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The magic of networking is one of the most important assets a worker can have. But what can networking really provide you? This term, which essentially means meeting others and making an impression or forming a bond, is often cited as an important part of the job search. But aside from the obviously desired interview or job, interacting with like-minded individuals about business opportunities can provide more than you may think.

Expand Your Environment

Networking does not need to happen during work hours or even in work-like settings such as conferences and trade shows. You can establish a connection with someone waiting in line at a food truck, sitting on public transportation or any number of places you go regularly.

Consider joining a group with people who have similar interests to you, like traveling or exercising, and talk to them about more than just your shared interest. You never know what yoga enthusiast may have a job in banking, for example.

Volunteer events are also a great way to network — getting out for a good cause is a common way to bring people together. Your goal for the day might be building a new house for a family in need, but you can walk away with new friends and business connections. Just try to make connections outside the typical networking zones and see what you can find.

Be Open to Connecting

Networking is just another form of relationship building. You can do this online or in person, at work, at a networking-specific event or in your spare time. Beyond a new employer or co-worker, someone you meet through networking could be your next mentor, real estate agent, new friend or even love interest. Also remember, when you network, you are gaining exposure not just to the people around you but to their network as well.

Bonus Benefits

Even if the goal of your networking is to get work opportunities, there are some other benefits that can sneak in. This is a great chance to share ideas and knowledge.

So if you are renovating a home, thinking of going back to school or debating striking out on your own as an entrepreneur, networking can expose you to people with expertise, advice and opinions on these topics and more.

Also, you can play the same role for others. A big part of networking (like life) is showing up. The more you are out there, attending events and talking to people, the more others will think of you when they are looking for help, a business partner or a recommendation.

Networking can also build your confidence. It can be reassuring that others are thinking about similar issues. By regularly pushing yourself to talk and connect with people you don’t know, you often become better at it. Those skills can help you at work and in your personal life.

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