Networking 101 Part I: Start Doing It Old School

Youre all set on networking. You update your status on Facebook every two hours, have aHow to Start Networking religious following on Twitter, have thousands of connections on LinkedIn, and youve positioned your blog as the next Perez Hilton. Good for you! In an age where teenagers would rather text than have regular conversations, youve covered all the bases on networking, right? Wrong.

Social media and networking are great tools to market yourself as a professional woman, but dont discount face-to-face networking. It still works! A Gallup Study found that the most frequent type of social networking is still analog: face-to-face or over the phone. So until we entirely stop interacting face-to-face with each other, you need to get off of your butts, and out on the streets. Start networking, old school.

So where to start? At this point, youre probably picturing yourself at a dreaded industry event, talking to a dull person vying for your business card. But networking doesnt have to be just that. Whether youre attending a friends wedding, sitting on a subway on your way to work, or watching a game at the local pub, every activity you engage in is a ripe opportunity to engage in social networking.

Several years ago while working as a Financial Adviser at a major brokerage firm in Washington D.C., I took every opportunity I could to establish social networks with people I met. No, I was not throwing my business cards out at people, and begging for them on the street. Every place I went, I introduced myself to people I met and got to know a little bit about their lives. I did this while out and about the city, riding on the Metro, or waiting in line for my coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Sometimes the conversation would last a minute or two and I would never see that person again. Other times, Ive talked to that person for hours, and created friendships thats lasted for years. Thats all networking is, establishing a social connection with another person. What you do with that social connection is up to you.

So dont be scared. Its not as bad as you think it is. I know it can be dreadful, but networking face-to-face will pay off in the long run. It can help you gain more business, help you land your next job, and as a professional woman, a skill you must learn to master.

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