7 killer networking tips for dummies

This post originally appeared on The Inbetween.

So you landed your dream job. You’re doing work you love, surrounded by awesome coworkers, and even getting paid for it all. You remember all that great networking you did in college to help you get to the place you’re at today, but since you’re now *employed*, you’re thinking you can slack off on your networking game, right? Like really, what value can networking offer you now anyway?

False.

Whether you haven’t yet landed your first job or you’ve been in the same career for 15 years, killer networking skills can help you land new gigs, meet great people and even win new clients.

It can seem a bit daunting at first, so here are some tips to help you sharpen your skills and get your networking game on:

1. Prepare your elevator speech. People will ask you what your job is, what you do there, and how you got into the field. It doesn’t cut it to say, “In PR we…make companies look good.” Instead, you can try, “We help brands talk about themselves to the public. We’re the middlemen between our clients and the media, and we share our clients’ news with journalists so that they’ll write about them. Did you know around 50% of news stories are sourced from PR?” By using an explanation like this, you’ve explained what you do, why it’s important, and continued the conversation by ending on a question.

2. Go to extra-curricular events. Organizations like New York Tech Meetup have made it easy to meet like-minded people who live in close proximity to you. There’s a group for everything, whether you’re a coding enthusiast, beginner Rugby player or aspiring entrepreneur.

3. Talk to people at these professional events. It can be scary to approach a stranger, but the key is to remember that you’ll find something in common with nearly everyone you meet. And if you’re at an event with drinks available, it’s always easier once you’ve downed one or two. You can practice talking to people in the mirror beforehand, so you’re prepared to be a charming, conversational companion.

4. Offer to meet interesting people for coffee or lunch. Whether you meet someone at an event or run into them at Starbucks, this is a great way to establish firmer connections with the people you meet casually. Who pays? You should offer to, but your “date,” depending on his/her seniority, professional position, etc. may offer to foot the bill. It’s great if that happens, but you should be sure there’s enough moola in the piggy bank beforehand.

5. Carry business cards. Everywhere. It’s great for keeping track of the awesome people you meet and connecting with them later on LinkedIn.

6. Speaking of LinkedIn, don’t blindly connect with everyone you meet at an event. Select a few people you thought were interesting and who you may want to connect with in the future. Send them personalized notes when you connect, noting where you met them, in case they don’t remember you.

7. This goes without saying, but don’t burn your bridges. If you’re leaving a job, stay in touch with your former coworkers, whether it’s via email, social media or getting together for coffee. Make new friends and keep the old isn’t just a great nursery rhyme; it’s great life advice.

The networking instinct may not come naturally at first, but with some practice and a little luck, you’ll begin to see your skills developing and ultimately become a pro. Just remember the seven tips above, stay confident, and go get ‘em, baby!