For some of us, networking moments can conjure up a middle school awkwardness we’re sure we’d grown out of. Fortunately, learning how to network is a build-able skill that can be mastered as methodically as a new yoga routine – with practice, patience and little professional guidance.

We’ve picked up a few tips from Jenny Galluzo and Gina Hadley, co-founders of the The Second Shift – a platform aimed to re-engage women with the workforce at all stages of their career and personal life. That means regardless of business prowess, baby count or general social smoothness, lady boss status is always in reach. Read on as Jenny nails down how to network for it below…

Whether building a business or trying to get a new job, networking is an integral part of being successful. For some people, like my co-founder Gina, it is second nature. She is a master at working a room, handing out cards and making contacts. For me, it is a necessary evil, like going to the dentist. I advise women in various states of their careers and here are some tips I share with them about getting themselves out there – advice I often have to take myself!

5 Tips for Professional Networking

Use what you’ve Already got:

Reach out to your friends and family, old colleagues, owners of shops you frequent in your area — anyone you know who can be of assistance. People who know you will be more willing to return calls and give you a chance to sell yourself. If you have been out of work, offer to do a clearly defined project for free to build up your recent job history.

Talk to Everyone:

Conferences and networking events are great places to make contacts. Once you are there, you have to work the room. Talk to everyone —I mean literally go up to people you don’t know and stick your hand out and say, “Hi, I am so and so, here’s my card.” Make sure you bring lots of business cards and try to speak to as many people as possible.

Ask questions:

As a former journalist, I know that the best way to start a conversation and keep someone engaged is to ask them questions. The truth is, people love to talk about themselves. You can learn a lot of details and use that info to personalize your follow up.

Technology is your friend:

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated and optimized to target the audience you want to reach. It’s easy to connect through Facebook and LinkedIn with alumni associations, trade associations, former colleagues and hiring managers. This is the most cost-effective and time-sensitive way to reach the most people quickly.

Follow up, Follow up, Follow up:

Getting connected is only half the battle — it is equally as important to get in touch as it is to stay in touch. You may not get what you want out of the first, or second or fifth email you send to someone, but don’t give up. The key is making sure your tone is friendly and persistent, not over-eager and annoying.

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