At a Glance: You may have to step out of your comfort zone — think attending events and handing out business cards — to make powerful professional connections.
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 10 seconds

When you’re preparing to enter the workforce, having the skills and experience required for the job are just the start. It also helps to be connected to people who can match you with the right job opportunity, both now and down the line. In fact, a LinkedIn survey found that up to 85 percent of job openings are filled through networking.

You may have some preconceived notions about what networking means, but it really boils down to making one-on-one connections that can help you in your career. Here’s how to get started:

Search for professional organizations related to your career

There’s a club or group for virtually everything, particularly people with similar professional interests. Whether you’re in healthcare or publishing, there are likely groups of people who meet either formally or informally, weekly, monthly or bi-annually to share ideas and discuss trends in your field.

Use the power of social media to discover these events and meet other members in real life. Not sure where to start? Try the professional networking section of Meetup to search for events nearby.

Attend events and be yourself

Don’t be nervous about attending professional events if you’re new to the job search; everyone there has the same goal of meeting new people. And at the end of the day, networking can introduce you to people who become mentors, colleagues and even friends.

Not only can you meet people who potentially help you find a new job, but you can trade advice, share your struggles and gain insights about your given industry that you may not have known before.

Aim for quality over quantity

At networking events, it can be overwhelming to try and talk to everyone before the event is over. So go into the event planning to chat with 2 or 3 people, and come prepared with some questions that can open up a conversation.

Starting with a few inquiries about someone’s profession, goals or path can be a great icebreaker. Ask them what they do in their current role, how they became interested in the field, or what other organizations they are a part of.

Come prepared with business cards

Even if you’re new to the industry, plan to arrive at networking events with a business card that has your name, email, phone number and a tagline describing your qualifications. Your tagline could be anything from “marketing writer” to “political science graduate seeking a full-time opportunity” — something that will get your career objective across quickly.

When entering the world of networking, be prepared to exchange information with industry professionals and remain open to different career possibilities — you never know who you’ll meet.

If you liked this article, try these:

What to wear?
4 tips for writing a resumé and cover letter that will stand out