joining a local toastmasters or other is a great way to network with people outside of your field.

  75. Teatime*

    I am a hardcore introvert and can think of no greater hell than introducing myself to a stranger. However, I have, when I sit down and think about it, a rather large network! The two ingredients to my large network are: Not being a jerk and time.

    My network includes:
    * people I went to school with, some now have incredible jobs in my field (be nice to everyone, you never know who is going to ‘make it’). Others have moved into other industries, but how to make the transition into another industry can be a VERY valuable piece of information if you need it.
    * instructors at my school, some are still there, but can leverage their own incredible networks. Others have moved on and are working in my industry in high level roles.
    * people I have worked with, either still at the company or who have moved on.
    * vendors and other folks I need to e-mail as part of my job. (After a few years of e-mailing back and forth and being friendly I think they’d be receptive if I ever asked them for help or information– like if I was looking to transition to their employer, for instance)
    * my pre-existing social connections. My D&D group includes a handful of engineers, a lawyer, a physicist, a VFX artist and a guy who can get great steaks wholesale. I’m in arts. But through my friends I am now networked to many industries (who might sometimes be hiring an arts major!) and with advice on living in/working in multiple countries.

    It’s very much a two way street! I have passed along job offers, or provided advice, or answered questions about living and working in my home country to all of these people when asked, so I can expect they’ll do the same for me, if I’m in need of that. I’ve also just had friendly chats about favorite TV shows with them.

  76. Two Chairs, One to Go*

    “no one is going to do me any favors because I talked to them once“
    I think this is the wrong approach. If you want to network for what you can get out of it, of course it’s going to be an unpleasant experience.

    Do you like anyone in your field? Instructors, authors, etc? Start by following them and maybe they’ll post about topics/events that you might think are worth your time.

  77. Sharon*

    Networking should really be a two-way street so examine what YOU have to offer others as well as what you can get from them. It’s a little tough when you are just starting out. I suggest volunteering for an industry group. Maybe you could help with webinar registrations or something and thus meet the presenters and learn about new developments in your area.

  78. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I might want to give a second piece of advice… based on the other comments …..

    I stayed in my business for 48 years (IS/IT) because in the last 30, I made contacts through professional associations. At age 70 and finally, happily retired, I *STILL* get calls and e-mails, and LinkedIn messages inviting me to explore certain positions — no thanks, I’m buying a hippie van and my wife and I are going to enjoy life as this pandemic winds down.

    Even my own long-time employer – who likely would have LOVED to have gotten rid of me – was fearful to give me the ax, for a number of reasons but most prominent was, ‘S**T, he’s gonna go work for ‘Our Competitor that we Hate’, and take his knowledge with him!!” These professional associations can help you in five ways that I can think of –

    – you build up a knowledge base through them, by attending their events
    – you build up a network of professional peers, within your specialty’s communities
    – you develop yourself professionally, especially when you’re active in the group
    – your employer *might* take pride and boast of your professional accomplishments (thus protecting your position) and
    – your employer *might* provide you with more job security – after all, they don’t want an industry star to walk out the door and join their competition.

    Furthermore – if something bad should happen to you – you have that network. I am reminded of a story that was in the Boston Globe a year or so ago – two people working in a professional environment – same age (late 20s), same experience, same job – received pink slips on Monday or Tuesday. The guy reached out to his network – signed on with a new job on Thursday, and started work on Monday, not missing a beat. The gal – never had a network. She was leaning on her father to set up her CV and look for jobs through the want ads and job sites.

    So, as I exited the working world, I saw the importance of networking.

  79. Albeira Dawn*

    Do you have adjunct professors who teach in addition to their careers? I got my current job when an adjunct in the department forwarded a posting from his employer. Several of my classmates got internships by taking a class with an adjunct and spending time talking to the professor about their jobs and how to break into the industry.

  80. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, you seem to view this all through the lens of wanting to connect to people with power who will then do you a favor by hiring you. Which you assume doesn’t have that much in it for them. I understand viewing this stuff with a mercenary lens–but that’s coming across as your top note.

    Why would people at these networking events say “OP seems really promising, I should (give them an interview/connect them to llama services)”? Emphasize that. For the informational interviews, treat them as short information dumps where the person can give you useful advice about the field or job or company–you really *don’t* already know everything about these topics. You wouldn’t agree to an informational interview with a stranger if they told you they didn’t care about your answers and just wanted to launch a long ongoing mentoring relationship where you had better hand them a job… right?

    I suspect there might be a problem where your school(?) is putting up “networking events” where everyone has the same background, such as all third year students in the same program, and so meeting other people like yourself isn’t very helpful. Connecting to people is a valuable thing; think about ways you can do it–volunteering, classes, those informational interviews–that don’t focus on people who are very like you. The school connections to people like you pay off in 5 or 10 years, when you are both in more of a position to recommend people.

  81. A Little Bit Alexis*

    I definitely agree with people saying join a professional organization in your area. Also – get really involved if at all possible. I joined a professional organization when I got my first job and less than a year later I was “volunteered” to join the board. I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t know anyone on the board, but it ended up being a great decision. I stayed on the board for four years, learned a lot, and got to know people who work in all of the bigger companies in my city. Just last week, someone who I haven’t talked to in several years reached out to me about a job opening because she remembered me from when we served on the board together. That wasn’t the first time someone contacted me about a job because they knew me through the organization either, it’s happened several times. You never know when someone may think of you in the future!

    Because I saw people regularly and we had a reason to get together, it didn’t feel like networking. I got to know them as people and I made some good friends along with professional connections. I have some social anxiety and making small talk with strangers usually makes my brain short-circuit, so I will never be someone that makes a great impression the first time I meet a person. I do best when I see someone enough to naturally build a relationship with them, so I try to put myself in situations that allow that.

  82. Kevin*

    A grad student from my PhD program (which I graduated 13 years ago and have not maintained ties to) messaged me out of the blue recently asking to get coffee to talk about work in my field/location (policy work in DC, which is not what our PhD program trains people to do). I said yes. I don’t anticipate getting to know her, or benefitting in any way from this connection immediately or in the future, but meeting me may be useful for her at some point. I’m just doing it to be nice and because she asked. TL;DR: you’re going to have to ask strangers for small amounts of help or advice and hope that some of them are nice enough to help you out. People remember what starting from zero was like.

  83. Group Exercise Classes are a Social Network*

    You say you teach group exercise as a side gig. So do I. Have to tried mentioning this to your class, see if any of your members are in the field you’re heading into? You don’t have to be pushy, but just right before class starts or during cool-down you can throw out “and hey if you all didn’t know, in real life I’m wrapping up my Master’s in XXX this April. So I’m looking for opportunities to meet professionals who are actually working professionally in this field. If you or anyone you know fits that bill let me know. I’d really appreciate some real life perspective as I head into that industry.” They are also part of your social network and you already have a relationship with them, so its worth a try. You could find out one of your members works in the field, or maybe get a warm introduction to someone new. And best yet, if this happens, you’ll already have something in common to talk about in order to ease the awkwardness. Good Luck!

  84. Big 4 Denizen*

    Not that you need yet another book to read on top of your course books, but you might find commiseration in Sean Hand’s book “That Was Awkward: Seven Secrets of an Awkward Networker.”

  85. Not that kind of doctor…*

    Contact an advisory board member!
    I’m on external advisory boards for several academic programs. I love it when a professor sends a student my way or…gasp…a student reaches out on his/her/their own.

    I have an amazing network that was done the brute force method (an introvert who people think is an extrovert), and if you’re respectful of my time, not obnoxious and straightforward about what you want, I will offer up my couple of decades of carefully curated connections. I’m sure others will, too.

    Grad school sucked for a lot of us, and some of us want to make it better for the next generation.

  86. soontofinishgradstudent*

    OP I’m in a similar situation. I’m about to finish grad school and definitely need to network because I’m going into an area that’s not directly related to my thesis work or what my current network has expertise in. I know you dismissed informational interviews but I highly recommend them. All of mine have been virtual since jobs are based in a different area than my current location. I’ve gained really valuable industry insights this way as well as gained advice on how to make myself more marketable. Don’t go in expecting anything but I’ve gotten job/internship positions sent to me from people I had one thirty minute phone call with a year ago and you’d be surprised who remembers you. Plus the more people you are connected to on linked in, the more likely anyone new you want to meet will be a second degree connection.

  87. Post-Secondary ROCKS*

    I’m an event coordinator for over 6000 students and I promise you, ALL the industry guests we invite are eager to meet you. They really want to hire our grads, but if they don’t know your name and have never had even a short conversation with you, they won’t. The opportunities your school hosts are an excellent way to make an impression. The other advice here is excellent!

    Please don’t write off networking opportunities – it’s in the schools best interest to have you enter the job market right after graduation.
    Sign up and attend at least 2 virtual networking events:
    Make sure your video is ON
    Prepare 2-3 sentences about yourself
    Ask questions. Recruiters like to answer things like: What is your favorite part of your job? What is one big initiative that your company is working on?
    Good luck!

  88. Anonymous Koala*

    Professors are a great resource OP! Most grad school professors know that their students want jobs after graduation, and it’s in their interest to help you. Do some research on the professors in your department, find out if any of them have connections to industry, and ask for meetings. It’ll be a bit awkward but most professors want to help students in their department succeed

  89. youknowmestephieb*

    Being in school will offer you far more opportunities for networking than if you were just out there trying to “break in” to a new field. Talk to your professors about getting info interviews with people that do work that you want to do. Talk to fellow students. Talk to people who have previously graduated from your program. There may even be an alumni mailing list or social media group page that hosts events. Many of these are online. Join a professional group in your field, they also host events and can help you navigate additional contacts. Every interview/meeting you have, ask that person if they have someone they can connect you with. I find this method to be much more refined than those networking “events” especially if you have a hard time talking to groups of people.

  90. SGK*

    Virtual conferences can be really excellent opportunities to network because you’re not just awkwardly trying to make connections for the sake of it; you’re using chat and the social hours to discuss the content that you’re all there to engage with, which gives you something to talk about and lets you find people whose thoughts you like (and vice versa). A lot of these also have associated hashtags and social media accounts that you can tag, so you can use those yourself or respond to others who are using them to engage with people you don’t already know. Even in non-pandemic times, these types of connections can be really valuable for making connections based on specific areas of expertise and interest rather than geographical proximity.

  91. TotesMaGoats*

    Part of what I teach my students when it comes to networking is:
    1. Play the long game. You probably won’t get a job offer from your first contact. Don’t go in with that mindset.
    2. Don’t assume you have nothing to offer. Networking doesn’t have to be about you providing resource A to person B. It can be you connecting person B to person C who has the resource.

    (That’s not all. I have a whole lesson about this along with how to recon a networking event and goal setting.)

  92. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    It is absolutely possible to make solid connections with people you only know online. I have valued work contacts who started out as fellow members of a World of Warcraft guild. I have helped the careers of people I met through an online book group. I am currently part of a virtual church and am looking forward to building relationships with people there — some of whom may turn out to be professional contacts.

    These are real friends, no less important because I only know them through a screen. (One of them died last week, and I cried real tears and sent a real DoorDash card to her family.)

    Even though you’re at the beginning of your career, you have skills and abilities and energy to offer. Where appropriate, show up and help people. I’ve made quite a few contacts simply by operating a side business writing resumes for people.

  93. Candi*

    I don’t know exactly what your college offers, but mine is offering virtual meetups and job fairs, usually through Handshake. (They also handle the internships.) Perhaps your college has something similar?

  94. Michelle*

    Not sure what field you’re in, but in mine (marine natural resource management) a lot of previously in person meetings are now virtual, which makes participation easier and more affordable (albeit harder to form personal connections). Why not look for smaller conferences, public hearings, public scoping meetings, workshops, etc., that you could learn from and contribute something to? You would figure out who is working on the topics you’re interested in, and it could be a good opener for further conversations – e.g. I liked the point you made at the modernizing teapots workshop last week – can you recommend a couple recent papers on that topic? Also, if you have something to add to the discussion at the meeting, even just via the chat, that gets your name out there.

  95. Archives troll*

    As many others have pointed out, you’re not going to have much success networking if you’re doing it only because you have to. You mention going to conferences – yes, they can be good to network, but only if you enjoy the topics and connect with people in an enthusiastic manner. No one loves their job, but in most fields that require a graduate education, people at least like the subject matter. Without a genuine interest in the field, it’ll be hard to make genuine professional connections.

    If your field is active on Twitter, I would encourage you to make a professional account and to engage there. Even being a vaguely active follower (liking tweets) would get you noticed by most people. Then, go a step further and start contributing – reply, retweet with comments. If someone is working on a project that sounds interesting, ask them about it! The catch, I suppose, in all of this is that you need to actually be interested in the topics. Beyond name recognition, it’s a great platform also because lots of people will even post job opportunities at their institution, even offering to answer questions about the posting!

  96. Spreadsheet Enthusiast*

    Ask yourself *why* you want to network – is it to land a job? Meet people in the industry for relationships down the road? Because it’s what you’ve been told?

    I don’t think networking should be a goal in itself, just one way of many to approach a goal. I struggled with networking until I saw it as a way to learn more about my field. In my experience, job application materials and resume items matter more to landing a job (although I might just be blind to how networking could have helped my applications more), but networking with genuine interest in developments in healthcare or government policy has expanded my list of professional contacts, my knowledge base, and how I approach problems at work.

  97. Toolate*

    I loved, loved networking as a grad student (only just pre-covid) and badly miss it now. I am naturally intensely curious about other people and also love to make connections between disparate areas. Looking for a job was a perfect excuse to talk to a huge variety of people, even in issue areas I don’t work in, about how they relate to others, what their organizations are like, what the major trends are (especially interesting in fields I know nothing about). I used the following resources to find new and interesting (sometimes not so interesting) people to network with:
    – through guest speakers to my grad classes
    – through my professors
    – through my grad school’s career services
    – by going to events / conferences
    – by hanging out / interning at the State legislature (I work in policy)
    – through my current and former colleagues at my jobs (I would sometimes ask them if they recommended I meet anyone with expertise in XYZ, or sometimes I would ask them if they would connect me to a particular person whose work I was interested in)
    – occasionally, cold call (by email)
    – finally – I use the snowball method, so frequently one person I talked to would connect me with two more people and so on.

    I miss that so much. I’m now in a position of needing to network in a slightly different industry so that I can have an ear to the ground for industry trends, especially in organizations that are geographically/otherwise distant from me. I’m really struggling with making those organic connections in the post-covid virtual world. Zoom calls with 20 people on (all of whom are more important than you) don’t allow for a quick side conversion to strike up a relationship. There are so few in-person conferences, only awful virtual ones where you can’t exchange the most important information or you can’t keep building your relationships. I try virtual coffee with my existing connections but Zoom calls are not great, people are sometimes reluctant to talk, and it is not reaching out to new people with new information. The nature of my job makes me reluctant to post very much on any kind of social media. I also don’t exactly have a specific industry niche and am not sure whether I have funds to attend a virtual conference – and even if I did, every virtual event I’ve attended has been absolutely terrible, especially for the purposes of networking.

    Does anyone have advice for how to build a professional network in a particular industry (that may be geographically dispersed) beyond your existing one in the post-Covid virtual world? I’d love to get to the point where I could say, “Person X knows exactly how this issue area works on the ground because they do this for their institution, let’s see if they have any insight for us”

    1. Bamcheeks*

      Do you have the time/resources to actually set up some new networking spaces? There could be a few ways to approach it— maybe starting by just going to some of those big Zoom meetings and finding a way to identify the 2-3 people there who are also missing networking opportunities by posting something in the chat and then hosting a short off-channel chat session afterwards? And that might over time turn into forming a small group of people who’d join you in curating larger synchronous or asynchronous networking spaces— either actually running online networking events with software designed for that, or running a FB or LinkedIn group with regular posts for discussion?

      You need a decent amount of content and prompts to get virtual conversations going, and it’s not easy! But just given the list of content and things you love about networking, you sound like you’d be a fantastic person to do it if you’ve got the time and can find a few people who’d help you make it happen.

  98. I Love Llamas*

    OP, I think your social media strategy is a great one. You can even publish articles on LinkedIn and then use Twitter to promote it. That could maybe show off your expertise and writing skills. I have done articles and videos for LinkedIn to raise my profile. You got some great advice from the other commenters. I would also suggest that you keep talking to your professors. Talk to them about your studies, debate topics — just communicate with them. They can be valuable resources also. I would suggest that you frame networking as “making new professional friends” and perhaps that will make it feel more comfortable for you. Good luck!

  99. anonymous73*

    I think the first thing you need to do is adjust your attitude in thinking every single thing is a waste of time. Some of it might be, but you’ll never know unless you pursue opportunities. Sure there are changes with COVID, but based on your level, COVID restrictions are not the problem.

  100. Mechie*

    Linked In! I know it can be less useful for some fields, but there are groups you can join, people post articles or interesting tidbits, and you can always message them to discuss and form relationships from there. Most people add anyone and everyone who may be in their field; after all, that’s basically what this was built for. It’ll also help you potentially form relationships with recruiters. Last time I was job searching I literally went to all the pages of companies I was applying to and added anyone with “recruiter” (etc) in their title. Its a lot of work but I got contacted by multiple recruiters through the website or because they found my name in a LinkedIn search.

  101. Mayor of Llamatown*

    I am pretty established and successful in a career that is often a side-step or offshoot option for people looking to make career changes in a couple different fields. I have gotten several messages on LinkedIn that are basically cold messages from people saying “I want to know more about your career because I’m a grad student/working on a certificate/searching for jobs” and they have ended up being pretty good conversations. It’s basically the isolation version of informational interviews. It’s never been super formal and if the person was too pushy I probably wouldn’t respond, and none of them have been fishing for a job.

    There are some social media groups (like on Facebook and LinkedIn) for people in certain careers, maybe those could be an option for you to meet people when you can’t meet up face to face like at a networking mixer?

  102. Marspar*

    I’m a graduate program director and to expand on the great advice: networking is about exploring your career journey, and it’s a longer-term proposition. It’s great that you are focused on a specific field – embrace that you are launching your career, and perhaps re-frame it as part of a longer-term plan.

    I know that the virtual environment can be frustrating, but also I hear in your comments that you are dismissing a lot of opportunities out of hand. Here’ the thing – this is not a one-and-done deal – it takes time and patience to build working relationships.

    People have made a lot of great suggestions here -try out the ones that seem doable for you and skip those that don’t.

    For what it’s worth, I changed to a new career landed the job I am in now through virtual volunteering for a professional organization and run/attend virtual networking events where I have made meaningful work connections. I understand your challenges, but there are opportunities here if you open yourself to them.

  103. BetsyS*

    Yes yes yes on the Meetups. Go to ones that genuinely interest you, even if they are only casually related to your field. Make a Linked-in Profile and put your career interest in the one-liner description. Some fields are more into LinkedIn than others; I work in tech where people do use it extensively.

    ” a horrific and awkward and probably fruitless attempt to meet people” I have a lot of social anxiety, and there are a lot of things you can work on:

    – remember that there will be people at Meetups who are *actively looking* for employees ! I have my current job because I went to an interesting-sounding meetup that turned out to be run by a recruiter – he was building a community and a big list of potential candidates. It’s hard to see when you’re still a student, but it really is a two-way search; employers need good employees , and individuals can be highly motivated to find good recruits for their teams. You are *valuable*

    -practicing social skills will reduce your anxiety about going to groups. Go to ‘low-stakes’ groups and practice. Maybe get some targeted therapy for the anxiety part. Meditation. Toastmasters. Focus on the other person and the subject of the meeting. Find local low-key one-day volunteer opportunities just to get practice walking into a new group and relaxing. It really does get easier!

    And do stay in touch with the interns and your professors, and your supervisor at the internship if they aren’t in a space to offer you a fulltime job. And let people in your life know that you’re looking. You never know – your neighbor’s sister or your hairdresser’s son-in-law may have a connection.

    Good luck!

  104. quite anon*

    A few comments:

    I think you’re talking down networking/speaking of it negatively because you feel like you’re bad at it, and if it’s something that only shallow slimy icky people do well then your disdain supports your inner feeling that you’re a good person, not like *those* people. That’s cool, but as someone who has moved from academia to industry, be aware that this attitude also tends to affect “people who make money” (they’re money-grubbing sellouts etc, and so you’ll never be like them, because it’s more virtuous to be poor forever) and “people who make impactful decisions” (they use politics which is icky and manipulative, so you’re never going to be like them, and you’ll… never make impactful decisions). Just speaking from experience here. I had to deal with a lot of these unconscious patterns. Does it really make one more virtuous and pure to be under-earning, not taking positions of responsibility, and basically holding oneself back from any position that would be impactful?

    For me I had to take a look at my values (had some life events impact this) and say no, it’s time to step up and stop this disdain of money, power, and responsibility. And I was just able to salary-level my entire group to correct racial and gender imbalances in pay at my Fortune 500 corp, so hey, I’m getting somewhere in accord with my values (as opposed to what I could do while adjuncting in my pure academic field — no shade and much love to other adjuncts, just talking about what I said I valued and how I actually acted).

    The other thing that I want to encourage you to do is “just do shit”. So for instance show up to a civic hacking event that brings together journalists, non profits, gov employees, techies, data people to work on say housing price inequality, or taxation rules visualization, or gerrymandering, or pet protection laws or whatever. Do stuff! And reach out to people accordingly: “I’m working on a side project that’ll facilitates folks translating health information for their local communities, and these are the resources I’m looking for — would you be willing to talk? can you connect me? etc”. Do things that are interesting/fun/thought-provoking/good and share the journey with others. People are excited to help, people are interested, and people become your network aligned with your actual interests.

  105. Networking isn’t that bad*

    You are looking at networking through are really short sighted lense. I also thought networking events would be terrible and just be transactional. What really helped me was just going into it with the mindset that everyone here is just a human being trying to make genuine connections. That meant I could just be myself and interact with people like I would at any other gathering of humans. If I wasn’t vibeing with the person then I moved on and found someone who I could have a good conversation with. Sometimes it takes a few of these events to start seeing familiar faces and that can lead to contact outside the events that doesn’t feel forced.

  106. Adverb*

    I want to say that there are people on LinkedIn who have the LION (LinkedIn open networker) tag in their names. Look up some people in you domain and see who has LION in their name. You can also follow influential people in your areas of interest on LinkedIn. Once you start to see who might be interesting, or which companies might be of interest, reach out, send invites. Mention that you saw them in this group or that and what you would like to learn or get from them.
    Most people are more than willing to help out when the ask is reasonable.

  107. Daffodilly*

    It sounds like you want to *have* deeper relationships without *building* those relationships.
    Do the informational interviews. Some, but not all, might develop and grow into real contacts and relationships *if you nurture them*
    Get out there and meet people. Just like you’d meet someone at yoga. Show genuine interest in them as people, but keep it professional.
    Find out if there are local professional groups you can join. Attend any online events they hold. Talk to people.
    It’s not going to happen in a day. You have to start small and build relationships. You’re not going to magically have a network without doing all the things you’re currently making excuses not to do.

  108. Public Sector Manager*

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the informational interview. I did a lot of them when I was a brand new lawyer 26 years ago and met a lot of great people who were willing to help. Once I became established, I’ve always said “yes” to people who want to do an informational interview with me. Some of those people I really bonded with but then they just stopped communicating and disappeared after 6 months. Once you’ve made a strong connection with someone, treat them like a colleague and keep in touch with them every so often. Those relationships will pay dividends eventually. It may not even be for that first job, but the second, third, or fourth one.

    Also, many professional organizations have a student membership with a greatly reduced dues requirement. Sign up for those and interact. Those of us who do join professional organizations either do it for the training opportunities or the networking opportunities (and sometimes both!). Just reach out to people. You will find several bad ones for sure, but you are guaranteed to run into some great ones too!

  109. StayCurious*

    Fellow Canadian here. In addition to the many things others have posted, ask your supervisor about their industry/community connections and offer to volunteer or work for those connections, even in minor or short term ways. You’ve still got enough time to start building relationships. If you’re in a research program or even certain professional programs, there’s plenty of funding for research internships out there (might require you to temporarily defer the end of your program) but that can be a lifeline for some students making inroads outside academia. If you’re at a big university, ask your grad studies office or a grant development personnel about those. Good luck!

  110. TootsNYC*

    I would love to do informational interviews, but those also felt like a massive waste of time in the past because I want a relationship with these people, I don’t want to just milk people for information.

    I want to encourage you to continue seeking out informational interviews.
    But also to look at them more carefully, and more personally.

    Ask questions that call on these people’s opinions and personal experience.

    What do they find most challenging about the field? What is it most challenging, what in their background is going to be their tool for facing that challenge?
    What are they most worried about for the future of the field, and how it will impact them, and then of course why?

    These interviews can be how you create that relationship with them. Also: Follow up–no just with a rote thank-you note. But a bit after the interview, drop them a note that says how you’ve thought of it–did something at work remind you of something they said? Did you apply some part of their advice, and how did it go?

    and ask for some specific advice–not general rah-rah, but something specific: how would they handle some situation? Do they know whether X company you’ve applied at is willing to negotiate salary, benefits? If they had to choose between a long commute for $Y more, and a shorter commute, which would they choose at your stage of your career, and why?

  111. Former prof*

    In my field, our local professional societies have “student nights” where they invite students to make presentations, especially poster presentations. Lots of my students have presented projects they did for class, and made great connections that way. A couple got job offers directly from that presentation; for others it meant getting their name out there in a relatively niche professional community.

  112. 2legit*

    How about this: maybe take the pressure off yourself right now to network? You sound like you have a full plate as it is! Aside from that, what is your reason for networking: job leads? Reference needs? Or just because you think you SHOULD? I think if you let it happen more organically, you might find a way to offer help to others for a cause you care about… if you actually have time and space to do that. But here’s the secret: you can’t do it all and if you try, you’ll drive yourself crazy! Focus on a few things at a time… and along the way, you will build your network.

  113. Living the Marketing Lyfe*

    I found digital options like Lunchclub to be incredibly helpful during the pandemic and beyond. It is invite-only but there are plenty of people at different points of their career on there. You can set your objectives, location, etc. It takes the pressure and awkwardness out of meeting people in person so that you can have a genuine conversation with people, and if you don’t click, then you can end your call early. I was able to get a contract job from a person that I met there, make some valuable business contacts, and met some very cool people. Sure there were a couple of awkward conversations, and one person who was trying to get me involved in some kind of wealth scam, but 98% of my calls with them have been awesome. I’m sure there other similar platforms you can explore as well.

  114. Jinni*

    LW, you might want to read Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards. She talks a lot about meeting and connecting with strangers. Even though I’m an introvert, I love meeting new people and the techniques she talked about in the first chapters are exactly how I go about meeting people at new events.

Comments are closed.