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If there is one skill that you NEED to learn in order to open doors to new opportunities and get ahead in your career, it’s networking.

Unfortunately, networking gets a bad reputation. Most people think of it as asking for a job, or pushing for new customers. Let me tell you, that’s not the case at all. Instead of looking at it as promoting yourself in hopes of landing a better opportunity, think of it as making friends in the right places.

Networking done right not only potentially creates lifelong friendships, it also helps you tremendously when you’re looking to level up in life. By learning to network, you’re not only making yourself known, but you’re also investing in yourself. In fact, with proper networking, you’d be surprised how often new potential customers will reach out to you because someone mentioned your name in a conversation!

However, networking isn’t something that can be learned in a day. It takes a lot of patience, time and practice. The good thing is, it’s not really that hard once you get into the rhythm of things. Most people agree that the hardest part is starting out, and reaching out to people. If you’re someone who has trouble networking, fret not, here’s a beginner’s guide on how to network properly and effectively in just 3 easy steps!

1. Talk to Your Friends and Family

One of the best ways to expand your network is through your friends and family. When you’re having a chat or catching up with each other, you’re bound to ask each other how life is going. This is when you can start telling them about your new career, what you’re learning right now, what you’re doing in general, etc.

By keeping your friends and family up to date on your professional life, they’ll more than likely recommend your services to their own friends and family when the conversation comes up. In fact, you’d be surprised at how often people will reach out to you because of recommendations.

So always remember to keep those around you up to date on what you’re up to in life, and don’t forget to remind them to recommend your services to anyone who needs it!

2. Social Media Is Your Greatest Asset

Social media is another great way to get started on networking with new people. Not only will you be able to connect with people that are relevant to your career from all around the world, you can also do anytime and anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection and a social media account!

Your best option to start networking is on LinkedIn as the platform is specifically designed for professionals to network with each other. With a quick search, you’ll be able to find and message talented and friendly individuals in your field. Send them a quick friend request and say hi, you’ll never know where the conversation might lead you.

Aside from LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram are also great options to network. Make sure you’re promoting yourself and your services on the platform. Sometimes, it’s even great to post content that is relevant to your work. This helps you gain exposure and increase your credibility. With that, you’ll have a higher chance of relevant people reaching out to you instead.

Related: 10 Tips for The Ultimate Linkedin Profile

3. Think of It as Making New Friends

When it comes to networking, you should be professional but not to the point where it feels like a job interview. Instead, it should feel more like a professional friendship. That means you shouldn’t go around asking people to hire you. Instead, have a professional but friendly talk as you would with a colleague. Your conversations could be things such as work related topics and sharing insight.

It’s good to keep in mind that the other party also has similar intentions as you. They want to create a long lasting relationship where you can help each other out by recommending the right people to each other.

By thinking of it this way, networking becomes more of a relationship building skill that benefits everyone. When the time is right, you can recommend customers to the people you’ve networked with, and vice versa.

4. Remember to Always Stay in Touch

Learning how to network means learning how to open new doors of opportunity for your career. It’s an easy skill to learn, but difficult to master. However, given enough time, it’ll become second nature to you.

It might be nerve-wracking in the beginning, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll realize that it’s really not that hard, and it’s incredibly worth it.

If you want to learn more valuable skills and indispensable knowledge, check out our range of certifications and diplomas at Academy of Learning!