Networking refers to the action of increasing your social contacts through strategically and proactively socializing, communicating, and collaborating with others.
It is a soft skill that helps improve interpersonal relationships and career prospects.
This skill is beneficial because it can help you to build strategic connections that help you achieve more, get further, open more doors, and learn more. As a result, it’s seen as a form of professional development.
1. Simple Email Introductions
One of the first experiences I had with networking was when someone reached out to me after reading one of my published academic articles and asked if I wanted a chat.
So, we had a call and talked for 30 minutes about our work, jobs, professional interests, and so on.
To be honest, it threw me a little: you can just email people and ask them if they want to hang out for a bit?
As a natural introvert, it never crossed my mind. But since, I’ve had several of these interactions and gotten to know many people in my industry just through email reach-outs, with people saying: “hey, I’m interested in what you’re doing. Do you want to chat?”
It’s disarmingly simple.
2. Starting your own Podcast
Another counterintuitive method that’s really been helpful to me is creating my own content and sharing it with people in my industry.
For me, it was YouTube videos. But if you don’t want to get on screen – why not a podcast? Simply create this content, promote it on social media, and share it among friends. Before long, your content will spread far and wide to people you don’t know.
Remarkably, getting your face out there is one of the best “passive” ways to network. This is because you don’t have to go out there and introduce yourself to others. They see you and reach out to you instead!
3. Going on Podcasts
Another more direct approach to networking is to go onto someone else’s podcast as a guest. Podcasters are always on the hunt for interesting guests to talk to. So, why not you?
Simply reach out to podcasters who you find compelling in your area of interest and ask them if they’d be open to having you on for a chat! Let them know how you could serve their audience and provide interesting information.
Not only does that help them because they can create more content, it also means you can have a long conversation with someone who’s well-known in your industry and have others get to know your name and all about you! This can open doors for you down the track.
4. Attending and Presenting at Conferences
Conferences aren’t just about watching the speakers and learning the latest industry trends (although that’s a big one). They’re also about meeting other people in your industry.
You can do this in four primary ways:
- Organize: Volunteer to be in the organizing committee. Behind the scenes, you’ll have a lot of excuses to meet and talk to people as you go about organizing the event.
- Meet: You may get the chance to meet people during seminars, lunch meet-ups, roundtables, and so on that the conferences organize.
- Sit on Panels: Volunteer to sit on a discussion panel where you can meet other discussants as well as people watching.
- Present: Give a presentation. People will likely approach you afterwards for a discussion!
4. Attending Company Mixers
Company mixers are organized with the explicit intention of letting employees from different teams or departments interact and connect in an informal setting. It may sometimes be uncomfortable to start, but the more you attend, the more comfortable you will become!
Attending these mixers can be a gold mine for making valuable connections.
At the mixer, try not to just stick to the people you already know. Instead, find ways to engage with folks from other departments and other people your wouldn’t normally interact with on a daily routine basis.
Look at this as a chance to grow your understanding of the company culture and to demonstrate your interest in the wider business, not just your little corner of it.
5. Participating in Online Forums
Online forums can provide a less conventional, but highly effective method of networking. I personally enjoy this option because you can chat via text – I have time to formulate my responses and ideas, unlike in-person interactions.
Sites like Reddit, LinkedIn groups, or industry-specific forums contain a wealth of professionals from every field you can think of.
When you participate actively in these communities by asking questions, posting responses, or sharing articles and resources that you find useful, you establish your presence and credibility within that group.
But a big downside of this option is that these people often aren’t in your direct community.
6. Joining a Co-working Space
Joining a co-working space can be a fantastic opportunity for networking, especially if you work from home or have your own small business.
In these spaces, you’ll be working alongside freelancers, entrepreneurs, remote workers, and even small startup teams who could all be in various fields, yet we’re all under the same roof.
The environment is usually relaxed and collaborative, giving ample opportunities for interaction.
Most co-working spaces also run workshops and seminars that provide further educational and networking prospects. Through this method, I’ve had the chance to meet a variety of interesting people, make some great connections and even collaborate on a few projects.
Networking in a co-working space feels natural, as you’re interacting with these individuals daily, creating an organic relationship.
Volunteering provides an excellent platform for networking. Whether it is in your area of expertise or merely causes that you are passionate about, volunteering not only benefits your community, but it also allows you to meet a variety of interesting and diverse people.
During my experiences volunteering, I have had the privilege of meeting leaders in community, philanthropy and business circles that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. The shared passion for the cause or the project facilitates a natural environment where forming connections is organic and stress-free.
Moreover, volunteering can help you demonstrate your skills and work ethic, particularly if the opportunity aligns with your professional aspirations. This not only aids your networking efforts but also positions you favorably for potential job openings or partnership opportunities that may arise within this network.
8. Joining Sporting Groups
We all know businessmen make deals on the golf course. But for the rest of us, there’s a lesson in this.
Joining a sporting group or local sports league can be a wonderful way to network and build relationships with people from diverse backgrounds and professions.
These groups offer a common point of interest – a love for the sport – that can act as a natural ice breaker. Playing in the same team or competition, you find opportunities to help one another, celebrate wins, and bounce back from losses, all of which are excellent for strengthening bonds.
In my own experience, I’ve found that the informal and relaxed atmosphere that naturally occurs during sporting activities helps create more genuine and lasting connections (and, hey, it’s less awkward than going out to coffee with a stranger!).
9. Getting Active on Twitter (X)
Twitter has people from just about every niche and interest getting together and chatting about the topic of the day. For me, I network on twitter in two strange niches: educational theory (I’m a professor in education), and blogging! And there are great communities for both.
Twitter offers a unique networking platform due to its real-time, open communication philosophy. It allows people to connect with thought leaders, influencers, peers, and potential employers or clients across the globe.
In my experience, getting active on Twitter starts by following people and entities that are important in your industry. Regularly commenting on their tweets, retweeting and posting your own thoughts and content relevant to your industry can help to increase your visibility and demonstrate your expertise.
And you can jump in on other people’s public twitter chats. These can also be highly beneficial for networking. Participating in these chats can expose you to new individuals in your field and let you show off your knowledge and skills.
10. Participating in Study Groups (Networking for Students)
Let’s end on an example of networking for students. I’m obviously big on this because I’m a professor!
Internships are an invaluable method of networking for students. An internship provides a glimpse into a professional setting, where students can learn what it’s really like to work in a particular industry.
The connections you make during an internship can have a huge impact on your future career. So many people get job offers from their internships – including me!
Not only that, some of these connections can establish lifelong mentorships, aiding you in maneuvering your career path effectively. It’s a fantastic way for students to get their foot in the door and begin building their professional network.
A Full List of Networking Opportunities
- Attending Conferences
- Presenting at a Conference
- Going on Podcasts
- Emailing colleagues
- Starting your own Podcast
- Attending Company Mixers
- Participating in Online Forums
- Joining a Co-working Space
- Joining Sporting Groups
- Getting Active on Twitter (X)
- Participating in Study Groups
- Joining Professional Organizations
- Joining LinkedIn Groups
- Attending Alumni Events
- Participating in Webinars
- Engaging in Social Media Discussions
- Attending Trade Shows
- Joining a Toastmasters Club
- Participating in Community Service
- Attending Charity Events
- Participating in Workshops
- Attending Seminars
- Joining Book Clubs
- Joining a Chamber of Commerce
- Attending Meetup Groups
- Participating in Online Forums
- Joining Industry-specific Clubs
- Attending Job Fairs
- Participating in College Organizations
- Engaging with Guest Speakers
- Participating in Speed Networking Events
- Taking Further Education Courses
- Participating in Round Table Discussions
- Attending Breakfast Networking Events
- Joining Rotary Clubs
- Participating in Panel Discussions
- Joining Facebook Groups
- Participating in Reddit Communities
- Joining Professional Development Programs
- Engaging in Peer Mentoring
- Participating in Workshop Facilitation
- Joining Academic Associations
- Participating in Study Groups
- Engaging in Collaborative Projects
- Starting and Promoting a Newsletter
- Participating in Internship Programs
- Volunteering for a Non-Profit Organization
 Pittaway, L., Robertson, M., Munir, K., Denyer, D., & Neely, A. (2004). Networking and innovation: a systematic review of the evidence. International journal of management reviews, 5(3‐4), 137-168. (Source)
 Davis, J., Wolff, H. G., Forret, M. L., & Sullivan, S. E. (2020). Networking via LinkedIn: An examination of usage and career benefits. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 118, 103396. (Source)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]