Networking is a highly effective way to start a job search. It increases the number of individuals, associations, groups and professional contacts that you are connected with, which increases your chances of being connected to new opportunities.

Many times, job openings are not advertised; leveraging your connections to assist you with your job search can lead to a number of job leads with employers who are hiring. Networking is also an effective tool for learning about the employment sector, potential jobs and any other information that you may need in your job search and future career.

Five Effective Networking Strategies

1. Make a List of the People you Know. This list acts as a starting point for your networking activities as it is often your informal network (friends, family and social acquaintances) who first help you meet the right people. After those first introductions, always follow-up with new contacts right away and ask for introductions to additional individuals.

2. Create a Plan for Networking Activities and Opportunities. Your plan should include time preparing questions, creating marketing tools and researching the individuals and companies you may meet. Remember that networking is not about directly asking for a job; instead it is about establishing new connections.

3. Get past the Fear of Networking. It is normal to be nervous about meeting new people and asking for their assistance. Get past your nervousness by being prepared for both new opportunities and rejections. For every new connection you make, there will likely also be less successful networking attempts. If you are networking in a professional setting, don’t take rejection or disinterest personally.

4. Schedule Informational Interviews. Most people are willing and interested in helping, provided they are given enough notice and time to prepare. By scheduling informational interviews, you are respecting their time and getting the most out of the opportunity by preparing and doing your research in advance.

5. Grow your Network Online. Social media is a highly effective way of meeting new people who can help with your job search. LinkedIn, for example, can help identify professionals in your field as well as the connections in your network that can help to make introductions.