is networking overrated?

A reader writes:

Job searching advice usually focuses heavily on networking, and while I know you emphasize it less than others, you have also written about the importance of reputation-building and networking. This … doesn’t really match my experience.

I don’t have much of a professional network, despite graduating five years ago and working for most of the time since. I’ve never been to a conference or joined a professional association, and as I work in a “wears many hats” kind of role, I’m not even sure they exist for what I do. I have a LinkedIn account gathering dust that I update once a year but otherwise never use. Most people I have met through work seem to like me well enough, but I doubt most of them would remember me at this point, aside from former bosses and a few colleagues who I worked with closely. I don’t make much effort to keep in touch with anyone for professional purposes, but then nobody has ever reached out to me to stay in touch either.

I sometimes worry that this lack of a professional network will make it harder to find a new job or advance my career. Maybe I’m missing out on higher paying or more interesting roles because I don’t network. People talk about it all the time, so it must be important, right? But then when I think about other people I know, friends and coworkers, I can think of just one who had any connections at their current employer when they applied for the role. Despite all this, we all have stable white collar jobs in our chosen fields.

So, is networking overrated? How important is it for a successful career, really? Am I hindering myself by not having much of a professional network?

I agree networking can be overrated. It can also be hugely valuable — loads of people have their jobs because of networking. But a lot of job search advice out there implies that networking is the end-all, be-all and if you don’t do it, you will struggle for employment the rest of your life, and that’s not true. Lots of people have never networked their way into a job and are fine.

But while you don’t have to network, it’s a helpful thing that can make your life easier and connect you with opportunities you might never have known about otherwise, and sometimes it can be the difference between a long, painful job search and a shorter, easier one. That can especially be the case as you progress in your career and your roles become more senior (although still not always).

Something that’s key is that often when people think of networking, they think of stuff they really, really don’t want to do, like going to networking events and schmoozing with strangers. That’s a form of networking, but it’s not the only one. You can be a highly effective networker without ever doing either of those things! Some of the best networking is just about building relationships with the people you’re already coming into contact with naturally, becoming known for doing good work, and maintaining relationships even after your work takes you out of someone’s day-to-day orbit. (And that last part about maintaining relationships doesn’t mean you have to be regularly meeting people for drinks and posting frenetically on LinkedIn and such. It can just be an email once a year checking in and updating them on what’s going on with you.)

You certainly can go your whole career without doing much networking. But doing a bit of it can expand your options, make your professional life easier and more interesting, and put you in a position to help other people too. The key is finding ways to do it that feel natural to you, not artificial or forced. (I’ve got advice on how to do that here.)

{ 185 comments… read them below }

  1. Higher Ed*

    I’ve found it helpful to join a committee consisting of members from other campus departments. It’s a kind of low stakes networking.

    1. Higher Ed*

      I will add that I realize there may be fewer committees in the private sector, but there are probably opportunities to join planning for an event, or maybe there’s a walking group at your site (or virtual, if this is the case). These are things that will introduce you to others and make you visible for possible other opportunities.

    2. Just Me*

      Yes–a lot of “networking” can be just going to industry events, participating in field-related cohorts, professional orgs, and just talking to people. Depending on your field, it can be helpful to at least be aware of other humans and where they work even if you’re not making sleazy elevator pitches.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, this! I didn’t set out to do any networking this month, but just in the last couple of weeks I introduced someone leaving my company to a couple of people I met through an industry professional development program a couple of years ago because that connection will benefit both sides. I also fielded a reference call from someone who I know a bit and we chatted more broadly about recruiting, talked to a former intern about career possibilities, posted a company job opening on my LinkedIn page and emailed it to my grad school alumni list, and chatted with colleagues from other departments I hadn’t seen in a while at a farewell (outdoor!) happy hour for a coworker.

        That’s an unusually active month for me, but none of it was me saying “I’d better go network!”. At a certain point it happens organically if you’re building a career in one field.

      2. allathian*

        Yes, this. Honestly, this is the only kind of networking I’ve ever done, certainly since I graduated from college.

        1. The Face*

          Me too, and it’s really helped me professionally. It’s all very organic, too. Just, normal talking to people, making friends or friendly acquaintances (starting with my actual work friends, usually) and connecting from there. I have never had to, say, approach a stranger and introduce myself or any of the other horrifying things that might spring to mind around the word ‘networking’.

    3. Hosta*

      I do a similar thing in the private sector. I volunteer to help with projects related to my day to day that involve working with folks outside my normal circle. Sometimes that’s a committee. Sometimes it is speaking to students about my work and giving a tour. I struggle with small talk so activities that are structured and have some built in conversation topics are great.

    4. Erin*

      +1 to just getting involved with even The Party Planning Committee (if Angela/Phyllis will sanction this) and taking charge of one aspect that contributes to the parties.

      I have also found that following current and former colleagues & professional contacts on Instagram, and interacting with their posts keeps a networking connection. We are all busy, but I do like seeing & commenting on Pam’s latest art venture, or Kevin simmering up a pot of chili. It’s a low commitment way to stay in each other’s orbit. I’ve had a couple of professional contacts reach out about roles via Instagram, so I have to assume it is helpful.

  2. Majnoona*

    It probably varies by profession. It also depends on what you want to accomplish. In my field, as a professor, I don’t think it really helps you get a job, at least your first job. Your work and references and jobtalk will matter far more. But I know it helps in terms of being asked to join a project, coauthor something, and get invited to international conferences (where they pay you)

    1. Darlingpants*

      You don’t think it helped? I think academia is one of the best examples of when networking is useful! Who your advisor knows/was advised by and with/is collaborating with are some of the best people for you to collaborate with, and therefore publish and get grants with. And once you’ve published or co-authored grants with them, they’ll write your reference letters for more grants, and post docs and professorships. Once you’re a professor who you work with is going to influence your tenure recommendation letters, and who cites you or invites you to panels at conferences. That’s all networking!

      In lower stakes, I recommended a friend for a job at my company (which he got and accepted). We’re friends because we worked in labs that were next door to each other in grad school. That’s also networking!

      1. Majnoona*

        OK, I’ll reconsider. I have been on countless job searches and no matter how well networked you are, your work is going to matter more. But, yes, I guess I do give a closer look at letters from people I know and know of. And yes, your advisor can help get you on the long short list. And yes, coming up for tenure, getting good letters may not happen without a lot of networking. So, maybe my first reaction wasn’t so good.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      I absolutely think the helpfulness of networking is industry-dependent. There are careers where bringing in business is massively dependent on who you know and who will throw work your way, and there are careers where the business rolls along just fine no matter what.

      I work for the federal government; most times that people try to “network” with me, it means they want me to try to find them a shortcut through the tedious federal hiring process (I don’t have any). Not that it’s useless for me to get to know people in other branches of government, but it doesn’t generally mean or do much. The government generally will bumble along no matter what professional organizations I join.

      But people like my accountant, dentist, and realtor are always letting their client base know that they would love to be recommended, and offering to network through their and my contacts. Those people’s livelihood depends on having positive interactions with people who need their services and being remembered at the right time by as many people as possible. Networking keeps their businesses alive.

    3. Smithy*

      I agree that it varies by profession – and often just getting that insight is a more informal process. I would say that my professional sector is one where taking the time to engage with people semi-regularly over “coffees” or “drinks” does matter, and can have really significant impacts on your job hunt. Both in terms of positioning yourself to be hired but also to get temperature checks on the overall health of different employers.

      But to Alison’s points, this isn’t about jobs falling from the sky and it’s certainly about deciding how you want it to work for you. But the more you talk to people in the field, the more insight you get on how to maintain those relationships in a positive and sincere way without it being burdensome or unnecessary for anyone.

    4. Nesprin*

      As another academic, I disagree- my cohort of grad students + former PI’s and my research siblings+ conference drinking buddies + scattered collaborators are my network, and are essential for finding good grad students, being recognized by awards, getting to work on exciting new things together.

      Absolutely job talk matters, but I would not have been able to do one without help from my colleagues and mentors.

    5. Lab Lady*

      Heh, see, in my job as a professor, I have never gotten a job that wasn’t in part networked – not really – from my dad announcing at work that ‘his kid can code’ to get me my first data analysis job, to the reference letters my supervisors wrote for me.

      It doesn’t mean that I didn’t also do good work and send out 80+ job applications the year I got my TT position, but… I do feel like networking led me to every job I ever took, including the TT one which I got in part on the the strength of my recommendation letters.

  3. JohannaCabal*

    I blame a lot of job coaches’ spiels about the “hidden job market” for this. Happened when I was working with my school’s job center (which was actually better than most) and when the Unemployment office had me take a job searching class.

    I’m at a point in my career where I’ve made enough connections that I got my last two jobs from knowing people in my industry. That said, my three post-college jobs came from applying to positions on job boards.

    In some cases it takes time (years, possibly) to build a strong network.

    (And as for the “hidden job market,” I’ve only ever seen that come into play when it involved the VP level and above.)

    1. ThatGirl*

      I really hate the whole spiel about the hidden job market, which isn’t really a thing. But what IS a thing is someone knowing a position is open at their company and thinking you might be a good fit for it, or seeing an open job and knowing someone who works or worked there and can give you some info.

      1. Cobol*

        This so much. I have used people I know inside a company to say hey can you flag my application to HR and it’s done wonders. I at least get a chance to talk to somebody

      2. Bamcheeks*

        I hate the “hidden job market” stuff. But you know what helps you find out whether hidden job markets are a thing in your chosen field or whether it’s purely “apply to advertised job”? Networking!

        I think networking as a way of learning about your chosen/target field is so under-discussed, and that really does people from minoritised/underrepresented groups a disservice because it should be more explicit. Formal or informal informational interviews in which you ask genuinely important and relevant-to-you questions are incredibly useful. What sort of entry level jobs are in this sector? What are likely to be the key changes in this industry over the next five years? I want to move into management— how did you get your first management role? Look at today’s OP4, trying to move from a technical role into a office-based role and needing to understand how the hours and flexible working night work there— networking! If you switch your goals from “getting offered a job that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about” to “getting information which will help me understand and succeed in a traditional recruitment process”, it’s incredibly helpful.

        1. TwoChairsOneToGo*

          100% agree! I work with career changes moving into the tech field, and one of the best things they can do is talk to people already in the field. There are lots of meetup groups, hackathons, and volunteer opportunities where they can get to know people and learn how to succeed. You’re absolutely right that it’s not about “get me a job” but it’s about “how can I succeed in this field?” (And the people who are curious and want to grow their skills are the ones who hear about job opportunities more often.)

      3. LeftAcademia*

        I slightly disagree. After I have quit my job with the rest of our department, a FB acquittance reached out and asked whether he might recommend me to a specific private company. I agreed. The CEO looked at my LinkedIn profile and sent an invitation to a meeting. The job was custom created for me and was not posted anywhere else.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I mean, I’m not saying it NEVER happens — I’m saying it’s not “30% of the job market” or whatever claim is being tossed around nowadays.

          1. Olivia Oil*

            Also it’s specifically for people who already have job experience and an established network. I’ve seen people advise 23 year old college grads to network their way into the hidden job market, which makes NO sense because who would create a role for an inexperienced college grad?

      4. Kippy*

        At my firm, before a job is posted to the general public/sent to the recruiters, our HR rep sends out an email to all employees that’s basically “As you know, Melanie will be leaving us in a few weeks. We’ll miss her! If you know anyone who’d be a great fit for our team please have them send me their resume.” I’ll send an email out to my contacts letting them know we’re hiring, etc. Sometimes I’ll get an email back from someone I know introducing me to a coworker/former coworker/family member who’s looking for a job. I’ll chat with the job seeker about what job is available (if I know anything about it), what our firm’s like, etc. and give them our HR person’s contact information. So they can get their resume in front of our hiring committee a week or more before the job goes live.

      5. New Mom*

        Agree with this! I network a lot (I’m very extroverted and one of my strengths is WOO so I enjoy it) and get a lot of very useful information through the grapevine. My networking has given me access to what an appropriate salary request would be in some cases, and also which topics to focus on when submitting a proposal for a conference (I’ve presented at five so far now).
        I’ve volunteered a bunch in membership organizations that relate to the aspects of my job that I enjoy the most.

      6. Dust Bunny*

        That’s how I got my job: The previous person retired and a long-time (as in, had known me since I was in middle school) friend of mine thought I’d be a good fit for the job and told me to apply. Not a recommendation since we’d never worked together, though. I guess that’s networking but it was very basic.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          There is certainly no hidden job market where I work. Jobs are posted internally first and if nobody wants them or fits the bill they post to the public. But there aren’t any secrets.

          1. Fran Fine*

            My company is kind of the same. I say “kind of” because some of the open roles are posted internally only first, but I think most are posted both internally and externally. The role I’m currently in, for example, was never posted externally and was posted internally for only, like, five minutes before I was offered the role. I was a referral from a colleague who now no longer works at the company – my recommendation from her was one of the last things she did before she left. My team is hiring for new positions now and all of the roles have been posted externally and internally (we’re not having much luck with either though, lol).

    2. OoO*

      I’m a job coach at a college and I hate this particular spiel. I’ve seen a plethora of career services offices give a “X amount of jobs are in the ‘hidden job market'” presentation and I refuse to do it until someone can give me actual information about where that statistic is coming from, particularly as it applies to entry level candidates that career services is most likely to be serving.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      This is my experience as well. There was a time when all the job info was about schmoozing and buying jobs by sending your connections gifts. It was all gross and I wanted nothing to do with it.
      My network is made up of people I have worked with. That’s it. You need to remember that the people you work with now may go on to really interesting positions. In 10 years your Admin Assistant may be the Divisional President of Cute Puppy Food, Inc and if you made a good impression 10 years ago, then you have an inside connection to your dream job.
      If you’re a good person, then you probably already have a network.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’m 20+ years into my career and have worked in quite a few places and worked with people from other organizations as partners/stakeholders in different projects. I didn’t necessarily actively attempt to maintain contact with the folks I liked whose work I respected, but if something came up where I knew they might be interested in working on the project/speaking at the meeting/working as a contractor I would reach out to see if they wanted to work together again or if they knew anyone who would be interested. They in turn did the same with me. I’ve mentored people and helped them get jobs with my network which in turn means my network is even bigger. After a while, the network just grew organically and I realized that despite being what seems like a big international field is pretty small. In a year or so I’m going to be looking for a new job in a new state and am definitely planning to ask around, less for the leads on job openings and more for Hellmouth and Liver Boss identification purposes. I want to know which places to avoid and I know my network well enough that we all have similar values and know each others’ work styles. It isn’t necessary for professional success, but sure is nice to have

    5. Quinalla*

      I agree that the hidden job market is not really much of a thing in most fields until higher level positions. I also think hidden is overstating it, it is really just that for higher level positions especially, folks prefer to hire a known quantity, so yeah if you network it can help you come across those opportunities earlier and more often especially the higher level you get.

      I did not use networking to get either of my two jobs or my internship in college, but where I am now in a senior level position, networking is more important and I have gotten job offers (not interested in moving right now) and have at least one person who has all but stated she’ll hire me anytime I decide to start looking. For the first probably 5 or so years of my career I did very little networking, but I did build relationships with folks I worked with in and outside my company and I still have many of those contacts now. I use linkedin mostly as a glorified address book and I do occasionally read other people’s posts and message people, but mostly I contact people outside of it. And conferences are not the only way to network, there is one for my industry I go to every year as it actually has good panels, gives me continuing education and has lots of people there I can catch up with so triple win, but otherwise I mostly avoid them and do volunteering, go to the 2 orgs monthly meetings related to my industry (I miss some of these, but get to 75%), have run my own industry org for women at one point (on hold cause of covid) and that was really awesome. I also take some of the folks I work with out to lunch on occasion and go to product rep demos/lunches/happy hours on occasion.

      But yeah, networking gets super emphasized in some places and I thing for some professions it is much less of a thing and/or becomes a little more important as you get more senior, but not the only way things happen. All of the people we have hired recently at my company were either people who worked for us before and left on good terms or people we had zero connections with so except for not burning bridges when they left, no real networking :P

      1. Olivia Oil*

        I think this is another important point – networking is generally more important for higher level, senior positions than entry level positions.

        1. Fran Fine*

          That can be true (it certainly was for me). I networked my way into my current role (an internal promotion) – no one else was even seriously considered for it, and the job req that was posted internally so I could apply was written around my strengths. Prior to this role, I’ve never networked into a job – I’ve seen the job posted on a career site, applied, and hoped for the best. I’m a mid-career professional.

          On the flip side, my kid brother (who’s still considered entry level), has networked into dang near every position he’s ever been in – and he’s been in a lot, lol. He’s currently working for a well-known, major manufacturer – his best friend got him the interview and coached him on the assessment so he could get the job. I don’t know if his friends just have better luck than mine career-wise (most likely) or that he’s just much better about asking people, friends or strangers, for what he wants with no shame (probably also likely), but there it is. If I decide to move on from my current company any time soon, I may need to tap his network! Lol.

    6. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I was thinking that the internet has really reduced the importance of networking. Job searches are much easier than they used to be.

    7. hbc*

      Whatever “hidden job market” there is, my last company contributed to it in its own small way. Neighbors, family friends, in-laws of in-laws got jobs because it was easier than doing an actual candidate search.

      Which led to upset networked employees (because the boss was dissing them to their in-laws over dinner), upset non-networked employees (because you don’t feel comfortable going to HR complaining about your boss/his neighbor), and general confusion because the lines are so blurred. I don’t think anyone who used their network to get in there had a good experience.

    8. Olivia Oil*

      Yep this.

      I think it comes down to, networking is most useful when you AREN’T desperate for a job, because networking should be about building genuine connections with people you would actually interact with when you aren’t looking for a job, and then that network might serve you when you need one. A lot of the times when a “hidden” internal role does open up, it goes to someone the hiring manager ALREADY knows and has worked with, not some rando they met at a networking event once or had an informational interview with.

      My issue with networking is the way a lot of crappy career advice givers frame it: network your way into a job through shmoozing and other manipulative tactics, and by spreading misinformation about the “hidden job market” to keep their services relevant.

    9. Gamer Girl*

      For my niche portion of my field, jobs and especially freelance contracts don’t typically get advertised. Many people fantasize about working in this field and have a completely skewed perception of what the work will be–they think it will be all fun and games. It’s really mostly intense levels of documentation, data entry, and meetings with radical changes coming in at the very last second of the project. We get to do “the fun stuff” too, but it sometimes is only a small portion of the daily grind, depending on the project phase, and there are many levels of approval rather than getting to do whatever one wants.

      For that reason, the first call (and second, and third…) are put out to the networks of people already in the company/in the field. People prefer to hire people who are already a known quantity and are proven to be reliable. I would guess that this is a generalized problem across the entertainment industry! Where I work, we’re trying to change this, but old habits die hard.

  4. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Just to give you an example of my experience:
    Toward the beginning of my career, I got involved in the local chapter of a relevant professional organization. It started because I liked the continuing ed programming, and then because I am an extrovert (and I had the personal bandwidth), I got involved with the planning board for the conference. I ended up taking on a much larger leadership role than anticipated for [reasons] and everything was a terrific success. I’ll say that this is in no small part because we had a really good group of volunteers who all did their part.

    Anyway, fast forward a couple of years and I see a posting for a role that was kind of my “dream job.” I reached out to a former colleague who I thought might be in the know about it, and lo and behold, someone who was high up in leadership at the time of that professional org (and who attended the conference I planned) was the hiring manager. She knew of my professional reputation already (small community), which of course was a big part of what got me my job, but she also knew about the role I took on for that conference so when she got my resume I went to the top of the pile.

    I outline all of this to say, superficial, inauthentic networking does not really do much, but more authentic experiences really can help. However, note how the hiring manager (who is now retired and still a trusted mentor and friend) did say that my professional reputation also stood on it’s own. That’s really the biggest thing you can do for yourself – do what you do and do it well. The work on the conference helped get my foot in the door, but that professional reputation got me the job, and has gotten me three promotions in the same organization since.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Here here to the part about superficial, inauthentic networking. After I graduated I went to multiple networking events set up by my local alumni organization in a desperate attempt to find a job. And you know who I networked with? Other desperate recent graduates also looking for jobs. It was so disappointing to make the effort to prep, trek downtown on a weeknight, pay for parking, only to finally get there and find almost no one actually worth networking with. Not that there’s no value in talking with other people in a similar position, but when these type of events are sold to you as one of the required stepping stones to finding a job, and there’s almost no one there who even has a job, much less connections of their own, well, it’s a let down.

      Everyone and everything out there said “go to networking events if you need to find a job”, but they all seem to assume that networking events by nature are full of exactly the people you need to network with. A lot definitely fall into the superficial or inauthentic category.

      1. JohannaCabal*

        I ran into this too.

        One time, I was at a networking event at a time when I was on the periphery of the industry I wanted to get into. A recent graduate came up to me and asked if my company had any jobs in X. I told them I did not and that my company wasn’t even in that field. The person just walked away.

        A couple of the group’s organizers came up to me later and said that person kept asking folks for jobs. I felt bad for them because they obviously got some bad networking advice and it was clearly leaving a bad taste with some decision makers.

        I stay away from Networking for Networking’s Sake events and just stick to industry conferences.

      2. The Face*

        I suppose it probably depends a lot on the industry, but from the sound of it, something marketed with the word ‘networking’ in it might be rather useless. However, if there are conferences, CPD events, professional committees to join in one’s field, that sort of thing, that is usually where the real networking happens.

        But also, networks one builds with other people at one’s own level can be very helpful down the road! If you and Mary both meet at these events as new grads and you click with each other and kind of stay in touch then you never know what might happen twenty years down the road when Mary’s company is looking to hire someone with your very set of skills or whatever.

    2. Shan*

      This has been my experience as well – a combination of contacts + reputation.

      When I was changing careers, my (now ex-) husband had just moved into the industry a couple year prior. He’s a huge fan of networking, and he’s just naturally really good at it. He suggested I meet up with one of his contacts for a coffee, while I was doing my certificate program. She also happened to be teaching on of the courses, which I hadn’t taken yet. We got along well, but she didn’t, like, whip out a job offer before she was done her latte. Instead, she told me we could chat again after I’d taken her course. I did really well, and a few months later, she reached out to tell me there was a job opening at her company. I got hired, then I followed her to another company. Now we’re at different companies, but she’s still a great reference, I’ve gotten other great references through working for her, and we all reach out to let each other know about job openings, or to ask if we know of anyone who might be a great candidate.

  5. Emi*

    I am not a natural networker, being both shy and introverted. But, over the years I’ve had professional contact with a lot of people, through the normal workflows and communication on projects. In a way, that’s networking also.

    You won’t catch me at Kiwanis or Rotary, or even the chamber of commerce, but over time I’ve met a lot of people, so they are my network. To be clear, this is the slow and steady version, with a more limited network over a longer time, but it’s all been within my comfort zone.

    1. Yorick*

      This is a good point. Networking isn’t (just) about going to events to meet new people. It can also be about cultivating relationships with people you meet at work. And that doesn’t have to take a lot of work. If you do your job well and you’re warm and conscientious, people in your network will remember you positively and that can help you down the road.

      1. EPLawyer*

        THIS. If you are going just for the networking, you will get nothing out of it. but if you go to get something out of the organization, the networking flows from that. It’s about relationships, not selling yourself.

        I remember attending networking events for a little while back in 2009. I gave up when I realized that while I was trying to sell myself to others, everyone was trying to sell themselves to me. but not one was “buying.” I joined the Lions 8 years ago. Through an attorney I met at a pro bono clinic. Now that attorney doesn’t want to litigate anymore, so he takes in the cases, tries to settle and when they don’t he hands off the litigation to me. It has been …. lucrative to say the least. But we were friends before he did this.

        1. Uncle Boner*

          If you’re good enough, you don’t need to network. Opportunities will find you.

          Decide you’re good enough at your own peril.

      2. Goldenrod*

        I really like that point too. My personality recoils at the term “networking” which sounds too corporate to me.

        But I make a point of being friendly to coworkers, doing the (occasional) happy hour, and generally cultivating a favorable work reputation. These are all things that feel natural and aren’t hard to do – and basically, it is a form of networking, just more low key.

      3. JohannaCabal*

        Cultivating relationships does take time. For awhile I felt like a networking failure because despite my futile attempts at networking, my three post-College jobs came from my applying online.

        Now that I’ve been more established, I’ve been able to cultivate the relationships that helped me land my current and previous roles. It did take me 3-6 years though.

      4. alienor*

        I really think that’s it. When I changed jobs last year, I had two colleagues contact me unprompted to ask if I’d be interested in positions they knew about. One was someone I worked with at the time, and one was someone I’d worked with in the past, but hadn’t talked to for a couple of years–they’d just heard through the grapevine that I was looking for something new. I’ve also had freelancers whom I’ve worked with in the past ask if I’d like to take on a side project they don’t have room for (and I’ve done the same for them). To me, that’s networking, not trying to press a business card on people I’ve just met.

    2. Aggresuko*

      Well, I certainly know a lot of people in other areas/offices, I just can’t say that’s helped anything with regards to getting other jobs.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, networking really just means being interested in your work and connecting with other people who like to build on their existing knowledge. I am very introverted and I would almost rather be invisible at work, but I am curious about everything and have made lots of connections just by trying to learn new things. I do this via classes, committees or just by asking someone “So what do you do here? It looks interesting!” The connections to other people come naturally out of this process.

      The weird “active networking” mentality comes from people who think that they just need to meet enough people and magical things will happen.

  6. anonymous73*

    I think the effect of networking depends a lot on the profession. But I have always said it matters more about who you know than what you know. I had one former manager contact me about an open role that led to a career change. But we were also friends, not just manager/employee so we kept in touch regularly. I personally am too lazy to maintain a ton of different relationships that I care little about to maybe possibly give me a leg up on a job in the future. And I honestly feel like I’m using people if I don’t maintain contact with them by asking for job leads. Has that affected my career? Maybe. But as Alison said I don’t think it’s the only answer to being successful. When I’ve been unhappy or unemployed, it’s taken me a bit of time to find new jobs when I hear about others finding jobs without issue. But that could be for many different reasons, not just my lack of networking.

  7. Curmudgeon in California*

    I never managed to “network” in the standard way. I’m an introvert, and I’d rather have a root canal than go to a “networking event”. Conferences can be okay, but I usually fail to be included in the “hallway track”.

    What I have found is that if I can join online communities of people in my field and get to know people that way, I suddenly have a nationwide and possible worldwide network.

    This doesn’t work for everyone, so YMMV. But whichever way to get involved with and share experiences in your field works for you is probably the best way to go about it.

    1. hamsterpants*

      YES. I think many early-career professionals, and even students, are taught that networking = shmoozing with strangers. It sort of can help but networking is really just another type of human relationship. The normal rules for human relationships still apply. You still need to click with someone, have something in common, enjoy interacting at least a little bit, and the relationship needs to have some staying power. Shmoozing and boozing is to networking what speed dating at a local bar is to having a long-term romantic relationship.

      1. nona*

        This. To me, networking is just…the people you know in a professional capacity.

        Maybe you’d have lunch with them, maybe not, but you know them enough to have enough capital to make an ask. Either for info, or a favor, or an impression about someone. Maybe job related, but maybe not – maybe they want a restaurant recommendation for an out of town trip and they know you used to live in a place. But you have situational contact with them. In a social context, you’d call them friends or acquaintances. You may never actually ask them for anything, but you have enough of a relationship that you *could*

        The events can be useful if you aren’t getting a lot of people/new people contact in your regular day job AND you have a specific type of connection you want to make. State Bar (law) event? You want to chat to other solo practioners about their practice mgmt software. Or trends in cases. Or that weird thing you saw Judge Bob do last week in court. But if you are in a job with a lot of cross-functional contact (or a large department for your function), maybe you don’t need to go outside of your job. you just need to be good at your job and be a person to your coworkers.

      2. MsM*

        I will say that as an introvert who needs to be social at events for my job on a semi-regular basis, schmooze-style networking events can be a good, relatively low-stakes way to practice those skills. As long as you don’t go too hard on the alcohol or say anything totally unfit for polite company, the worst case is that a couple of people you hand your card to will send you a two-line “nice to meet you!” email and then you’ll never interact with any of them again. If you wind up with any lasting or useful connections, bonus.

    2. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      I wish I knew back then what I know now – that networking is being your most authentic genuine self and people are naturally drawn to people who really are enthused about something and interested in a subject matter. I remember the sense that networking was having to be something that I wasn’t and also to in some way perform for this imaginary audience of “professionals”. I steered well clear of anything approaching that for years when I didn’t have to.

    3. WomEngineer*

      Online communities can be great. During my job search, I networked through meeting cool people in women-specific industry groups and doing informational interviews for early-career advice. Most of these people were NOT involved with hiring, and about half weren’t even engineers like me, but a few would tell me if they knew an open position.

      That said, I got my job from just applying online. Networking only helped me get to the first interview at other companies, at which point it was up to my skills. However, I indirectly benefitted from another’s network, as my first interviewer recommended me to a different hiring manager.

      Overall, I think networking is a tool, like attending career fairs. It’ll work for some people, but for others it will have little effect.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’m an ambivert and at conferences the most social I am willing to be is maybe catching up with some people I already know. After that many presentations and force feeding my brain new information the last thing I need to do is try and add new names, faces, or anything more complicated than what I am eating for lunch/dinner. I never did get the social side of it, but I know other folks love it.

    5. Forrest Gumption*

      Yes, this! I am also an introvert, but being part of several Facebook groups for people in my profession has been a great but low-stakes way to make connections (and I don’t have to go to cocktail parties and make boring conversation with strangers).

    6. Anhaga*

      Online communities are a *great* way to do real, authentic, useful networking, especially if your field is small and/or developing. One of the best things I did when I got started in my current career track was join a Slack server dedicated to the field–it has been a huge boon for learning the field, getting a sense of the big names, and turning myself into a known quantity. If I apply for a job and someone on the hiring committee is also on that server, they’ll probably have seen my name before, and they’ll have a way to go look up my actual professional interactions with others. It has also been a great way to simply get to know about jobs that I otherwise might miss; my current job came through a Slack post on a server for our local tech community . . . even when the jobs are posted on public websites, having someone go, “Hey, thought you all should know about this job post I saw!” can make it loads easier to find those jobs,

    7. Smithy*

      For people who are more comfortable online and also people who cultivate smaller networks through working directly with people, I just have to make a plug for how LinkedIn can actually be very helpful.

      A lot of times those connections you slowly build with people you work with, enjoy their style of working, and build natural communication – you may very well only ever have their work email address. If you leave your position, you can give them your private email address but that doesn’t guarantee they will respond with their private email address. By connecting via LinkedIn there’s a secondary method of contact and professional outreach provided either of you leave your current job and are ever looking to connect in the future.

      Logging in semi-regularly can also be helpful as a way of seeing if anyone in your network has started a new job, received a promotion, or perhaps posted some of their work. All three options present ultra low lift opportunities for engagement (push the like button) or the chance to reach out either via a LinkedIn message or email. It can be as low lift as “congratulations on the new role” or the chance to send a more substantive update.

      Earlier in your career, it may seem natural that people will remember working with you – but as your career goes on, people’s memories can fade and having a professional medium where you can connect every few years becomes more valuable over time.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Yes to all of this. I understand LI doesn’t work for everyone, but as a perma-rolodex it’s incredibly useful. Maybe because I work in a field where people move around constantly, but without it I couldn’t even track down references after a couple of years! It provides those low-lift opportunities you mention, which are great for me because the “stay in touch” advice requires having something to say and I often feel like I have nothing big enough to send an email for. A quick message feels more comfortable. It helps me remember people I would have forgotten, which leads to “why didn’t I think of them!” moments on both sides. And it shows the trajectories people take over a long period of time, which is useful when I’m thinking about trying something new in addition to being just plain interesting to see.

        1. Smithy*

          Absolutely. I think this is particularly true if you work for larger employers where you encounter a higher number of people and then also the dynamic where there’s a semi-regular amount of turnover or if the nature of your work is very project based.

          I know some people who’ve been very turned off by LinkedIn due to features that remind them of Facebook, which I totally get. But I think it’s worth revisiting it as a tool that can be used to for yourself.

          And as a note about “hidden job lists” – for my sector, the reality isn’t so much about those job postings being hidden but rather hearing about the jobs you want to hear about shortly after they’re actually posted. In my case, I am connected on LinkedIn to a number of people who do post jobs I’m interested in and then it presents an easy opportunity to reach out to a hiring manager or team member to ask questions before applying.

          I know this isn’t the same across sectors, but I think it’s the more relevant pieces about how LinkedIn can function as a networking tool and has far less to do with keeping your bio up to date.

          1. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

            I have a similar feeling about “hidden” job lists. I work for a huge employer in my area, and they have their own job board they post online. I only thought to apply here because a friend suggested I check the website.

            They don’t feel the need to post on LinkedIn because they usually get enough applications without, so they are freely available. But if you don’t check their website or get referred, you aren’t going to find them organically.

    8. Friendly Neighborhood Researcher*

      Yes! My (weird niche) profession has a listserv where people often post questions, and it’s a great way to a) learn more about the field, b) get decent advice, and c) make connections because typically you’re connecting to discuss a specific issue/topic/question so it feels a lot less like “I Am Doing Networking.”

      (As a bonus, it’s also a great way to learn which people to *avoid* in your industry if they’re displaying particularly bad online behavior.)

  8. ThatGirl*

    Yeah, I think people have somewhat skewed ideas of what networking is or what it can be. I have built a network by being friendly with people at work — not necessarily friends! — and staying in touch with them occasionally. And LinkedIn does help with that, but I could do it without, too. But over the last 15 years, through being friendly and well-liked and competent at my job, I’ve amassed a decent amount of people who would recommend me for a job, or let me know if there was an opening at their company, and who I would do the same for — and have! When I got laid off in November 2020, I got my new job because someone who knew I was looking encouraged me to apply for it. And when a new position opened up at this company, I recommended a former coworker who’d also been laid off — and she became a current coworker.

    It’s absolutely not the only way to find a job, but being personable, likeable AND good at your job can go a long way in building a professional network and finding a new one.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Now I’m kinda thinking through how I got all of my jobs post-college…

      Job 1: went to job fair, met newspaper editor, was set to become an intern when I got a call from a sister paper that had a full-time job open; got that job
      Job 2: met someone on a journalism forum who let me know of an opening on a paper in the area I was looking in, got an interview
      Job 3: got fired from job 2; answered an ad on Craiglist; built up a good reputation in a new company/new skillset
      Job 4: laid off from job 3; joined an “outplacement firm” as part of severance, met someone there who was about to start at a company I was intrigued by and put my resume in front of the right person
      Job 5: laid off from job 4, someone I’d known from job 4 let me know of an opening, applied and quickly got hired

      1. WomEngineer*

        Mine has been a mix of knowing what’s out there and building off of previous experience.

        Internship 1: Did research through a large university, which I knew from growing up nearby.

        Externship: Interviewed and was chosen for a leadership program by “Company A”. Applied for next year’s internships early.
        Internship 2: Company A, did not have to interview again. Applied to a returning intern requisition.
        Internship 3: Declined 1st Company A offer due to school-related stress, but accepted a 2nd months later. Applied for full-time conversion.

        (Insert financial troubles for A in addition to the pandemic. Never heard back. Took advantage of extended deadlines to go to grad school)

        Job 1: Applied to a “20XX Grad” posting on the company site.

    2. Bee*

      Yeah, I was extremely uncomfortable with “networking” when I was a new college grad, and then as I wanted to meet more people in my industry in order to make friends in a new city, I realized that was actually networking – in the process of trying to make friends, I found a lot of people who never made it to that tier but whom I liked talking to, and over time those people became my professional network! I now have a networking-heavy sales job that requires a lot of industry matchmaking, which I would have thought I’d hate but it turns out I really enjoy. I got my current job by reaching out to the people I know with my role and asking if they knew of anyone looking to hire – someone replied to say my current boss (whom I didn’t know at the time) might be open to adding a new employee, and here we are.

      1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        My alma mater holds an annual dinner for their graduating seniors. Some young alumni are invited to host, shake hands, make connections, etc. I was invited to host and also asked to give a 2-3 minute speech on networking.

        My entire speech was basically – all that stuff you love doing here? You can do it out the in the real world, you just don’t have an activities fair to sign up for it. When you’re playing your trombone in the community orchestra, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or passing out flyers for a political candidate, get to know the people you’re working with. You’re now networking! Those people can see that you’re smart, capable, reliable, and easy to work with – which makes them comfortable recommending you for jobs, setting you up with their friends in your field, etc.

    3. Atlantic Toast Conference*

      I totally agree. I don’t do “schmoozy” stuff, but networking has come in handy for me in the past year– I applied for a job at Company X supporting a client I used to work for, and simultaneously reached out to some folks at the old client letting them know. They were able to drop the good word to Company X that I was a positive known quantity. Company X didn’t hire me on the spot or anything, but I’m sure it helped. “Networking” in this case just consisted of being someone the client could vouch for, and keeping in (loose) touch with them.

    4. SINE*

      100% this. I spent many years in consulting and had always thought networking meant going to industry events and trying to drum up business. I was terrible at it and thought networking was the biggest, emptiest con. My desk drawer was full of other people’s business cards and I would send out the occasional “hey, how’s it going, let’s get lunch and talk about [x] ” or “here’s an article I thought you might find interesting, it’s been a while, let’s connect.” UGH. It was so awkward and forced and terrible.

      But, I eventually moved over to a job in industry, did incredible work there, and built some really strong relationships with people across the org. Over the years as people have moved on to other jobs, several have reached out to me about openings at their companies and it’s how I’ve landed two separate jobs since. By continuing to make sure I kick ass and invest in getting to know coworkers (not in a bff way but at least approaching them as human beings in our interactions, not just being a finance robot beep bop boop) in every new job, my network continues to grow. I’ve also tried to pay it forward by reaching out to former coworkers when I see an opening where I’m at and think they would be a great fit.

      So yeah, nothing beats being personable, likable, and good at your job! People will remember you and be more than happy to help you out, whether it’s putting your resume in front of the right person at their company, introduce you to someone else in their network, or even just give you some advice/talk through work issues with you.

  9. OoO*

    Sometimes it’s just a nice boost. In my field most of the jobs are posted publicly, as was my job when I applied. But I knew it was going to be posted before it actually was because my boss (who was supportive of my job search) knew the person who held it before me from a conference, and I knew one of the people on my hiring committee from that same conference. It made it easier for me to get a feel for what would be appreciated in a good application and interview. There’s no way to know if I would have gotten the job without networking, but it did make the process less nerve wracking.
    Networking connections have helped me solve problems at work many times, though. I’m the only one in my organization who does exactly what I do, so sometimes if I feel stuck I’ve reached out to people I knew to brainstorm.

  10. Rusty Shackelford*

    Mr. S has networked his way into almost every job he’s ever had. And he doesn’t do formal networking at all. He just never lets anyone go. He does a good job, makes a good impression, and stays in contact with his former supervisors and coworkers, so when something comes up, they think of him. And when he needs a job or a reference, he has a web of colleagues he can ask.

  11. EEB18*

    “Some of the best networking is just about building relationships with the people you’re already coming into contact with naturally, becoming known for doing good work, and maintaining relationships even after your work takes you out of someone’s day-to-day orbit.” I love this definition of networking so much! I’m a fairly quiet/private person and not much of a schmoozer, so I tend to think of myself as a bad networker. But last year I attended a virtual conference session and connected on LinkedIn (very common in my field) with some of the other attendees, including one attendee who I thought seemed extremely smart and experienced. I continued to follow his work and eventually needed someone with a particular area of expertise, on the same day that I saw him post on LinkedIn that he had the exact expertise I needed. We’ve since collaborated in a few different ways that have been beneficial for us both. It really brought home to me that networking can just be a matter of remembering, “oh, I met this smart person once who would be a good fit for this project,” rather than “I attended 86 happy hours last year.”

  12. NYWeasel*

    Short answer: Yes

    Longer answer: The networking that’s worked most consistently for me is when I forge genuine connections with people over shared interests. Whenever I’ve tried to maintain a social connection bc I think it will simply benefit me later on, I never reach that level of connection where they are willing to put themselves out to help me. I find the same thing when I mentor younger people.

  13. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    It can be really tough to network effectively as a young person new to your career. I think of networking more like Allison said – building relationships with people at work, building a reputation of being a good coworker, etc. I also think of cultivating that reputation as being a positive thing for when you need references. Maybe that’s a better way to think about it than just “networking” but as “reputation building”.

  14. Mbarr*

    I have gotten my foot in the door with every single one of my jobs (except for my first one) with the help of friends and coworkers. This doesn’t mean I didn’t need to interview. Instead, it just meant my friends referred me and helped me bypass the usual online recruitment system (e.g. a referral guarantees at least a phone interview with an internal recruiter). To me, this is what networking is.

  15. Remotie*

    As a Talent Acquisition professional I have a lot of contacts on LinkedIn and have attended networking events but it hasn’t lead to me getting a job. That being said, I connected with a former classmate that’s now head of alumni relations at my high school and now I have been asked to be the key speaker at career day. I’ve always said my “retirement job” would be a high school career counselor, working with students to help them identify career paths that they may not have been aware of (not everyone will be a doctor, lawyer, influencer, etc.). Give it time, just because your network isn’t producing now doesn’t mean it wont provide opportunities in the future, in other areas besides work.

  16. Anne of Green Gables*

    Most people would say I learned about my current job through networking. I wasn’t looking. But someone I had worked with previously who had moved on reached out to me about a retirement (and therefore opening) coming down the pike at her new workplace. She knew my skillset and thought I would be a good fit, and she knew that the schedule at my then-current job was one of the only things I didn’t like. We hadn’t even kept in touch, she had to get my contact info from our former director. The shorter commute and much better schedule were enough for me to be interested, and I applied (and ultimately got the job).

    So in this case, the main thing I did was be good at my job, good enough that someone remembered me when an opening came up. It’s not networking like I think of it most of the time.

  17. blackcat lady*

    I think networking will make you aware of possibilities that are out there. I worry more that you are downplaying your abilities. You say it’s a wear many hats kind of job that tells me you are adaptable and quick to learn. You accept challenges. You find solutions.

    Don’t underestimate the LinkIn page. Please have someone help you rewrite it to point out your versatility and talents. My kid #2 wasn’t even looking and landed job based on a strong profile – recruiter called out of the blue.

    You say you doubt people would remember you. I am an introvert, so if you are too I know it’s hard to socialize. But try at work! Please, please, please be more positive about what you do at your current job and what you have to offer in future jobs.

  18. BPT*

    OP, five years into my career, I didn’t have much of a network either. I had only worked at one place, and was still very early in my career. I wasn’t handling any major projects that would get me seen as a “leader.” Ten+ years into my career, its much different. I think people recognize me more now, and I have stretched my wings a lot more in my second five years than I did in my first five.

    But I work in lobbying/politics, which is known for networking, and I’ve still never gotten a job through networking. Every job I’ve gotten has been applying blind off a job board. I’ve had people in my networks try to help me out with my job search, but none of those outreaches actually led to jobs I got. I think it’s important to keep a network that you can call on to be references and attest to the work you’ve done, but plenty of people, even in seemingly networking-heavy areas, get jobs without knowing anyone.

  19. Wants Green Things*

    I think early on in your career, networking has less effect on the jobs you’ll be getting, simply because, well, you’re still early on. Your network becomes the the professional contacts you’ve made over time, the coworkers who have moved on, the VP you talked to over drinks at a conference.

    Try looking into local chapters of industry associations. It’s been rougher thanks to Covid, but I’ve met and stay in contact with quite a few people around my (younger) age thanks to the 2 associations I’m in. I only go to 2 events out of 10, but it helps.

  20. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    So, this is going to sound weird, but there’s a certain amount of “networking” and “reputation building” that just happen. Work in the same department as someone for a couple of years? Those coworkers are now part of your network. Pull off a big project on time/under budget/with an unusually good attitude? You’ve just improved your professional reputation. And this stuff is going to keep happening, without needing much effort beyond what you should be already doing as part of your job.

    Furthermore, you’re only five years past graduation, and sometimes this stuff can take a long time before you start seeing the really obvious things like “I know someone who works there!” (It’s happened to me exactly once, and there was a six year gap between when we were coworkers at Job A, and when he was on the panel when I interviewed at Job D.) The further you get in your working life, even (or sometimes especially) if you change career paths, not only will you have done more things and met more people, but so will everyone else you’ve met. Sometimes that looks like the articles about “Use your network to land your next job!”, and sometimes it means you know someone who knows someone who happens to be the local expert in the niche you really need an expert in.

  21. Public Sector Manager*

    I’m a lawyer by trade. There is a huge difference between real networking where you have a relationship with someone and the cold calling version of networking.

    When I first passed the bar, I didn’t have a full time job lined up because the economy was just that bad. About 35% of my class didn’t have a job lined up after the bar. But plenty of people I knew knew lawyers in town and I was able to get a little work here and there. I then was able to get some fairly regular research work from one lawyer, who then referred me to another lawyer “Chuck.” Chuck was able to bring me on 4-5 days a week as a contract attorney. Chuck also rented space to “Sally.” Sally and I hit it off, Sally had me work on a few cases with her, and then we went our separate ways.

    Fast forward two years. I had gone out on my own, and my two biggest clients who were 90% of my young business went out of business. This was a Friday afternoon. On Monday morning I was sitting at my desk with no way to pay my bills. My phone rings. It was Sally. She just joined a new firm and they needed another associate and she recommended me. It was a new area of law for me, but I got hired, spent 7 years in that area of law, and that area of law exposed me to my current practice area. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Sally’s intervention.

    The cold calling version of networking can work, but you just can’t call once and expect to get anything from it. Like everything else, you have to develop a rapport and keep that person informed on what you’re up to because people aren’t going to go to bat for a stranger or simply because you went to the same school. You cold call with the hope that you develop a professional relationship with someone and then that relationship eventually leads to something.

  22. Weird Time Soup*

    Whenever someone mentions networking, I always find myself thinking about how poorly I do with that, how much I should be trying to do it more, and how much I don’t think it would succeed for me.

    Then I remember that I was hired at the company where I work now because a new position was being created and the director of HR for the company was an acquaintance who I housesat and babysat for and thought of me and invited me to apply. Went through the interview process with her team and the hiring manager, was offered the position, ended up not meeting a requirement of the position on a technicality, and the CEO suggested restructuring the position out of that department (where it was a mandatory requirement) and into HR instead. Talked about it with my acquaintance, who confirmed that she was comfortable managing me, she confirmed that I was comfortable being managed by her, and accepted the new position and just passed my three year anniversary with the company and couldn’t be happier!

    So sometimes networking is making those professional connections, and sometimes it really is just happy accidents and leaving people with good impressions about you and your work ethic.

  23. DJ*

    For my first job out of grad school: didn’t help a whit. Not that I was good at networking. I have kids and would much rather go home after school, not hang out with strangers…actually, even before kids I would much rather go home.

    For my last job search, my network did help a ton. Fully half of the I terviews I got were at places where I knew someone. Now the difference wasn’t that I was going to networking events but that I knew and worked with people at those companies. My advice is to do good work and be friendly to your colleagues. Does that help with the first job in your field, no. But it will help in all the subsequent ones.

    For point of reference: my field is biotech/pharma.

  24. WT*

    The best networking is “Don’t be an asshole to anyone you work with”. As long as you maintain a neutral-to-positive relationship with your coworkers and managers, it’ll be much more likely that you get a job because former managers/coworkers have moved to new companies and recognize you and your work.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      If you become known as a positive, helpful person who does great work, people will call on you when they need a [whatever it is you do]. Even better, if you aren’t interested in Person A’s opportunity, you might have a wide enough network yourself that you can recommend Person B, and become known as a force for good in your professional world.

      This is also another reminder to be nice to administrative and cleaning staff. You should do this anyway, of course, but if you need a nudge, remember that you have no idea who those people know or where they’re going to end up.

  25. AnonaLlama*

    Instead of thinking about networking in the context of “getting a new job”, think about building a network of people outside of your organization that you could email/call/dm with a crazy specific in-the-weeds question about your job. Like “has anyone tried the new Acme brand 2-in-1 Llama shampoo and conditioner? How was it?”. If there’s a professional group, user group, discussion forum, heck….subreddit about your field get active on it. This will be valuable for you *now* in your day-to-day job and that is enough to make it worth it.

    Then someday when Northern Llamas posts a Senior groomer role and you’ve chatted a bunch with @northernllamamama it won’t feel weird at all for you to ask her “hey….I see there’s a senior groomer role there” or better yet, she’ll reach out to you to tell you to keep your eye open for a senior groomer role they’re about to post.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      This is a big part of how I “network”. We can’t all know everything and being able to ask questions of others about our work is so helpful.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      This. “Been there, done that” and able to answer questions about it is a great way to help people and build social capital in your field. Even being able to commiserate over the shortcomings of a particular tool, and being able to identify alternatives or work-arounds. It helps establish your bonafides as someone who has actually done the work. I got my current job this way.

  26. pst*

    I find networking interesting and sometimes helpful. Worst case I have one awkward conversation with a person I’ll never see again, most often I get to have at least one interesting conversation for an hour or so, best case I make a new friend or even find out about a job. A lot of people are really bad at it though. I work in politics in DC and whenever I go to events with a lot of students (which saying this makes me feel old even though I’m under 30) I find that they approach it with a “I must meet as many people as possible even though I won’t have a memorable conversation or leave an impression for them to remember me by.” While you don’t need to hang onto one person the whole time, you also don’t need to run around the room collecting cards if you don’t remember enough to send a decent follow up email when you actually want to reconnect with the person- which is the necessary next step to actually building a relationship and utilizing your network. I’ve found several jobs through people I meet through networking events or social groups. And not every network connection has to be for a job, I’ve also made many friends through networking events.

  27. Danish*

    I have also never “networked” in the traditional sense, but also every professional job I’ve had save one I have gotten an interview for because I knew somebody personally who worked there who recommended me (and that one exception I later found out the hiring manager knew my current manager at the time and reached out because of that, so networking by proxy).

    It often feels unfair to me, though. In a country that loves to lean on BOOTSTRAPS it’s a bit galling that actually the success rate does seem to hinge on Who You Know, even at the lowest levels.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      All the more reason to make sure your network includes non-traditionally-privileged people, including people of a range of races, ethnicities, genders, abilities, ages, and so forth. I’m happy when I can get a friend hooked up with a good job lead, but even happier when I can promote the career of a colleague who has had to deal with discrimination.

  28. Andri Byrne*

    Networking can be really helpful if you’re ever looking to get into a start-up as well (if you’re not looking to start one yourself). Some startup jobs will be publicly available, but a reference from a connection can get you in early.

    At the C-suite level (or even slightly below) it’s entirely networking. Companies won’t post those positions (especially startups) because it makes them look like they don’t have it together. I’d call that part of the ‘hidden job market’ that was being talked about above.

    Really junior/entry level roles can be like this too. In a company you might get the hiring manager asking their coworkers, their coworkers know a person, that person knows a recent grad looking for a job, for example (yes, this is extremely prone to neopostism).

  29. Chili pepper Attitude*

    My brother worked for a major corp in tech and never thought once about networking or professional relationships at all. A thing he regretted 100% when he got laid off in one of the rounds of layoffs 10 or so years ago. He had no email list of people he could email to say, do you know of any jobs, I’m looking and here is my resume. He could look back and see there could have been such a list, but he never thought about it.

    My son is still in his first professional job but he has always kept a contact list of people he meets and has a list he could email if he was looking.

    My husband had a contact list of one person when he was looking for his first job. The one person had a lead that turned into a job that connected to the great job he has had for many years.

    There are so many ways to “network”!

  30. Armchair Non-Expert*

    I’ve always felt that “networking” is overrated. However, I think I have finally found a situation where I am grateful to have contacts outside of my immediate coworkers—I lost all of my professional references. I’m still fairly young, so my retail and food service managers from college, 7 years ago don’t really help me professionally, and due to retirements, deaths, and a very messy divorce between two of the major players in my industry, I don’t have any professional references that can speak highly of my professional work.
    Enter, my work association. Once I realized that I couldn’t cobble together 3 professional references (yet I wanted to move on from my current job and couldn’t list my current manager for /reasons/), I joined a professional association and got involved in committee work and on the board right away. In a matter of 6-8 months, I have people that can speak to my work and dependability. None of this is “networking” in the sense of shmoozing people or playing up contacts, but it is expanding the set of people that know me professionally. It’s been helpful enough that I now highly recommend this type of networking to my peers.

  31. Bookworm*

    I hate “networking.” I can’t stand the “traditional” way of chatting with strangers, doing the work happy hours/holiday parties, etc. I have found it was easier/better when I actually got to know someone through work–we had to work together and therefore actually got to know each other’s work, working styles, preferences, etc. I’ve found a lot of the advice of cold-calling (got a LinkedIn message from someone who had gone to the same program as I did and I suspect was told to cold-message me by our useless career center person) just doesn’t work. But if you find a way to build a rapport and/or relationship it really does help.

  32. River Otter*

    Networking as in building your network by creating relationships can be extremely valuable, but it takes a while to pay off in the form of an opportunity that leads to a job. In this era, weak ties don’t lead you to a job the same way they did in the 70s, which is the time period that the advice to ask your hairdresser if they know of any jobs originated. These days, job openings are very easy to find. The whole network your way to a hidden job opening thing just isn’t as much of a thing anymore (not to say that that never happens).Work is much more common is that you find a job opening, and because fields and areas are relatively small, somebody there might be able to speak to how you work. And the way that somebody there might know how you work is because you have worked with them before. So networking should really be thought of as building relationships at your current workplace (Or volunteer place or professional Association), not going out and meeting strangers.

  33. Lacey*

    I do barely any networking, but when I have it’s almost exclusively about people having seen my work and happening to know someone else who might be interested in hiring me for a job.

    I’ve gotten two jobs partially because I had previously worked for a company that the new company did business with.
    Having worked with people they knew was it’s own kind of recommendation.

  34. WoodswomanWrites*

    I work in a field that is based on relationships so I’ve maintained the ones I’ve created over the years through LinkedIn and work email. My connections have helped me directly get two jobs. For one, it turned out that a manager at a different workplace previously reported to the hiring manager where I was applying and put in a word for me. For my current role, a former co-worker now at the same place talked me up, and so did a contact from a peer organizations who was connected with someone else there.

    I applied for both of these jobs through the usual process of submitting an application. Perhaps I would have been hired anyway, but it certainly helped to have people putting in a word for me with the hiring teams.

  35. a clockwork lemon*

    My first two jobs I got from cold applications I found online. I’m in my third role now, after being submitted for consideration by someone I know socially who worked on the team and was familiar with my previous work. I never in a million years would have made it past the robo-screeners if I’d applied cold, but my now-colleague gave my resume directly to their boss and the company hired me into a role that’s a huge career advancement for me. I’m very qualified for the position and it’s squarely within my area of expertise, but at the end of the day I got the job because someone I knew internally wanted me on their team and advocated hard for me.

    Basically–you’ll be FINE if you don’t network, but maintaining friendly social relationships with people in your field could be the difference between “fine” and “awesome” because people will think of you first when they need certain skill sets on their teams or when someone else they know has an opportunity that might be a good fit for you.

  36. Gracely*

    I despise what people classically think of as networking. And yet, in my case, only three of the jobs I’ve ever gotten didn’t involve networking–two of those were part-time jobs in college, the other was my first teaching job.

    However, in all but one case for the jobs I got through networking, the networking was just someone saying “hey, there’s a job at this place you might be interested in” and aside from that, I went through the regular process. I did make sure to mention my connection/how I found out about the job during the interviews. The one that involved the most “networking” was me taking on a full-time, professional job at a place a few years after I’d had a part-time student job there(doing something completely different, but they knew I’d train into the position well).

    It really is about who you know. Not that you can’t get a job without knowing people, just that it’s often a lot easier to find something if someone lets you know about it rather than you having to find it by wading through an endless pile of job postings. PLUS–and frankly, this might be the most important–it means you don’t waste your time on a place that’s covered in red flags, because most contacts will warn you about that if they can.

    1. Gracely*

      And I should mention, in all but one of those cases, the person telling me about the job was someone I knew outside of work.

  37. Lana Kane*

    ” Some of the best networking is just about building relationships with the people you’re already coming into contact with naturally, becoming known for doing good work, and maintaining relationships even after your work takes you out of someone’s day-to-day orbit.”

    This is such a good way to put it. I have never networked, but I’ve always told the people I’ve mentored that one of the best things I’ve done in my career is build relationships, and I’ve done it the way Alison describes. It still requires some effort, but it’s a lot more organic process.

  38. FitLadyCerevisiae*

    I have a few examples in which “networking” helped me significantly with getting jobs/furthering my career.

    I became good friends with a colleague in my PhD lab, and when I was visiting him after we had both moved on, I came with him to the birthday party of a friend of his. His friend and I became Facebook friends, and about a year later when I was job hunting I posted the kind of work I was looking for on Facebook, he PM’d me, and I ended up interviewing and getting a job at his company. (This was as a research scientist)

    In another example, when I was doing seasonal winery work, as one of the jobs was wrapping up, one of my coworkers said she would put in a good word for me if I wanted to follow her to the winery she had lined up for the next harvest, and that was how I was able to get that job, despite only having one season of winery experience, because my coworker could vouch for my work.

    Another time I was on a fitness subreddit, and I saw a post by another person who mentioned doing work very similar to me. I was finishing up my PhD, so I messaged her to ask for a little advice about next steps, and we ended up having a mentor-mentee relationship for a year or so where she gave me very helpful career advice and insights.

    Finally, when I hear about job openings and I know friends or former colleagues who would be good fits, I recommend them. For example, my sister’s company was looking for someone with very specific technical expertise a couple of years ago, and I had a former colleague I was in loose contact with who I knew was job hunting and had nearly matched qualifications. So I connected them and he ended up being a great fit.

    It’s not that a lack of networking would have prevented me from getting these jobs, or similar jobs, but it was helpful and like Allison said, probably reduced the length of my job hunt. I never found networking in professional groups or at networking events to be helpful or pleasant, but having good relationships with my colleagues, and developing a reputation for doing good work, have been helpful and enjoyable for me to do.

  39. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    I’ve been in the workforce for about 25 years, and at least half of my jobs have been the result of networking. In fact, I once networked my way into a job offer within a week:

    Monday – Reached out to an old boss who had moved to different industry. She gave me the name of a guy she knew who specializes in helping small business understand their sales/customer data.
    Tuesday – Had coffee with data guy. He hooked me up with a recruiter friend of his who works with finance/accounting companies.
    Wednesday – Phone interview with recruiter. On the call he mentioned there was a position he’d been trying to fill at a small investment firm, and asked if he could set something up for the next day.
    Thursday – In person interview with investment firm.
    Friday – Job offer

    It was bananas, to say the least.

    I also helped my just-graduated-from-college daughter get her job by reaching out to someone I worked with at that firm who had moved on to become a VP at a small regional bank. He recommended her based solely on his experience with me, she interviewed and was hired on the spot as a customer service rep in their call center.

    My current position is working for a guy I used to be peers with a few years ago. He was promoted to a Director level and when he heard I was looking to make a move, offered me a 40% pay raise and an extra week of vacation to join his team.

  40. Michelle Smith*

    Maybe think of it less as networking and more as relationship building and professional development. You do not need to have an end goal of getting a job through your network for it be valuable. That contact from your former employer may move to a role where they have expertise that you can use in your current job. Or you might be able to help someone you know well and care about connect with people and help *them* get a job.

    Ways I used LinkedIn and networking other than getting a job include informational interviews for graduate programs I was considering, connecting people I mentor with people in my network for informational interviews and internship opportunities, and gaining a deeper subject matter expertise in my field (by connecting with people in my field and reading their posts/comments on my own posts AND by discovering events/webinars/trainings related to my interests). I also joined a committee for a volunteer bar association (I’m a lawyer) and even though I don’t really do any event planning or have any leadership roles, just showing up to the meetings and learning from the presenters has been super valuable for my professional development.

    I am by no means a superstar networker. There is a LOT more I could be doing in that department. But I am an introvert and at the end of the day, I don’t want to spend 15 hours a week after hours planning events, attending events, posting original content, emailing/in-mailing people, etc. I spend an hour on LinkedIn a week and a couple of hours every other month doing bar association stuff. And when I started looking for a job, I had multiple people I could reach out to and who were more than happy to help me, because I had even this small of a relationship and an active online presence that they observed. Just my two cents.

  41. RussianInTexas*

    I am in somewhat of the same position as a LW. I worked for the Old Job for almost 15 years, it was my first job after moving to the US. I’ve never been to a conference, I don’t write papers, I haven’t graduated college in the US, I am not management, I do not belong to any professional organization (not that my type of work would even have one). I do not belong to a church. I do not belong to ANY organization or a group (I don’t really want to). None of my friend work in similar type of job. Most of them are in accounting or engineering or software.
    I now work for a small family owned company in a similar role that does not involve any kind of professional networking. The only people I deal with are current coworkers and customers.
    I have a LinkedIn account. I have NEVER once been contacted by a recruiter. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a recruiter. I am just not high enough on the totem pole to really warrant any “professional” networking.
    I am just a CSR/account manager/whatever my company needs me to be.

  42. turquoisecow*

    I’ve never been to a networking event but I’ve worked in the same industry for over ten years now (it’s retail adjacent, and that doesn’t even count the years prior in the actual retail part of the business) and I built up a reputation amongst my peers and my managers as someone who does quality work, so when my old company went under I had several people offer to recommend me for jobs at places they’d been hired. At the time I was trying to leave the industry, something that didn’t happen, and I ended up scoring another job when a colleague recommended me for it. I ultimately didn’t stay there, but a few years later an old boss contacted me for an opportunity, and when I switched jobs I recommended another mutual old coworker as my replacement (she hadn’t known his situation or if he’d be willing to switch jobs, but he lived very close to the office and I knew he’d appreciate a much shorter commute).

    If it’s a fairly small industry in a fairly small geographic area, as mine is, chances are you know people in many companies and adjacent industries (like vendors who work with those companies, in my case) so having a good reputation works in your favor. If I was looking for a job I might not cold-call my former coworkers, but I might let people know I was looking (on Linked In or Facebook or whatever) and hope that they’d keep me in mind for something. And I know that if I hear a position is open and I know a colleague who’d be a good fit, I might suggest they apply or mention them to the hiring manager.

    But all that relies on me knowing the person well enough to recommend their work, which won’t happen if I just met them for 15 minutes at a networking event or something. So “is networking useful” sure, but not the way I think some people present it.

  43. Lizzo*

    OP: My last three full-time jobs have been the direct result of “who I know” (i.e. my network). In each instance, my network did one or more of the following things: told me about the job, answered questions about job postings at their own companies, asked me to apply, hired me because they had been following my career and knew I could bring things to the table that were beyond the scope of the job description.

    All of my freelance work comes from referrals. I have done exactly zero advertising in the last 10 years.

    Places that I build my network that are not within the professional realm include:
    * volunteering
    * participating in local events where I can meet neighbors who come from a variety of professional backgrounds
    * being part of a fitness-focused group such as a running club
    * engaging in meetup-style activities for my interests outside of work

    If networking feels uncomfortable for you, try thinking about it from a mindset of, “What help can I offer this person I’m speaking with? Who do I know that I could connect them with?” This could be as simple as knowing about job openings at your company and referring people you know to those jobs. Giving is frequently easier than receiving, and that generosity of spirit can repay you in a big way when it comes time for you to ask for help.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Lizzo makes a good point: If your backup plan for “what if I lose this job” is to go into freelancing or contract work, you need a network.

      1. Lizzo*

        Yes, thanks for highlighting this point! My full-time work and freelancing work are actually different (but tangentially related), and I cannot tell you what a *gift* it has been to have both of these revenue streams available to me over the last 20 years. And they’re both reliable revenue streams because of the strength of my network.

  44. Daffodilly*

    Every job I have had I got through some sort of networking, but I’ve never done any “networking” events or anything. First job out of college, a professor sent me a job listing and said “You’d be a good fit here, I know the owner and will be happy to be your reference.”
    Next time I wanted to move on, I reached out to someone in my field I’d used to work for to ask if he had any openings. He did not, but he suggested another company I’d never heard of. Worked there 5 years.
    Last time I was out of work because my company moved my job out of the US I posted on LinkedIn and Facebook that I was looking and within 3 hours a former coworker had given my info to her boss, who called me to schedule an interview, and I was at my new job within 10 days. It’s been a great move.
    And all I did was show up reliably, do my job well and without drama.

  45. Meghan*

    Networking for me is, “oh yeah, I know a guy, let me get you in touch with him” or something like that. I’ll say, while networking hasn’t been great for me, my partner has gotten all of his positions from people he’s known, so it may just depend on the individual.

  46. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    Interestingly, I’m in a career that often implies schmoozing (fundraising) but I’ve never used it in my own career. I just build a strong reputation in my work, and keep in touch with coworkers when I/they move on.

    I was recruited for my first “career” job by someone I volunteered with (and I found that volunteering job through a boss I’d had at a college internship, who remembered me and encouraged me to apply when they had this volunteer board opening)

    I almost got a job last year with the help of a colleague I’d had at a previous job. We kept in touch and she knew I was looking, so she sent me the posting and put in a good word for me (the company owner was someone she knew from her current job and was mildly acquainted with socially)

    I’ve been told what put me over the top to get my current job was my exceptional references – both friends/colleagues mentioned in the above two stories, as well as a previous boss.

    To me, “networking” isn’t about meeting NEW people, it’s about cultivating relationships with people you already know.

  47. Re'lar Fela*

    I’ve never formally or intentionally networked, but every job I’ve ever had has come to me organically as a result of informal networking. Most of my roles have involved training or otherwise working with outside organizations (I live in non-profit world and have for the past decade), so I’ve met people through organizing/facilitating trainings, participating in community events, and attending community meetings. One position was offered to me by a former supervisor starting a new organization, another came up through an agency I had trained in my then-current position, and the position I currently hold came about through a connection facilitated by my graduate school as a part of my MSW program. I am the introvertiest of introverts and require endless amounts of time at home alone in blissful silence, but when I’m around people I make an effort to be friendly and approachable. The idea of *Networking* is absolutely horrifying, but I find that by being personable and helpful, the networking effect just sort of…happens

  48. oranges*

    Networking doesn’t always have to be a Professional Thing You Do With Fellow Professionals. Make it a(n occasional) part of the conversations you’re already having with people in your life.

    Friend: What’s new?
    You: Nothing too much. I did just wrap up this big work thing, so I’m grateful to be less stressed about that tonight.
    Friend: That’s cool.
    You: Now that I think about it, I don’t even know what you do at your job.
    Friend: Ha! I do _____at _____. It pays pretty well, and the people don’t suck.
    You: Yeah, that’s good. So, blah blah new topic.

    The next morning, you google the place he works, maybe see a job that catches your eye, send your buddy a text about it to see what he knows, and BOOM! Congrats! You just networked!

  49. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    The first thing that jumps out at me is that the LW isn’t going to conferences, joining professional committees, following industry news on LinkedIn, or any of the things that are often associated with advancing in your career. At five years out of school, the LW is mid/late 20s, and is probably doing fine in the current role. But when s/he changes roles, is looking to move up, or is looking to have a resume that pops, s/he will be years behind the eight ball.

    My last two jobs were not gotten at all through networking; however, “networking” has been crucial to my career growth. I’ve chaired industry groups, gone to conferences, published, lead panels, all that fun stuff, and it really helps me to stand out as an applicant.

  50. Colette*

    I’ve gotten jobs with my last 2 employers through networking with people I know. One was a neighbour – I do volunteer work in my community, and she knew I was reliable and did a good job, so when a job opened on her team, she let me know about it. The other was a former coworker, who also put in a word for me with the hiring manager.

    I’m inclined to say that for most of us, going to an occasional networking event won’t do much; you need to build deeper relationships. So if you go to the same networking event every month, or a class at the gym every Tuesday, you’ll get to recognize and talk to people. Of course, you can also do volunteer work, or just make an effort to stay connected to people you work with.

    But none of that will help if you don’t build a reputation for doing good work. If you’re unreliable, or rude, or racist/sexist/etc., or try to do the bare minimum, that’s not going to be countered by a yearly email. Doing a good job (and being a decent person) comes first, or the networking won’t help.

    (Of course, there are people who are great at networking but terrible employees; I assume you don’t want to be one of them.)

  51. M1EK*

    The people who emphasize networking the most are usually trying to compensate for not being very good at their jobs, in my experience.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Lol! I wouldn’t put it quite like that, but extroverted and outgoing people do tend to be good at talking their way (or agreeing their way?) into opportunities they might not be fully qualified for. And people will hire them knowing this.

      Happens to my husband all the time. He gets jobs or buys cars based on people he “knows” from the local bar. But I’ve also seen some of those jobs not work out so well because he really wasn’t familiar enough with the work.

  52. Koala dreams*

    It sounds like the letter writer does a decent amount of networking for their situation. A network of former bosses and a few co-workers is normal.

    I also feel a lot of online advice oversell networking. It’s not that networking is unimportant, but that it’s not a one step thing where you meet someone and the next day you have a new job. Usually it’s more about learning about your field and different employers through small interactions with people you meet, on your job and outside. You hear about employer A opening at a new location, employer B developing a new product, employer C having an unusual interview format. All that information gives you small advantages in your career, but it’s not instant success. It’s like the difference between movie romances and real life dating.

  53. Bluebelle*

    I am very active in my professional community. I attend events, lunch and learns, speak at conferences. None have led to a job or even hearing about a job. What it has done is help me keep my skills current, to help me see trends and the future of my industry, and it helps to provide me with publishing and speaking opportunities which adds to my credibility and hirability.

  54. Miri*

    I’ve got at least two jobs from what I would in retrospect describe as ‘networking’ but at the time I just considered doing good work. I engaged with people across my organisation as part of my regular job duties, and (I was later told) developed a reputation for being reliable, generally sensible, and good-humored. I also attended work social events like team drinks, cross-department coffee mornings, not every single one but enough to get to know people. This meant that when I was chatting at people at coffees and said “oh that area sounds interesting, I’ve been wanting to do more of something like that”, the people who were managers in that area went “hey, yes, come work for me!” Like there was definitely a ‘networking’ part of seeking out other people in the business to talk to as part of my ‘day job’, asking questions about their work, showing up to social events, etc., but those wouldn’t have done it alone if I didn’t have a reputation for being generally pleasant to work with and not messing people around.

  55. anone*

    It sounds like you possibly don’t have a professional community to build relationships with, because your work/role is very specific to you, so networking might not make much sense for you. For me, networking has been massively important because my professional field is only very loosely structured and organized and mostly held together by relationships (rather than formal institutional pathways), so all of my biggest opportunities (jobs, skill development, support) have come from relationships and informal connections. I have also built connections beyond my immediate professional field into related/overlapping fields. As a consultant, that gives me a wider range of people who might become clients or refer clients to me or collaborate with me on more multifaceted projects and 100% of my business is coming from word-of-mouth right now, people who know me or know someone who knows me. But if you don’t know or can’t find anyone else who has your job or anything like it, you might not be missing out on much.

    1. Gumby*

      In my experience, networking doesn’t have to be with people in roles like yours. The two times that “networking” helped me find out about a job were:
      * my uncle’s neighbor – He might have mentioned I was looking for a summer job or something? Or just that I existed and was in college? She said “have her send me her resume” so I did, naively, with no expectations, and ended up getting an interview at a pretty cool company. She wasn’t in the same division where I ended up interning but knew that the other group tended to ramp up on interns in the summer.
      * a member of my faith community – There was a position open in his company that was sideways-related to what I wanted to do and he told me about the job listing. He doesn’t do anything near the same job as I do; no one in that company did before I was hired.

      And if I think about other people I tried to help along the way – a couple were in my industry, but more were people I met outside of a work context. A former dorm-mate who I knew was looking for jobs in a certain area. A friend-of-a-friend who had a fantastic work ethic and would have been great in an entry-level role at my company (completely different department from me) if the hours had worked out.

  56. ExploreYourSpace*

    Feel like I must weigh in here to +1 for networking. Previous job searches consisted of me throwing resumes/cover letters and having a pretty low response rate (even with Alison’s amazing advice and having a strong background). This time around, I’m approaching entirely through contacts/networking and it’s making a world of difference. Faster, more enthusiastic responses, much higher response rate, and better/more interesting job options. But networking shouldn’t just be throwing yourself awkwardly into professional mixers. It should be about making friends, connections, and being willing to have an introductory conversation even if there isn’t a direct role they are hiring for.

  57. nnn*

    I’ve inadvertently stumbled upon One Weird Trick for networking: supervise interns.

    Time passes, the interns graduate and launch their own careers, and eventually there are people out there throughout the industry who perceive me to be a person with expertise.

  58. Gare Lowe*

    After working for over 30 years, my take on networking is that it is helpful, but that it must be a long term project rather than a focused one that only comes to life when you are looking to switch jobs. An example would be a professional association. If the only times you start attend their meetings is when you are looking for a job, then you might be out of luck. But, if you attend on a regular basis, then opportunities may arise even when you aren’t looking for them.

    Bottom line: build up a network for the long run, not for short term gains.

  59. Just stoppin' by to chat*

    Every job I’ve ever had in my career so far (almost 17 years since I finished university) I got through networking. That’s just one experience, but want to make sure to cast a vote for networking as part of a job search!

  60. Lady_Lessa*

    I never had a lot of success with networking. Part of it is that I changed industries a lot, and part of it is that my professional association, the American Chemical Society is geared more toward academic and research areas vs industrial.

    I have had one or two good things, like a co-worker knowing who was doing the hiring where I had applied. (HR had screened my resume out, but I got the job).

    Social friends tried to be helpful, but to them a chemist is a chemist is a chemist. A polymer formulator is Not an analytical chemist is Not a biochemist.

  61. ecnaseener*

    Oof, even the “check-in email once a year” sounds terribly awkward to me. Maybe that’s just me, I barely even text my actual friends. Is it like those update letters some people send with their Christmas cards?

    1. RussianInTexas*

      Yeah. I have no idea what I would say to someone I just check in with once a year. “Hi, remember me? No? OK”.

      1. Calliope*

        Usually it’s something like “oh, I saw this story on Project X – it’s very similar to Project Y that we worked on back in the day, and I thought you’d be interested. Hope you’re doing well.”

        Or something more tenuous or even a personal interest connection. To be clear, I’m not good at doing this but the people I know who do it we’ll keep track of things that might legitimately be interesting to people and then shoot that off to them.

    2. Gumby*

      I have a couplefew former co-workers who *do* send me holiday cards. Not with the long letter, but the ones with maybe a paragraph of text. It’s always an opportunity to have a quick “Child is in high school now? No way!” (seriously, no. way. because I remember when Child was born) or “Haven’t seen you in a while – let’s do dinner!” back and forth. Not necessarily people I would talk to weekly, but we were reasonably friendly co-workers back in the day and it’s always nice to meet up and share what the past year/few years have been like.

  62. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I don’t network for jobs. I network because I work in a specific subsection of my larger field and my area of practice is narrow. Otoh, none of my projects are in a vacuum and I think it makes me better at my work if I understand what other subspecialties do and how they think so we can collaborate on getting the whole built.

    Literally built. I’m in a field of engineering that is necessary for construction. But, all the specialties tend to have professional orgs that are somewhat silos. The AIA (American Institute of Architects) vs the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers…which has several subgroups) vs DFI (Deep Foundations Institute) …etc …there’s a lot more.

    A lot of my colleagues “network” in their own specialty. That’s great and interesting to them. For me and where I am in a project org chart, I feel happier connecting with people who are adjacent or even a couple rings out from what I do. Ultimately, we all have to put it together and make it work.

  63. old curmudgeon*

    I’m over 40 years into my professional career, and I have never once attended one of those schmoozy networking social events. I am very much an introvert, and the thought of standing around for several hours trying to talk with a bunch of hyperactive extroverts makes me whimper.

    BUT – I have networked all my working life just the same. I just don’t do it by schmoozing people.

    I hired and mentored a young woman in her first professional job, one that wound up helping her decide on her career. A few years later, her mother, a vice-president at a business where I had applied for a job, gave a glowing reference about me to the hiring manager. I had never met the mother in person, but she knew from what she heard from her daughter that I’d be a good fit for the position. I got hired and worked there happily for nearly a decade.

    A few years after I left that job, the manager who had hired me reached out to me for information about the hiring process with my current employer (a governmental entity) for her adult son who was considering a career shift. While I couldn’t impact the actual hiring process (because government), I could and did describe the process in detail, including the translations of Government-ese into English, and the young man wound up landing a job where he has been very successful.

    The key in both of those experiences is that they were dependent on mutually respectful, cordial business relationships between competent professionals, not on schmoozing. You are building those relationships every day, as you go about your routine work. When someone asks you to complete a task by Friday and you get it done accurately by Thursday, when the boss asks you to show the new hire around, when you collaborate successfully with a work group from a different area, all those little things are the building blocks of a professional network. And you never, ever know when you’ll get a call or an email out of the blue from someone you worked with months or years previously.

    At five years into your career, you haven’t had much chance to see the impact of that, but I can virtually guarantee you that if you foster a reputation for being competent, approachable, articulate, and generally nice to be around, you are already building that network.

  64. Karo*

    I’m not much for networking either – I’m very socially awkward so going to a networking event and talking to people I don’t know sounds like literal torture. But at the same time, I got my last job through networking after a year of searching on places like Indeed. A former coworker posted about a job, I reached out and asked him a few questions about it, then told him I had applied and he let the hiring manager know to look out for my resume.

    Now, I wouldn’t have gotten the job if he had just been asked to give names that he thought were good – I wasn’t that top of mind – but I also wouldn’t have gotten the job without having a connection to him. I think that’s more and more what “networking” looks like today.

  65. Sled dog mama*

    One of the things no one ever told me about networking is how long it takes to pay off.
    I’d been out of grad school for 10 years before I saw any payoff.
    Previously I applied everywhere to every thing and even though I asked people I never heard about any hidden jobs (still haven’t). When I got ready to move on from my last job I polished up my resume and sent it out to a few of my network contacts, ones I knew were in a position to speak favorably about my work and I knew would be in a position to know of openings at their and other companies. Along with my resume I sent a note that said I’m looking to move on to a position of x type in y location. I had information about 5 open positions seeking my skills and experience in my inbox within 48 hours. And phone screens for all 5 within the week. I interviewed for 3 (and was scheduled to interview for 2 more but they pushed the interview way out) and had 2 competing offers within 2 weeks. These were all advertised positions (although it’s debatable how well advertised which is a whole other discussion about my field).
    So networking is really more of a long game and something that seems to me to pay off later.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      It’s not so much “hidden jobs”, but once your career path is established and you’ve got experience – the conference, etc., connections will come into play, especially if you find yourself a “free agent”.

      Yes, it’s a LONG term payoff – but there is a payoff.

  66. PT*

    I have never worked in a field where networking mattered all that much. Certainly, it helps within your company when internal positions open up. But externally? I’ve only gotten one external position by referral and it was extremely part time (less than 2 hours a week.) For the internal jobs I applied to where someone helped “network” me, I got one phone screen out of a ton of applications, and the listing ended up being pulled because it was contingent on the company earning a contract that ended up going to another vendor.

  67. Vanny Hall*

    Sometimes the things you might want to do to advance your career—say, being on a panel at a conference, or serving on a board, or co-leading a workshop—come through personal connections. So it’s not so much that you have to know someone at a place you want to work; it’s just that the more people you do know, the more likely one of them will think of you when they’re looking for someone to fill a role that will make you a stronger job candidate.

  68. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    In IS/IT = NETWORKING is EVERYTHING. My career continued on a steady path owing to my professional associations. It also forced my employer to respect me more, as it would be very difficult to fire me, lest I end up with a competitor – or – a client/customer.

    There was one incident in which my employer may have been trying to “outsource” me. While it was still in the rumor stage – but VERY STRONG rumor stage – I informed my manager that I would not look at any “outsource” contract he negotiated on my behalf.

    Because there were three current customer of ours, and one former customer, who advised me “If you lose your gig there, call us before proceeding”…. so I said “they will be in a competitive situation. I will talk to those people, and THEN the outsourcer can call me, we’ll go from there.”

    Another co-worker had already gone in, heard about the rumor and put together a list of demands that the outsourcer would have to meet – with several bullet points starred “NOT NEGOTIABLE”

    We both had extensive professional networks. So it would have been foolhardiness for the management to pull a stunt like that on us.

  69. Polopoly*

    I joined a new job during the pandemic. I can count on 1 hand the number of my team members I’ve met face to face, never mind the non-existent opportunities to interact with other departments. Internet-working here = logging into a zoom with camera off and audio on mute.
    Ideas ?

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      What I might do in that situation is schedule one “virtual coffee” per month (or per week, or every second week… whatever works with your work) with a random person who is on your calls. Make a joke when setting it up about “totally artificial, and this is gonna be like speed dating, but, hey, let’s take half an hour with cameras on and I don’t care if your place is a mess and your in sweats”.

      If they’re amenable, it’ll be great. Even if awkward at first.

      Good luck!!

  70. Olivia Oil*

    Oooh I have a lot of opinions on this based on previous experience.

    In a nutshell, you should utilize multiple avenues and strategies when job searching (application portals, job openings in different locations, etc), and networking is one of those avenues. So it can be useful. But in my experience, it’s usefulness tends to be exaggerated so yes, it is overrated.

    It can also sometimes be a euphemism for covering up nepotism, which I don’t support.

    I think people tend to organically develop networks the longer they work and accumulate former coworkers, bosses, people they meet at conferences and industry events, etc. The more of a known quantity you are, the easier it is to job search, since you need references.

    Something I was was really annoyed with as a recent grad was my career services office go-to advice was to go to networking happy hours and set up informational interviews as a form of networking and swore up and down that this was The Way to land a job via “back door” methods. They overemphasized the importance of getting in the “back door” and sometimes made it sound like you couldn’t get a job otherwise. They also assumed that all entry level job candidates had a relative or family friend they could count on for leads. IME as an entry level, networking happy hours and informational interviews were not helpful at all in helping me get a job. They were useful for other things – information, a social outlet during unemployment, free food and alcohol at the happy hours etc, but as someone with no industry experience, I had nothing to offer people I met at networking events. Also, going on informational interviews doesn’t have the same impact as being someone’s niece or family friend when being considered for a job.

    1. Olivia Oil*

      I forgot to mention, I ended up getting my first job by applying through an application portal not knowing anyone at the company, which solidified my “networking is overrated” view.

  71. Alexis Rosay*

    Definitely greatly depends on the field. In my last profession, I had a huge network: it was a niche field and I attended a lot of conferences where I saw the same people over and over. After giving just a few talks, everyone knew my name. But the field was so niche that there were only a handful of jobs per city and positions rarely opened up, so unless I wanted to move out of state, my great network was totally useless for job hunting. It was nice in other ways of course.

  72. scmill*

    I got several positions because of contacts who knew me and my work, and in return, I passed along good references to those who were looking for good workers. I also gave thumbs down when asked for those I felt weren’t up to the job. It’s all about what you know and who knows your work. When hiring, I made sure I asked enough people about the candidate to feel comfortable extending an offer.

  73. just another bureaucrat*

    I like to think that the best networking I can do is being good at my job and being not horrible to work with.

    I had a bit this fall where I was sure I was going to have fall out and get fired so I sat down and wrote myself a list of people who I thought I could call up and ask for help finding a job. I was shocked at how long the list was, but also how confident some of those folks would be to take me on. I’m pretty sure at least 3 places I could get a job by just saying, “Hey, I’m interested if you’ve got space for me.” That stunned me when I wrote it out. There are a few others where I was like, maybe I could carve out something for myself and talk someone into it. I am not a networker. I don’t do any of the social or human things well. But I did very quietly ask 2 of the 3 places if everything went to pot they’d find space for me and they both said yes before I could finish asking.

    I think it’s because I’ve done a good job, and had opportunities to work with the same sets of folks over and over outside my organization. Which is something my job now let’s me do. But I’m also 10 years into my second career. (The third person is from my first and has had an open door for me forever but the pay would be brutally low.) Vendors, clients, partners, other parts inside the organization. People who’ve seen you do work a lot are good. I don’t know how long it lasts, but if you make a good impression, that’s networking too. There are a couple people I’d happily move a mountain to find space for if they asked too.

  74. Generic Name*

    Networking isn’t putting on a plaid suit and selling yourself like a car salesman. Networking is about building relationships, and the way you do that is simply by showing up to stuff (usually industry professional association meetings). Sometimes it’s just working with people at other companies. Joining a committee or being on the board of a professional org is helpful too. I’m 15 years into my career, and am not a super outgoing person, but I’ve been able to get to a point where I have a small handful of people I could call and ask if they had any jobs for me (ok, maybe slightly less blunt than that). I am recognized at meetings and people approach me to talk to me, and I get asked to give presentations.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Exactly what I did in the last 25 years of my career.

      As I said above – it not only will help you stay “out there” in relation to others in the field; it also gives you some job security. Companies are defensive, and the last thing in the world they want is to let someone who’s good – and known in the industry – out in the street.

  75. Miss Muffet*

    I’d suggest getting your feet wet in the “networking” concept by just doing it within the organization you are currently in. Some things I have done in various spaces to get some exposure to people outside my little domain: Book clubs, Role-specific groups (like, all of the operations managers across teams), Affinity groups (ie, Black Associates, LGBTQ, Women in the Workplace, etc), asking my manager to hook me up in a cross-departmental project if they hear of one…. These are easy ways to get to know people outside your bubble, who you will probably end up finding a time where you want/need to talk to them about something. Maybe it’s how they handle a certain situation. Maybe it’s to hear about a role they have opening in their group you might be interested in. This gives you practice, and then it’s not as intimidating to go to conferences or other more formal networking-events where you are mixing a bit more with strangers.

  76. Kate*

    Totally agree with Alison! I was an editor in traditional publishing and didn’t even know that the online learning design industry existed let alone that there were editing jobs within it until a former coworker told me about his new job. And then he recommended me for a job at his company!

    Also Alison’s second part is so true, early in my career I thought networking was just talking to people at events, or emailing tenuous contacts, which felt super awkward. But the best networking I did was when I wasn’t really trying, just chatting to colleagues who I’d met along the way about our jobs and paths. :-)

  77. LAMF*

    I used to think networking was so gross and slimy and artificial. I’d attend industry conferences and feel incredulous at the advice that I should be “making connections” or “pressing the flesh” and honestly, the only people outside my organisation who would ever talk to me were lecherous old men. I just didn’t get it. And by the same token, when strangers came up and attempted completely artificial schmoozy conversations with me, I thought “what a wanker” and it would actually turn me off considering them for a role if their resume ever turned up at my workplace. But now I’m older, and work in a different, smaller industry, I totally get networking. It’s not sidling up to strangers and impressing them with your research or switched-on-ness, or initiative (vomit), it’s merely the act of not being an arsehole at work, being helpful, kind, friendly, and a person someone wants to have around. I realise this isn’t everyone’s experience. My old boss loved to “press the flesh”, but to me, they came across to me like a robot who was acting according to a manual entitled “optimal human workplace behaviours – a guideline” than a real person sometimes. And on top of that, they were very cold and focused on nothing but work, at the job. I honestly wouldn’t want to work with them again for that reason alone (though they are a lovely person – we both just think each other very odd!). Give me someone human and likeable. I suppose networking to me is just one big Turing test.

  78. MissDisplaced*

    I personally think networking is overrated. I don’t have what I call a huge professional network, but never once found that a hindrance in over 30 years of professionally working. Of the many interviews and jobs I’ve had, only one came from a professional friend before it was posted (though I have personally helped or referred or hired several friends/former coworkers).

    In truth, almost all of my jobs came from searching the major job boards for openings which is exactly what most of these experts tell you not to rely on. I’m sure networking must be crucial in some industries or fields, but it’s not my go-to.

  79. Burger Bob*

    I think part of it depends on what type of field you’re in. For my job, networking isn’t really what lands you the job. It’s much more a case of whether you have the relevant degree and a clean background. Assuming both things are true and you’re willing to accept what they’re offering, the job is yours. There’s also not a whole lot of “moving up” for my type of job. There is a little bit, but you are far, far more likely to move sideways. And that is really the only part where networking comes in. If you are unhappy in your current situation and want to find out if the grass is greener elsewhere, that’s when knowing people at other companies comes in handy.

  80. Little beans*

    I’ve had a successful career that I don’t think has much relied on networking at all. But I’ve definitely referred people I know to jobs that I think would be a good fit, shared what I know about the role to help them prepare, and then seen those people get hired. It’s possible they would have gotten hired anyway, but I assume the personal connection helped at least a little.

  81. Candi*

    Hey, OP? At my first job, they’d hire anyone over 18 who could stand for long hours and push buttons. (Merry-go-round, had to be 18+ to operate.)


    That was in a mall. And during my time there I’d talk to people and just chat -housekeepers, workers for other businesses. I didn’t realize how important this was at the time. Both on the networking front, and pushing past my introvert tendencies.

    When the merry-go-round closed down (long story, one of the factors was it turned out the GM was embezzling from the company), I went job hunting again.

    A few months later, I’m chatting with one of the housekeepers and explain I’m at the mall that day to put in applications. When she heard I was still hunting, she put in a word with the office and encouraged me to fill out an application. I got a job working on the food court.

    Networking really can be that easy. Just chat.

  82. Retired (but not really)*

    I never specifically “networked” and as a college student rather adamantly rejected the idea of my dad contacting a long time friend about me working for him or someone he knew. I had my own ideas about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to “be hired on my own abilities not based on who my dad was”.

    Would I have been hired by someone this friend knew, most likely. Would I have enjoyed that type of job, maybe or maybe not, who knows.

    That having been said, every job I’ve ever had has in some way been a direct result of my knowing someone personally who either let me know about the job opening, worked at that location, or was related to someone involved in the hiring process. Now I still had to be qualified to do the job, go through either a formal or informal interview, and prove myself on the job itself. Only once was this something of a disaster, but that was a case of new outside management getting rid of everyone who was there before they came on the scene, and none of the three of us in that office had been there more than two or three months!

    So my overall take on this is that knowing people and building relationships with them is important but actively trying to create a relationship with people specifically to build “your network” seems like putting people in a self serving pigeon hole that is somehow vaguely icky. Like you only value them if they can help you. Getting to know them may certainly end up with them helping you, but don’t focus only on how this or that relationship is going to benefit you in the end.

    From some of what you’ve said I think this may be why you are reluctant to see networking as something you want to participate in.

  83. Cheezmouser*

    Agree that networking is important but there are natural ways to do it. As Alison said, one of the best is to build a reputation within your organization for excellent work and keep in touch with former colleagues.

    My husband was laid off when his industry took an 80% hit during the pandemic. Things were so slow that a department that had 125 full-time staff pre-pandemic had barely enough work to keep 12 staffers on. Despite the standstill, my husband was able to freelance at a higher level role and double the pay because a former coworker brought him in to the small independent company that coworker had left for two years ago. Husband got his current full-time job the same way: former coworkers who had moved on reached out to him and asked if he wanted a job.

    He doesn’t do networking or schmoozing, he just does good work and builds authentic relationships with coworkers in multiple departments, so when people leave, they remember him. And because it’s a small niche industry with specialized skills and high turnover, he pretty much knows someone in every company in the industry.

  84. Liv*

    Traditional networking is probably more useful in some fields than others. But for me the thing I focus on is just forming really strong relationships with people I work with, and that has paid off, because people remember people they liked working with (more so than some randomer they see at conferences once a year, IMO).

    So for example, I had a really strong relationship with my grandboss at my previous job (built in part just by being really good at my job and good feedback getting back to him, and volunteering for extra projects that gave him more visibility of me). And I was also really open with him when opportunities arose about what I wanted for my career progression. When our department went through a restructure at the end of 2020, he was made redundant and I kept my job. He ended up getting a new Head Of role at a competitor. Fast forward to September 2021, and he contacted me to say he was recruiting for some roles in his department, one of which was a manager role that would be a big step up for me. He asked if I was interested because he wanted someone he could trust to do a good job in a challenging environment. I ended up getting the role (after going through the standard hiring process), which was a promotion and nearly doubled my salary.

    So you can build a reputation in your field by just being really good at your job and really good to work with. You don’t have to do all the extra traditional networking stuff if you don’t want. Personally I’d way rather work with someone I know is excellent at their job than someone who is a ‘thought leader’ and talks a lot of fluff.

  85. CatLady*

    I grew my Software Engineering career without networking. All the jobs I got (7 different companies over 20 years) I applied to cold and while I did have references, they all came from the people with whom I was currently or most recently working – I almost never kept in touch with anyone from a previous job. I’ve now started my career 2.0 as a Product Manager. This job I got because I knew someone in the group who knew of the opening but he had only been at the company a couple months himself.

    So, as Alison said, it can be done. I will admit I’m a little more active with my LinkedIn than you but I’m not sure if that would help me should I be in need of a new job. Would networking have helped me more especially during a 9 month period when I (and much of the tech world) was laid off? Maybe. No way to know.

    That all being said, I would still recommend trying. Another tool/skill in your toolbox is always a good idea and learning how to network should build your social and emotional intelligence skills as well. I’ve had to get better at networking simply because my job now requires it. Who knows – it may help me in the future.

  86. Missing Rain*

    I hate the networking for a job too. I have never gotten a job through networking.
    I have tried to networking inside the vast federal government as well as use government connections to get a position where I wanted to live (west coast US) for 10 years. On and off. Never worked. I was told to apply online or there weren’t positions open yet but would be soon (nope) or whatever excuse.
    And yet networking for a position was what i kept being told to do. When I would respond with my experience I’d get a shrug.
    I had really thought already being a government employee would have meant something, given me a leg up on a transfer or heads up on a position becoming available. Nope.
    A big old raspberry for me.

  87. Erica*

    Kudos to the people with the energy to constantly be “keeping in touch” and cultivating network relationships. I truly admire you! Two-plus years into the pandemic, I barely have the spoons to reach out to people I *adore*, much less random coworkers from five years ago. With my friends, I can at least acknowledge the awkward.

  88. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    RE: being known for doing good work is a form of networking. You don’t have to know people for other people to know OF you.

    My last role was a dream job, once in a lifetime (staff of 10 with no attrition for 12 years, 89 people applications for the role came in within five days) opportunity. The role and industry were both super niche, and although I knew I was qualified and would be great in the role, I didn’t think I knew enough people in the associated professional community to be considered. I said “Eff it, what have I got to lose?” applied at the last minute and thought no more about it.

    Two months later I was approached, by name, by the hiring manager while at a conference, wanting to know if I had time to talk about the role the following week. I had no idea they knew who I was and was flabbergasted. Even though I’d never worked with the hiring manager or CEO, or even spoken to them for that matter, I got the job largely because of my reputation in the industry. If you’re doing good work, other people know about it.

  89. Dee*

    I deleted my LinkedIn account a while ago for privacy/spamming reasons and worried about the same thing. I’ve never landed a job through networking. But I’ve made some nice connections, and LinkedIn is the easiest way for me to stay in contact (or at least on the radar) of those people.

    I ultimately got a second LinkedIn account, just for doing my own career research. But it doesn’t have my work history, and I worry that not being so networkable on the internet makes it harder to find/get referred for consulting opportunities. (I work in tech, where this seems to be even more important).

    Not exactly the same question, but I think similar concerns. Ultimately for me, I just have to decide if the trade-offs (of having a simpler internet life) outweigh my concerns. You’d be surprised how much I go back & forth on it!

  90. Lisa*

    In my experience, the reliance on “who you know” matters much more in some circumstances than others, not just based on industry but based on your particular value-prop. If you are new in your career and can easily describe yourself as a pink teapot designer with three years experience in teapots and one year specializing in pink glaze… you can straightforwardly assess the job openings, know which ones to apply for, and demonstrate your skill.

    But 10 or 20 years later, when you have deep expertise throughout teapots, worked years alongside a famous niche designer who taught you some special techniques, and have cultivated deeper knowledge of spout engineering than is typical for designers, etc…. that’s going to be a lot more difficult to match you up with ideal jobs that use all you have to offer. If other people KNOW ABOUT you (they don’t even have to know you well) you are more likely to come up as a referral or recommendation.

    It can be a really long game, and it is made of being confident in what your special offerings are, making sure the people you work with or meet know something about you, staying in touch, and keeping your growing network informed as your career progresses—especially if you are able to publicly share news that affects your availability like if you’ve started consulting, are moving to a new location, or have acquired a new certification or degree.

    Some deliberate networking can also help you escape a bubble. I worked for over a decade at the MEGACORP with suburban offices where people had multiple coworkers live on the same culdesac, after-work happy hours took place in strip malls, and our big vendor accounts were outsourced to Big City Firms. Just a few miles away, our smaller urban downtown was a thriving hub of startups, boutiques and various agencies with tons of overlap in skillsets, but the professional communities had very little overlap. People at megacorp got stuck there if they didn’t want to move out of state, because the other megacorp jobs were very limited. But those of us who made network connections into the urban community had a lot more options.

    Now that there are much fewer in-person events big and small, social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever is big in your industry) can help you “make friends” outside your in-person circles. I “know” several colleagues I’ve ever met in person. This is super helpful now that remote work has broken down geography. I’ve been consulting for over six years and every significant client gig I have gotten came through referral by someone I know from past work was not ever a coworker at Megacorp. Former vendors, contractors, clients, coworkers at startups, or people I met at events. And most of them were not local.

  91. Llama Mama*

    Another key piece for me is that so called networking should be a two way street (ideally) and also maybe a little bit of the idea that karma comes back around. Most of the people that I would consider networking with are sort of social connections but i’ve had people connect me to jobs and get my foot in the door and now I can turn around and help someone else in my social circle who is trying to get their foot in the door. And hopefully down the road that newbie that i helped will remember that I helped them and they’ll help me out in some way. Maybe they know someone at the company that I want to get a job in or they know someone who’s looking for an entry level position that might be good for my kid, you never know.

    Seeing network as a social way to build a net of friendly connections so that you keep an eye out for things that are good for them or available if they reach out and then they in turn will do the same for by sending things your way or letting you know about opportunities. And since other’s have done it for me I’m happy to help out others who are needing some help and then you’ve now created a new positive connection/association that may help you out later down the road. And the creation of that web means that you’re creating unofficial connections with friends of friends so even if that person doesn’t work at Llama 500 they know someone who does and they can connect you …. and now you have another new connection (even if that job doesn’t pan out) and so on and so on.

  92. JuliaP*

    One thing I think is missing from normal networking talk: it’s not just about what you “get,” it’s more about what you give. I have a big network in lots of industries because I run an arts company- and I’ve helped a lot of people out in various ways! For people who think networking is slimy, I encourage you to imagine it like this: how have you helped people out and what resources can you offer? Connections, advise, assistance, company, interesting ideas, curiosity, even just a listening ear? If everyone approaches networking as what they can give instead of what they can get it’s just so much better.

  93. Rowan*

    I’m not a big fan of traditional networking efforts. They feel forced. But I’m a freelancer, and I do depend on word of mouth. So I keep my LinkedIn profile current, and make sporadic efforts to comment on interesting posts of old coworkers and clients – when I have something useful to say. My LinkedIn profile is one of the first to come up when people search for my skill set.

    But another thing I make a point of doing is to take a bit of spare time every few months to help out someone else in my industry. It might be providing some training suggestions to a less experienced person, doing up a basic website for someone who’s struggling, or passing extra work to someone who needs it. I honestly don’t know if these efforts will ever specifically pay off for me, but it feels like a more genuine form of ‘networking’ even if it lacks that ‘so here’s what I want’ focus.

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