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If you are looking for a job, starting a business, competing for sales, trying to organize events, wanting to join certain social circles or clubs, or if you are in an established business and want to cultivate or maintain a competitive edge, networking is the key to building successful relationships. You have to make the most of your time and that means doing things that you may not have done in the past, like joining in conversations with strangers.

Networking can make the difference between finding a job or remaining unemployed. It is good for cultivating friendships, and keeping abreast of what others think and do. In the business world, making new acquaintances is very important. The right contact could mean a new job, or if you are a salesman, it could mean a sale. If you are a small business owner, it may be the catalyst for keeping your doors open for business when times get tough.

When the economy goes into a downturn, especially a long and deep recession like the one we are going through right now, and you find yourself out of a job due to a layoff, or if you are just entering the job market coming out of high school or college, you have to be smart with your time and your resources. You should make it a point to meet and talk to as many people as possible, ask questions, give answers, and exchange ideas. The person sitting next to you may know of a job opening but you will never know if you don't instigate a conversation.

You have to determine the type of networking you want to undertake. Some people join local groups that meet weekly at restaurants, libraries, or at each other's homes to discuss job market conditions and employment opportunities. Others join online chat room sites, social forums, and they exchange emails and telephone numbers so they can stay in touch and talk about the latest job market news.

Networking can take on many different forms, depending on why you are networking, who you are talking to, what is being said, and how it impacts you, your lifestyle, or your business. Talking to neighbors, friends, relatives, and present and former co-workers are all forms of networking. You also network when you talk to others at church, while sitting in the waiting room at your doctor's office, or when you are standing in line at the cleaners or the grocery checkout counter.

The more contacts you make, the better your chances are to get leads for jobs. When you are out of work and you need a job, networking should be your first and foremost priority, regardless of what you are trying to accomplish. Sometimes strangers, or people you already know, have an insight on a job opportunity that you may qualify for, but unless you engage them in conversation, you may never find out about it.

Networking is great, but it can be time consuming, tedious, and a bit scary, especially if you are not outgoing, talkative, or if you are not what is called "a good salesman." Although networking is a good way to find job opportunities, many people fear talking about their needs to others. But that shouldn't deter you because, as you know, there are many people who are great conversationalists, assertive, and seem to have everything going for themselves, but for some reason, they never get ahead. They can't cultivate a meaningful relationship and their lives are in disarray. Then there are those who are quiet, shy, reserved, and not at all assertive, yet, they become great leaders, successful business people, and they live great lifestyles.

You have to learn and understand your own vices and virtues in order to make networking work for you, and once you do, you may find that people are willing to help you if you are willing to help yourself. When you are networking, don't try to impress people with what you know because it may turn them off. Be yourself and you will give people an idea of who you really are and what you have to offer.


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