As every career advisor and job search consultant will tell you, effective networking is a critical skill for finding a job. Moreover, once you are in your job, networking will help you collaborate, learn new techniques, find out crucial information, and get ahead in your career. Effective networking is critical for career success and for your success in social life. Here are some of the basics of social networking.

1. Be Courageous. It takes courage to walk up to a total stranger, introduce oneself, and engage in a meaningful conversation. But nothing will happen if you don’t have the courage to initiate the encounter. Realize that you have little to lose and a lot to gain by being brave.

2. Engage in Humble Inquiry. There is a terrific recent book by psychologist Edgar Schein that discusses the importance of asking questions and listening attentively to the other person as a means for creating rewarding interactions. Put getting to know the other person before talking about yourself.

3. Use Social Media Wisely. Social media can be a great networking tool, but it should never take the place of face-to-face communication. Get into the habit of reviewing your text messages or posts before sending them out. Try to read them from the other’s perspective. How will it be interpreted? How can you make your meaning clearer?

4. Be Natural, But Be Prepared. Practice makes perfect, so rehearse and role-play with a friend before embarking on a professional networking opportunity. Thinking about what you want to say beforehand lets you be prepared, but you also want to be authentic and let your true self shine through. [Read more about impression management here]

5. Make the Interaction Rewarding and Positive. Maintain positive affect throughout, staying upbeat and positive. Make sure to express that you enjoyed meeting the other person and valued the conversation.

6. Stay in Touch. Follow up is critical. Send a quick email to tell the person how much you enjoyed meeting her or him and that you enjoyed the conversation. Offer to be of service to the other person, if appropriate. Tell them that you look forward to meeting them again in the future. However, be judicious, and don’t overdo it. (i.e., don’t be a “stalker”).

Happy networking!

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