BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Having the right professional network can be especially helpful as you grow in your career. But, whether you’re looking for a new job, a mentor, or the right people in your field to connect with, professional networking can feel like a daunting and time-intensive task. Nobody wants to waste precious time networking with the wrong people and be ignored.

The good news is there is a way to make networking more effective and enjoyable. Think of nurturing your professional network a bit like playing pickleball. It requires patience, technique, creativity, and the right equipment. And though longtime players may not admit it, a little luck goes a long way too.

Here are a few quick tips, and new tools, to make every shot count in the networking game:


Pickleball isn’t just about the game—it’s about the chatter and catching up with players between sets and after the game. The same is true in networking.

Use conversations already happening to catch up with your network. If you see a post from someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with, chime in via the comments, and even spark up a side conversation to get the banter going.

And remember to review someone’s recent online posts before you join the conversation, or before you reach out directly. Taking a few minutes to see what they’ve been sharing will give you perspective on what they’re interested in, where you might have something in common and any major news you’ll want to be aware of while you’re considering how to best approach a conversation.


Pickleball takes practice and finessing—there is a good chance you won’t win your first game. And, the more you “practice” networking, the easier it gets. Networking a little bit each week is sometimes better than networking a lot once a year. It’s the ongoing networking that will have the biggest impact.

Experiment and see where your strengths are and where you can lean in. Figuring out what to say and how to say it can be the key to starting a successful conversation. A couple pro tips:

Test out different ways to connect with people so it doesn’t feel generic: Calling out shared interests, congratulating them on milestones they might be celebrating in their career journey – and figure out what feels authentic to you. This is a great way to make the conversation feel less transactional, and takes the pressure off everyone while opening the door to an ongoing conversation.

Be specific: If you are asking for someone’s time, instead of the old, “I’d love to pick your brain,” line, try giving three specific topics/questions you’d love to chat through with them and why their experience is key to the conversation.

Brevity is key: The traditional elevator pitch has undergone a makeover, with a focus on impactful storytelling with the right amount of personalization. Think of it as a micro-narrative that captures attention and leaves a lasting impression.


Sure, you can play pickleball with any paddle and in any outfit, but the right shoes and the right paddle for your playing style can make a world of difference. It’s the same with networking: Setting yourself up with the right tools can help you save time and make the whole process less daunting (and more fun!)

To find timely, relevant reasons to catch up with someone, use the LinkedIn Catch Up tab in the My Network section that highlights when a connection gets a new job, celebrates a work anniversary, is actively hiring, or even has a birthday. Each event provides a natural way to begin a conversation.

LinkedIn can also be a good starting place to not only get smart on someone’s experience, but to also see where there might be commonalities in your career journey, or any shared network connections. Use these insights to create a more personalized note which should greatly improve the chances you’ll hear back. The new AI-powered writing assistant on LinkedIn can actually help find these insights for you and draft a first take at a message that you can then review and tweak before sending.

Networking in 2024 has shifted from tedious emails to engaging conversations, from the generic to the personalized: a world where connecting is more like a friendly chat over coffee than a stiff, formal affair. As any seasoned pickleball player will tell you, the game is hard, but rewarding. The same goes for nurturing your network as you grow in your career.