By Anna Davies, REDBOOK
Whether you work in an office or at home, or just have an idea for a project you'd love to get going, you need to add networking to your routine. "It's really about cultivating new friendships that might open some doors for you both professionally and personally," says Cynthia Shapiro, author of What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here . Shapiro shares smart ways to effortlessly add to your career contacts.
1. Perfect the Art of Small Talk: Practice striking up conversation-make a joke to the woman standing in line with you at the bank, or share a witty observation with the guy next to you in spin class. Soon, you'll feel more comfortable having casual chats with near strangers-and networking anywhere won't feel forced.
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2. Have Your Intro Ready: Before you head to an event, practice a 10-second introduction of yourself and your goal or area of interest. Then, find someone who's also on her own or approach a large group and introduce yourself. By taking the lead, you'll seem in control and confident-just the person you want people to remember.
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3. Don't Be Afraid to Flatter: If your introduction doesn't generate an instant conversation flow, don't slink away. Offer a simple compliment, such as, "I love your scarf! Where did you get it?" People love talking about themselves, and any subject that fosters a genuine connection can segue into a bigger-picture discussion.
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4. Follow Up: E-mail or call your new contacts regularly, giving a quick update of what's going on in your life. They'll help you keep up on industry news, and you'll also recognize a few friendly faces in the crowd at the next function.
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5. It's Who You Know: An estimated 80 percent of jobs go unadvertised! The larger your network is, the greater the chance you'll hear about these hidden opportunities.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.