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Tips on how to network at work

Whether you’re new to the workforce, an experienced professional, or looking for a career change, networking can be very important. Here are some networking tips based on how much job experience you already have.

In a first job

People new to working may feel like they have a disadvantage when networking. If you haven’t worked in your chosen profession for a long time, you’ll need to build some connections from scratch. The good news is people are generally happy to talk to someone just starting out and like being asked for advice. 
Reaching out to someone already doing what you’d like to do and asking about their experience is a great way to start building your network. However, don’t just ask for a job or a referral before you’ve established a relationship. 
Start by researching potential contacts. You may find them on LinkedIn® professional networking services, on business websites, as experts quoted in the media, or even through industry associations or clubs. Reach out to one or more of the people you find and ask if they’d meet with you to discuss their experiences. Then consider asking for advice or general career questions. 
Once you’ve started the connection, it’s important to check in regularly to build and maintain the relationship. Not necessarily to ask for advice, but to ask about them as a person, email articles about the industry, or send birthday or holiday greetings. Being likable and memorable helps people get to know you. Once they know and like you, they’re often willing to help when you’re in the market for a new job. 
Also, don’t forget about relationships that started in school. Staying in touch with people you went to school with can help continue the friendship and make it easier to ask about any job openings where they’re employed. 

Experienced professionals

Even experts in their fields can benefit from networking. It may be a little easier once you’ve been employed for a few years, as you already have a list of people who know you and your work. However, career connections can fade easily. You must work to keep the relationships fresh. For example, share industry information, relevant articles, or personal notes. If you send holiday cards, that’s an easy way to remind friends and former colleagues of your connection. 

Expanding your network can also be worthwhile. Attend conferences or join professional organizations to meet new people in your field. Connect with people outside of your profession. Join sports leagues or go to gatherings to meet people you wouldn’t normally get the chance to interact with.  

Successful networking at this point in your career is about maintaining connections while expanding your circle over time. 

Career changers

Transitioning to a new career can be challenging. Like workers who are starting out, people entering a new industry benefit from basic networking. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help. Having an open mind and willingness to learn are strengths. 
Consider reaching out to people who have interesting careers in your new field and ask about their experiences. Enroll in classes to further your skills and knowledge, which may also provide an opportunity to make new contacts for the future. Conferences and industry-related clubs or associations are also a great place to meet people. 
Finally, don’t disregard job fairs. Colleges and trade schools often host these on campus so students can learn about relevant jobs and apply for open positions. Sometimes hours are available for nonstudents or, if you’re feeling bold, just go and talk to people. Be prepared with a short pitch about yourself and bring plenty of resumes. 

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This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

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