Building your network doesn't have to be intimidating. A simple change in perspective can make the practice feel much more accessible and enjoyable. For anyone in the middle of a job search, the most obvious reason to network is to discover new opportunities and meet potential employers. The way that happens is through forging connections with allies who will share what they know with you. Their advice will help you expand your horizons and come up with new ideas. It will support you in the face of a tough decision or a challenging work situation. Knowing that you have a trusted advisor in your corner can make even the most serious issues feel manageable.
Here are three steps for finding new connections in your professional field:
Active listening is the best way to get to know people and start forming connections. Don't begin a conversation by thinking about what the person could offer you. Instead, the goal should be to truly get to know them and find ways to connect with them. Listen to them for the sake of understanding them, not to look for opportunities to speak. You don't have to put the burden on yourself to do the talking. By being an active listener, you encourage others to steer the conversation.
Don't be afraid to talk about your genuine passions, hopes, and frustrations. Your goal is to connect with others on a human level, and being your authentic self allows you to do this. You can and should talk about topics not related to work too. Your professional life is only a small part of your identity, so discussing hobbies, sports, travel, or other topics can help you get to know your new connections more completely.
Instead of trying to keep in touch with every single person you meet, focus on the few people you felt the strongest connection with at a particular event. You could even write down where you met them, what you have in common, and something about them that stands out. Quality is more important than quantity; it's better to maintain close contact with a handful of people than to try to juggle hundreds of professional contacts.