To get ahead in your career, it helps to have connections that can lead to bigger and better things. From schmoozing and scheduling to socializing and speaking, networking is a nice way to grow both personally and professionally.

It can take some practice to get your networking skills down but as you continue to meet new people and perfect your pitch, you will find that networking can enhance your professionalism and productivity.

Here are some wonderful ways to network, from online to in-person. Try one or test them all, as the more you expand your circle, the better your chance for meeting the right people who can steer you towards success. And vice versa.

Trade Show/Conference

Trade show customerattraction.com

Big and bustling, trade shows and conferences reel in the masses. As you spend a day or two networking in a "big pond," you'll work the room and make the most of like-minded individuals who converge to connect. As recommended by Idealist Careers, "If you can, figure out who will be at the conference ahead of time and try schedule a time to meet." This way, you can hone in on a few key people who will bring the "quality" to the "quantity." Then again, you never know who you may bump into, so leave your options open and be willing to keep your schedule loose. Exchange contact info and follow up swiftly.

LinkedIn

LinkedInhttps://im.mtv.fi

Hop online and use the power of the web to work up key connections. As Walsworth notes, "Like any social site, LinkedIn is about networking, but because it is a site that's focused on professionals and businesses, your company can network effectively with prospective client organizations." Just remember, this isn't like Facebook or Twitter where the entertainment value is at the forefront. Walsworth recommends, "Don't link with people just to build the number of connections you have. Use your connect requests more strategically to engage and build relationships with your target customers and influencers in your market space." Like Dummies points out, "You can connect with past co-workers, employers, and Fortune 500 executives. You never know who will accept your invitation."

College Alumni Association

Alumni association www.lycoming.edu

The perks of a college education don't end at graduation. Keep your college connections current by being actively involved with your alumni association. As per The Muse, "If you live in a large city, there's likely some kind of alumni organization already set up there. Either way though, you should reach out to your school's alumni center and ask how to get in touch with local alums. Then, take the next step and actually attend the events." Having that common bond breaks the ice. The next step is to find ways to move from the classroom to the board room and prove that your alma mater matters.

Past Employers

Past employer economicdevelopment.org

No matter your reason for moving on from a previous job, maintaining a professional and cordial relationship with past employer(s) can help you down the line. Never leave a job with a bad taste in anyone's mouth, even if you were fired or left on less-than-ideal terms. As The Muse explains, "Upper level managers tend to be well-connected. So, maintaining a friendly relationship with previous employers is important and beneficial for you in the long run. They'll likely be willing to introduce you to some of their own connections, as well as give you a heads up about opportunities you might be interested in." One day, when you're in their position, you can pay it forward to the up-and-comers seeking your level of success.

Charity Events/Volunteer

Volunteer media.glassdoor.com

Giving back is a gift in of itself, but your charitable sensibilities can help you in your professional life too. This win-win scenario is a surefire way to network with both care and a cause in mind. According to Small Biz Club, "Charity events are often the best place to meet wealthy and serious investors, and attending an industry-specific charity event can be a boon to your business in terms of networking." Idealist Careers adds, "Volunteering allows you to help others, meet people who share your passion, and learn more about your community." And isn't that what networking is all about?

So go on. Get out there and network! New faces, new places, and new experiences are waiting for you to make the first move.

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