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Finding a Job - How to Network

You've probably heard the phrase "It's not what you know, it's who you know." In today's interconnected society, that rings true more than ever. Your talents, abilities, and experience will never take you anywhere if nobody knows you exist. In order to get what you want out of life, you need to be resourceful. Your fellow human beings are a vast resource.

1. Break your stereotypes about networking. If you're reading this article, you're probably familiar with the benefits of networking, but you've avoided doing it for a variety of reasons.

Networking can seem insincere, pretentious, or even manipulative. And if that's what you're thinking, you're probably right... about some of it. There will always be people who judge others based on image and titles, but there are also people who want to build genuine, mutually beneficial relationships.

When you're networking, you're going to have to sift through the people you don't want to know to get to the people you do want to know. That's just an essential part of networking, but the good news is that with practice, you'll get better at spotting the people worth knowing.

You might think you're too shy or self-conscious to schmooze. Networking does require a degree of boldness, but with the advent of social networking sites, you can get to find others with similar interests and goals without being in a room full of people.

Also, people who are shy and self-conscious tend to be a lot more open and talkative when they're doing or talking about something they're deeply interested in. If you find people who are just as obsessed with birding, origami, or manga as you are, then you'll have a much easier time establishing connections.

Networking takes time and effort. Unless you're an extroverted person who thoroughly enjoys schmoozing, it can be exhausting. Why bother? Well, one way to think of it is to imagine how much time and frustration you would save if anything you wanted or needed was just one or two phone calls away. Ultimately, a network can be an investment, with benefits that outweigh the costs. You just need to stick with it and watch it grow.

2. Build your social network. If you hate small talk, this will be the hardest part, but you'll improve with practice. The key is to smile and take a genuine interest in other people's lives.

Strengthen your existing connections. Getting in touch with old friends, distant relatives, and people you went to school with can be a good stepping stone because you're reaching out, but you're not approaching complete strangers. Give them a phone call or send them an e-mail to find out where they are and what they're doing. Tell them what you're up to.

Pursue interests and activities that mean a lot to you. The Internet has made this a whole lot easier. Check forums, listings, classifieds, and Internet mailing lists (known as "listservs") for local events or meetings that are likely to attract people with similar interests or passions.

Go to work-related conferences. Print out business cards and give out as many as you can. Ask the people you meet for their business cards, and write any details about them on the back once you have a moment to spare.

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