If you spend any time trying the usual networking strategies, then you’ll probably notice that most of them seem insincere at best. It always feels like you’re fighting between your own agenda and the best interests of your new “friends.”

That said, networking is perhaps the single best way to achieve success.

So how do you achieve the goal of advancing your career and expanding your professional network without using people? Here are 7 tips that should help.

1. Choose the best channel for you.

Too often, we spread ourselves too thin by setting up accounts on social media sites, going to networking mixers, cold-calling potential clients, asking interesting people out to lunch and so on. For most of us, this all-out pursuit leads to burnout instead of results. Rather than trying to be everywhere at once, decide which area should receive your attention first. Choosing to focus on one mode of communication makes it easier to give your new contacts your full attention … which is exactly what they deserve.

2. It’s about listening to what people say, not saying the right things.

Take a bit of the pressure off of yourself. You don’t need to say the exact right words at the exact right time. Networking is more about taking the time to listen to people’s stories and looking for the places that you can provide something of value to them. it is crucial to understand where people are coming from and what’s important to them. That way, you’ll be able to help them out in the future.

3. You don’t need to know the most people, just the right people.

Stop firing your business cards to everyone you meet and blasting emails out to anyone that looks interesting. It’s much more beneficial to have 10 people that would help you at any time than it is to have 100 that recognize your name. Spend some time finding people that are relevant to you and then pursue the relationships that seem to have a genuine connection.

4. The other side doesn’t “owe” you anything.

Just because you reached out and said hello doesn’t mean that the other person is required to help you. Instead of approaching networking with the hope of gaining favors, try reaching out with curiosity. Contact interesting and relevant people and see what happens. Figure out what makes them unique. See if there is a way you can help them. And if you do help them, don’t expect anything in return.

5. Every person matters.

Please don’t make the mistake of categorizing networking opportunities by status, position, or other superficial metrics. People advance in their careers. People change jobs and industries. Furthermore, you literally have no idea who knows who. That fast food worker could have a cousin that works on Capitol Hill. Treat everyone with respect and don’t dismiss anyone as irrelevant.

6. Offer praise when you reach out over email.

Unless you have a mutual contact that is putting you in touch for a specific reason, it’s best to avoid asking for anything when you make that first contact. Did they win an award or did their company do well last quarter? Send a quick note of congratulations. Over email it’s especially important that you offer a little praise before delving deeper. If they reply to your first email, then you can move on to asking for advice or setting up a date for lunch.

7. Show your current network some love.

Networking isn’t just about reaching out to new people. A huge part of it is nurturing your current network of friends, co-workers, and peers. You can start helping these people today because you already know what they are interested in. Network with the people that are already close by sending helpful information and connecting them with other interesting people you already know.

These steps aren’t difficult, but the do require you to take action.

There aren’t any secret sayings that will turn you into a world-class networker. Simply, begin reaching out and helping others however you can. If you’re looking for more, then I’ve put together an even longer list of networking tips.

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