How can people get better at growing and using their professional networks? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Pamela Weinberg, Career Coach and Personal Branding Strategist, on Quora:

In the world of job searching, there is probably nothing more important than your network. Surveys have found that between 70-85% of jobs are found through networking so none of us can afford to ignore it. I can tell you that my clients and I spend a lot of time discussing how to effectively network, but mostly everyone is resistant. I haven't yet met a client who has said "I love attending a networking event", but those who do, definitely reap the benefits.

AND: for those who only think networking is done when you are looking for a job--remember: that is the hardest time to pick up the phone! Networking is two way street and is a relationship between two people who can help each other--don't think of it as a "one off" phone call, the people in your network need "care and feeding" all throughout the year. And the best networkers do just that with quarterly reach outs, and remember to continue them once you are employed.

Here are some tips on in-person networking, the kind that happens when you attend a networking event, conference or just meet a new person who you want to network with.

  • Have your elevator pitch ready: a short 30 seconds and who you are, what you do and what your "ask" is
  • Have a few "ice breakers" prepared: "what brought you here tonight"; "what do you like most about what you do" or even "that's an interesting necklace, tell me about it". Remember people like to talk about themselves so ask questions!
  • Have an escape plan: you probably have a lot of people you want to speak to, so be sure to have a way out of conversations. Something like, "I need to chat with my colleague across the room, so please excuse me" or "I am going to refill my glass" is a good one. Make sure to ask for a business card and jot down anything significant on the back to remind you of the conversation.
  • Follow up the next day with LinkedIn request and personal email telling them how nice it was to meet them and any follow-up that is appropriate.

Here are some tips for on-line networking:

LinkedIn was created for professional networking so that should be your "go to" spot for building your network. Here are some tips for building your network on LinkedIn:

  • Connect with colleagues, former colleagues, vendors, suppliers and anyone in your industry with whom you work or have worked.
  • Join Groups on LinkedIn that are in your Professional area
  • Join your Alumni Assoc Groups on LinkedIn (and added bonus, make sure you are signed up for the Listserv for your school too.
  • Comment and post on LinkedIn to help become recognized within your network as an industry expert.

Finally, make sure to keep in touch, and this doesn't have to be "all business". You have someone within your network that loves the Red Sox and you just saw a great article about them, send that over. Those "touches" go a long way to solidifying your relationships.

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