One skill set that I have been most proud of – and most pointed out by my work colleagues – is my ability to network. No matter where I have worked, who I have worked for, or who I have worked with, I have been able to build genuine relationships with many people throughout my career. In fact, I have been recruited many times by recruiters to be a recruiter because of my ability to make great connections!

Networking is a vital and essential part of building your career and your income over your lifetime. The old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is even more truthful in our day and age. Building a personal connection with others in your field and in your circle of influence can mean the difference between staying stuck in the same role and getting the promotion with the financial benefits that come with it. Having a great network allows you the opportunity to be a resource for someone who is looking for a job or a contact in your company or network or could be your lifeline to find a new position when you have been laid off (this was the case for me back in 2008-2009).

I hear from a lot of people who hate to network. They feel it’s either a waste of time or they are intimidated to walk into a room full of people they don’t know and start introducing themselves to random strangers. Even the extrovert in me can get overwhelmed in these sorts of situations.

The key is assuming that all networking looks the same and that only the loud, talkative people are the ones that network best. This is simply not true. There are many effective ways to network that can work for both introverts and extroverts.

Here are some easy FREE ways to get started:

  1. Set up a LinkedIn (linkedin.com) profile and connect with your present and past co-workers as well as family and friends. Think of LinkedIn as your virtual business calling card. You list your work experience, education, accomplishments, portfolio, and skills. It’s an amazing place to keep track of and stay connected to your business contacts.
  2. Get to know your fellow co-workers. Break the ice and get to know your neighbors around you at work! This doesn’t have to be some serious discussion about the next actions steps in a work project. In fact, it shouldn’t be about work at all. Just a simple inquiry about your co-worker’s weekend or complimenting the person’s outfit is an easy way to get the conversation started. Getting to know your co-workers on a more personal level is great way to make a deeper connection.
  3. Take trainings offered by your company. Company trainings are a great way to meet other people outside of your department and to build stronger relationships between departments. Oftentimes we may act a certain way to other company employees when we are dealing with them via phone or email. Having face-to-face interactions with these employees that are outside of the normal workload is a great way to break tension and the communication walls that may be holding us back. Not only will you meet amazing people but you will also add valuable skills to move your career path forward.
  4. Volunteer. Volunteering, in general, is a great way to give back to your community. There are all kinds of volunteer roles that you can take on in an organization – whether you are a person who likes to interact with the public or someone who likes to work behind the scenes. Volunteering puts you in contact with people of many backgrounds. This will not only help the organization for which you are volunteering but it will also give you the opportunity to meet other people that you may not come in contact with in your career field.
  5. Begin a conversation while waiting in line. This suggestion may feel very uncomfortable for my introvert friends out there but honestly this tip is made for introverts because you are only dealing with one person at a time. I just implemented this tip today. I was in line at the post office to check on a package that I was supposed to have received. I had to stand to the side to wait to speak with the supervisor. A few of us started to form a line because we had similar issues. I made a comment (with a smile) to someone standing there about how long the regular line was for a Monday morning and we both laughed about how we thought we were going to beat the lunch rush. We chatted for a few minutes and found out that we were both Cuban and both entrepreneurs. By the end of the conversation, he gave me his business card and we connected on social media. It made the negative of waiting in line turn out to be a positive – you never know who you will meet!

I hope these tips were a good starting point for you to start expanding your network. I would love to hear how these tips have helped you make better quality connections – let me know!