A beginner's guide to networking

The more people you know, the better chance you have of reaching your goals

Even the most outgoing people can find networking intimidating, but the benefits of building useful relationships make the effort well worthwhile.

There's no getting around the fact that networking can be hard work. You may or may not grow to love it, but you'll find it useful for advancing your career.

Good networkers are in the lucky position of almost always being able to get the help they need – be it a referral, some inside information on a potential client or even a job offer – by making one phone call. As the saying goes, it's often who you know. So the more people you know, the better chance you have of reaching your goals.

Link up via LinkedIn

Sites such as LinkedIn have made networking easier. Over the last couple of years, LinkedIn has reached a tipping point and most people are now on it. To get the most out of LinkedIn, it's best to provide as full a profile as possible and go for quality rather than quantity when it comes to connections. Try to connect to people who you have something in common with professionally rather than with family members and old schoolmates.

Nothing beats face time

As useful as networking sites have become, face-to-face interaction remains the most effective form of networking. If you find yourself in a situation that offers the opportunity for networking, summon up the courage to approach people and strike up a conversation. Take a genuine interest in what they have to tell you and you'll be surprised at how willing they are to establish a relationship and help you out at a future date.

Take the initiative

If you're not finding yourself in networking situations, create them. Get in touch with someone in your industry you respect and ask if they'd be willing to meet you for coffee. Start a Facebook page for people who share your ambitions, check out the group directories section on LinkedIn and sign up for anything that looks interesting.

Just as you would train for a sporting event for months in advance, you should be establishing relationships with people who can assist you long before you're in the position of wanting to ask them for a favour.

You don't have to wait until you're working full-time to start building connections. People you meet while studying can be extremely useful contacts for your future. If you're interested in a career change, or simply looking to expand your skill set, you can visit TAFE NSW and see the wide variety of courses on offer.