By Smiti Nathan, LDE for Physical and Environmental Science You have been probably told that networking is important, especially for forming connections with people in your field. This post offers suggestions on where to find people to network with.
Why are YOU Networking?
When you are ‘networking’ you are likely doing one (or more) of the following three things:
- connecting with new people to grow your network
- conducting informational interviews (i.e., informal conversations) to explore and learn
- asking about opportunities
The above three things are not the only reasons people network, but they are common. Knowing why you are networking will help guide where to find people to network with and what you can expect from them.
Where to Find People To Network With
People You Know
At its core, networking is relationship building. So why not start with people you have existing relationships with? This can include:
- Former or Current Classmates, Co-Workers, or Bosses
- Fellow Members of an Organization You’re Part Of
You can use the following exercise to map your social ecosystem:
In addition to reconnecting with people you know, you can practice informational interviewing with them. This could be a great warm-up step before pursuing informational interviews with others. It’s also worth noting that your existing network might know about opportunities for you. They just might not know you are looking so reconnecting with them give you a chance to share that with them.
There are many different types of organizations you can join to expand your network. In general, organizations are a great way to meet new people. Depending on the organization, they also could share new opportunities with members. Here are a few types of organizations to consider if you want to expand your network:
- Professional organizations: If you want to meet people in your field, explore professional organizations (check out this big list)
- Civic and service organizations: If you want to meet people outside your field and support your community, look into becoming a member of a local non-profit or service-oriented group (check out this directory).
- Hobby organizations: You can expand your network by joining organizations based on your interests.
Alumni of former programs you were a part of are a great source for informational interviews. Here are some ideas of alumni networks you can tap into:
- Universities/Colleges: Many universities and colleges aim to create strong alumni networks. If you attended one or more universities or colleges, you can reach out to fellow alumni or even check in with institution(s) to see what programs, organizations, and events are out there.
- K-12: Some K-12 schools develop strong alumni relations. It is worth exploring your previous schools to see what programs, organizations, and events are out there.
- Educational Programs: If you completed a niche education program (e.g., certificate, boot camp, training, etc.), there might be fellow alumni of that program you can connect with. Some of these programs have especially strong alumni networks.
Some programs have existing structures to connect alumni (e.g., virtual platforms, listservs, alumni organizations, etc.). Others do not. However, do not underestimate the value of the connection you have with them by being fellow (or soon-to-be) graduates of the program.
Social media is a great way to find people to network with that is not bound by geography. The key is to understand how to effectively use the various platforms. Here is a quick snapshot of some of the most popular social media platforms for networking:
- LinkedIn: Great for following people on a professional level. Best for keeping up with existing connections, but can also be leveraged to reach out to new people. Make sure to populate your profile well. Check out Roshni Rao’s video for using LinkedIn to network
- Twitter: Great for participating and following conversations from people and organizations. Also, opportunities are posted on Twitter too. Check out this article on Twitter & career goals and Kate Bradford’s article on personal boundaries on Twitter
- Facebook Groups: While many people keep their Facebook connections limited to their inner circle, Facebook Groups are a popular way for people to connect with one another based on different interests. Check out this article on using Facebook groups to network
- Clubhouse: Clubhouse is a new audio-based social network that is currently invite-only. Many professionals are finding Clubhouse’s rooms as a great place to meet others and learn about new industries. Check out this article on networking in Clubhouse
These are not the only social media platforms that can be leveraged for networking. The key is to figure out what platform serves your networking goals the best, understand its social norms, and try it out.
Whether you are the mentee or the mentor, mentoring programs can be a great way to meet new people and learn about opportunities. Here are some places to check for mentoring programs and opportunities:
- Workplaces: Some workplaces offer in-house mentoring opportunities (see this guide on corporate mentoring). Others offer the opportunity for people outside an organization to be mentored by people in it (here is an example from Tom Ford). Both are worth checking into.
- Universities: Career development spaces, as well as some academic spaces, in universities can provide access to mentorship programs and opportunities. For us, it’s a major part of the life design model.
- Professional Organizations: While professional organizations and associations are great spaces for networking and some even offer mentoring programs. If you are already part of or considering joining an organization, check out what mentoring opportunities are available.
Whether virtual or in-person, events are a great way to meet new people. Here are a few types of events that are especially conducive to networking:
- Conferences: In addition to sharing ideas and learning, conferences are known to be a place to network. Seminars and symposiums are similar to conferences too. Many conferences also have formalized networking events, which are worth looking out for.
- Workshops: Workshops tend to be a bit smaller and more focused than conferences. Similar to workshops are trainings. I have found them to be a great opportunity to really connect with people and learn something at the same time.
- One-Off Events: Often various organizations or people host one-off networking events where you can network with people over the course of 1-2 hours. Meetup is a popular site to peruse a wide range of events.
For more from LDE, Smiti Nathan head to Life Design Log