It's well known that networking is the key to a successful career. You can have the skills and the education, but without connections, it will be very difficult to get a job or even build a business. A recent study by Right Management found that for the fifth year in a row, person-to-person networking is the most effective way of finding a new job. Networking had a 46 percent effectiveness rate, compared to Internet job boards (25 percent), recruiters (14 percent), the direct approach (7 percent) and newspaper listings (1 percent).
A lot of people have trouble with networking because they are introverted, feel like they are using people and come off as selfish instead of helpful. Here are seven tips that will help you, even if you're not a natural schmoozer.
1. Focus on the right people. The secret to networking isn't to attend a networking event and pass out as many business cards as you can. It's not meeting as many people as possible in hopes something will work out. Instead, you need to concentrate on the people who you know will be able to make a difference in your career.
2. Create win/win situations. It's very important that both you and the other party gain equally when networking. If you benefit more than the other person, he or she will feel cheated and used. When that happens, you won't be able to go back and built a long-term relationship.
3. Give before you receive. In a networking situations, people expect you to ask them for help. If you turn that around and just offer some support, your networking partner will be grateful and want to return the favor.
4. Become a connector. You don't always have to gain something in a networking relationship. If you can introduce people who can benefit from one another, it's just as effective. You can build a stronger rapport with multiple people and it makes you very good.
5. Remember to reconnect. We've all had people who will contact us out of the blue after years of never touching base. When that happens, you typically don't want to go out of your way for them because they haven't put any effort into sustaining the relationship. After you choose the right people to network with, remember to stay in contact with them.
6. Use social networks. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are tools that you can use to connect in a personal way to different people in your industry. On LinkedIn for example, you can get introduced to new contacts through your current connections. You can also use LinkedIn as a professional database to find people who work in your professional at various companies you're interested in.
7. Start your own networking group. One of the best ways to meet like-minded people is to establish your own networking group. You can use Meetup.com and EventBrite.com to create a series of events under a certain topic such as marketing, finance or accounting. By being the leader of the group, you will immediately become more connected and sought-out. People will want to meet you because you're the creator.
Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen-Y research and management-consulting firm. Subscribe to his updates at Facebook.com/DanSchawbel.
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