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How do you network?

What’s the difference between socializing and networking? Let’s be honest: conferences are great for social gatherings, alumni parties, meeting new people, catching up with old friends/colleagues, and the drink specials. Where does the networking stop and socializing begin? I’m sure we all have our fair share of stories of Reps taking us out for drinks; which is all well and good and possibly very entertaining. I’m willing to safely bet that professionals in all walks of life do business over a few drinks at Happy Hours and conferences. Having a few drinks while still keeping it professional are essential.

Knowing the point at which it turns from professional to lacking professionalism is paramount. Some may come out of their shell easier with a few drinks but everyone has their tipping point (no pun intended). On the extreme end of the spectrum, professionalism runs out the door pulling an “Irish Exit” and drags your professional dignity with it. The peer pressure of friends at conferences can drag down a young professional who may not know boundary where networking/socializing turns into partying. Within the confines of the conference/meeting lines are clear cut on what is professional or acceptable and what is not. Outside of those walls, things change and going out with Reps can be great for our wallets but boundaries can easily be crossed.

ATs struggle to separate ourselves from other professionals and networking is one way in which we can educate those who may not know who we are and what we do. Additionally, we can meet people that may be able to help us professionally or learn from and vice versa. How do you network? What boundaries (written or unwritten) do you set for yourself or your coworkers that may tag along?


  • Unfortunately in the past because I worked in minor league sports my schedule was too hectic so I did not get the opportunities I wanted to go to NATA to experience the level of networking you described. However I would have to say that the moment you bring alcohol into the mix it would be more of socializing than networking. This is just a person boundary that I set for myself and those I am trying to network with. This way there is a clear line in the sand and there is no blurring it.
    Audric Warren MS, ATC, CAFS, NASM-PES, NASM-CES
  • I would describe NATA as a socializing event for sure. As many times as I have been, I rarely meet new people and if I do, they often do not remember things so well. Often there memory is of the drinking and socializing and they do not understand what I do, where I work, etc. I find that mostly time is spent reconnecting with old or current classmates and co-workers.

    In other events I feel networking has been better. Those events have always included a sponsored lunch or breakfast as part of the event. It gives you an opportunity to interact with those that are in the same education sessions and provide for opportunity to have more formal conversations. These events have been State Athletic Training meetings, continuing education workshops, Pilates on Tour Rehabilitation Summit, Perform Better Functional Training Summits. There has always be opportunity to meet and interact with other participants and the educators.
    Anna J. Hartman MS, ATC, CSCS, PMA-CPT
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