Networking is an essential part of an effective job search strategy. Defined as interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts especially to further your career, it’s a key strategy in accessing the hidden job market. After all, 80% of job openings today are not posted or advertised online.

But unlike men, women often don’t take full advantage of the networking opportunities available to them. Many face additional barriers to networking — both perceived, such as self-selecting themselves as unqualified for specific opportunities and therefore choosing not to network, and actual, such as family obligations. And for some women, the idea of having the poise and confidence to put themselves out there to a group of strangers is simply daunting.

But by putting the effort into networking, doors will open for you. Here are three networking ideas to get you started. All are an effective way to meet new people, get ideas, advice and leads and learn about job opportunities.

1) Attend Events. There are plenty to choose from and if you don’t like the vibe at one organization, then try another next time. There are women-only events, industry-specific events or general business groups. All are designed to help you build up your contacts amongst peers and other professionals.

2) Go Online. If you’re feeling nervous about networking in a room full of strangers, start online. Industry forums, professional social networks, such as LinkedIn, and even emails are a great way to take the first step towards meeting new people.

3) Do Your Research. Industry organizations and professional associations are collaborations of like-minded individuals. Build your network by researching these organizations and then reaching out to individuals within the ones that you relate to. This could be a professional association that broadens your sector knowledge or a women’s professional network that helps improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Learn the Art of Small Talk

The important thing to understand about networking is it’s about making connections and building relationships — it’s not about asking a stranger for a job. Small talk helps to start conversations and gives you the opportunity to find out more about the person you’re speaking with. It also allows you to share your thoughts and interests and show that you would make a friendly and engaging work colleague. Here are some small talk topic ideas to help get you started.

Whether you are meeting someone online or meeting someone in person, look to create a conversation with them, with the goal of simply gathering information and finding a way to connect. By creating meaningful relationships, these people will then think to turn to you when a job opportunity becomes available.