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Networking is nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s be honest - it can be regarded by some people as a cynical exercise in shallow personal promotion. And for some people perhaps it is.

The truth is that we all network all the time. It’s an essential part of being human. We depend on networks of support in every area of our lives, and work is no exception.

It makes sense to have a good network of colleagues, contacts and associates who work in your area. For example you’d expect an electrician to know plumbers and builders they can rely on, with the right abilities and skills. So what’s different in other professions? Networking is a skill but it’s not particularly magical or mysterious. It’s just about getting to know and get on with people who share your passion, interests and expertise, and the more known you become the more your reputation and employability increase.

Here are our tips to becoming a great networker.

Start building your network early

In this internet age you can reach out, connect and build the beginnings of a professional network at any time. You can also follow up with new contacts as you leave a meeting, conference or networking event so there’s no excuse not to start as soon as you can. Remember, though, that building a network isn’t the solution to a problem – if that’s your approach then you’ve already left it too late.

Keep your network real

Don’t collect names and numbers for the sake of it. Networking isn’t like trainspotting. Your contacts should be people you have a genuine rapport with. People can sense desperation. By networking when you have no immediate reward in mind you will be laying down the foundations for long-term relationships. Those are the ones that will be the most useful further down the line. Network now to help with every job you will ever have, not just the one you want next.

Network for tomorrow not today

It’s a rookie mistake to think that just because people don’t have impressive job titles, you don’t need to bother getting to know them. First of all, everyone has a role to play and everyone can make your life a little easier at some point. The other point to remember is that people climb the career ladder at different speeds. Those below you today could easily be above you tomorrow. It is much easier to get to know people early on in their careers than it is when they are CEO, when they’re likely to be far more wary of sharing details.

Be active with your network

Networking isn’t the act of getting a person’s details. Networking is about working those contacts. Thanks to the internet it’s easier than ever to keep in touch and build relationships with your new connections. Through sharing insight, expertise, knowledge and experiences you can turn what might be a very shallow relationship at first into something more rounded.

Be a giver not a taker

Professional generosity is a trait everyone admires. When networking, don’t just think about your own career. If you believe two of your contacts could benefit from being introduced, suggest it. People rarely forget being helped.

Helping your network is helping yourself

Everyone has value. Work out what value you have to your different contacts. When you connect with people, don’t spend too long concentrating on what you do. Focus instead on what you can do to help. There may not be anything you can do immediately but make it clear you are there if and when you can be of assistance.

Do to your network as you would be done unto

Don’t be one of those people who says they’ll be in touch or promises to do something and then lets it slide. No-one wants to think they’ve been used like that, so don’t do it yourself. Only by investing in people over the long-term can you hope to have a strong connection. No-one likes being asked for a favour by someone they have not heard from for a long time. Put in the effort.

Don’t forget to use your network!

We’ve said a lot about being a good networker but we shouldn’t forget of course that networking is your opportunity to publicise yourself. The way you use it, the messages you send, the meetings you arrange will all play a part in showing you are a person worth getting to know.

It may take minutes or decades to see the benefits of networking. The beauty of it is never knowing what may happen next. The more effort you put into making and maintaining your relationships, the more possibilities exist. Keep going, even if you feel like you’re not getting much out of it at times. With time and persistence, networking will help you both personally and professionally. It could well land you not just your next job, but the job after that too.

It’s always useful to have a top recruiter in your network so find a Computer Futures recruiter via Linkedin.