In the not-so-distant past, I thought networking didn’t matter, and I was so wrong. I assumed that, when sending out resumes or asking for favors, my accomplishments were enough. After all, at only 28 I’d earned two Masters degrees from major universities, was lavished with favor and praise from my professors, and had, right out of graduate school, landed a great job with a global newspaper where I developed relationships with a number of highly influential people.

In a nutshell, I thought I was set. But just as quickly as that feeling of confidence comes, so too does it go (and boy did it). Within eight months, I found the division in which my great job rested being sold off for parts, and me with no leads, no one to reach out to, and no clue what I’d do next. For the next couple of months, I sent out resume after resume, cover letter after cover letter, and nothing. Nada. Zip.

Then, one day, I was barbecuing with a friend, bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t get a job, and he said to me Austin, I’ve never gotten a job that I applied for. It’s always been through people in my network, and right then I was struck, it was an epiphany: I had to network. So I did what anyone would do: I reached out to my friends and family, starting going to networking events and asking sharp-looking people incisive questions about our industry, and still, no one was offering me a job. At least not right away. But one night, when I was at the end of my rope and had sworn that this is the last meet-up I’m ever going to, an older gentleman sat me down and started talking to me about a strategy that changed my life, the right way to network. I got a new job within a week. Here’s what he told me:

• First and foremost, in networking, 1+1 =3. It sounds cheesy, but networking is like that. Every single connection you make has the potential for exponential growth to your career and your network.

• Don’t network to meet your employer or lifeline; network to meet one of their friends. After all, the probability that you’re talking with an HR rep or someone with the authority to hire you in a networking scenario is pretty slim compared to the likelihood that you’re speaking with someone who knows someone who can hire. If you get a good conversation going, spill your guts, be straightforward about troubles that you are having.

• However, don’t look desperate and don’t ask for jobs. Know your industry and ask pointed questions to those contacts you’re meeting. Offer solutions and insinuate your worth. Anyone can get down on their luck, and usually, people are excited to help, but no one wants to listen to (much less hire) a self-effacing drip who can’t put their moment of stumbling in perspective.

• Finally, don’t forget to follow up. You can make a real impression on someone in an evening or an email. Don’t let that go to waste. Using tools with follow-up features, like CircleBack, can make sure you never miss out on the exponential expansion of your network and of your future.

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