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Career networking is an important skill. Building relationships with people can help advance your career by making contact with prospective colleagues or clients, and opening up new business opportunities. Some people naturally excel at career networking, but others struggle with how to make a positive first impression and make those important connections.

Here are some tips to improve your career networking skills.

Engage
There’s no point in attending a career networking event if you’re not going to interact. Prior to the event, set a goal of how many introductions you want to make. When you arrive, put your best foot forward and say hello to the people around you, even if you’re not completely comfortable.

Practice Your Pitch
If you’re nervous, it helps to practice what you’ll say about yourself. Perfecting your elevator pitch allows you to be concise and have something rehearsed to say to new acquaintances. Just make sure to engage the listener so it’s not a one-sided conversation.

Bring Business Cards
Business cards are a great way to quickly exchange details to be able to reconnect later. It helps if you jot down the details of your meeting — such as the date and event — on the back of your card. This way, your new contacts will be able to recall where you met.

Follow-Up
It’s crucial to keep in touch with people after an event. Send an email or connect on social media right after the meeting to open the lines of communication. Make sure to keep your new connection in mind and connect with them on any relevant business opportunities you come across.

Be Patient
Networking is a long-term — and ongoing — strategy, so make sure you’re going into it with the right expectation. You need to be patient and looking to establish long-standing business relationships, rather than benefiting from a quick payout.

Networking has the ability to open a whole new world of career opportunities, and if executed properly, can earn you credibility and trust within your industry. The only way to get better at networking is to practice and put yourself out there.

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