5 tips for successful networking

When it comes to networking, working a room can be daunting, especially for those uncomfortable with the social pressures of schmoozing. But there's no underestimating the value of connections gleaned from a good contact. New websites like LinkedIn.com are principled on the potential upside of your contacts (and, by extension, their contacts). Further your career by prepping for networking events, advises Rebecca Matchett, cofounder and CEO of Rebecca and Drew clothing, who has teamed up with Dress for Success, a nonprofit that provides professional attire to underprivileged women. Here's what she tells her "clients" about networking.

1. Ask Questions
The best way to engage a stranger is by asking a lot of questions about what he or she does. Go ahead, be nosy! Find out what they do, whether they like it, what they are particularly proud of. It's a great way to ingratiate yourself while also gleaning relevant information about the industry. Be as sincere as possible, though. Your goal is to create a lasting impression, but not as an opportunist.

2. Don't Rush
It's always best to approach someone by speaking about something other than work. Break the ice. Remark on details from the event - "These canapés are delicious!" That's a more organic segue into your agenda - making an impression on someone who could help your career.

3. Follow Up

In order to develop an ongoing relationship and dialogue with a mentor, you should make a point of sending a thank you note if you shared a particularly memorable or lengthy conversation. Ask if your would-be contact might be interested in coffee to continue the dialogue. Worst-case scenario: She says no. Best case: You've got a potentially beneficial contact to add to your Rolodex.

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By Eileen Conlan - Career & Money Blogger - Marie Claire

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