According to Randstad, one of the best ways to set yourself apart from your competition in job openings or promotions is by the people you know. If you have identical qualifications to someone else, these connections may set you apart from your competition.

Networking can seem like a demanding strain on your time, but it can be just as important in advancing your career as coming prepared every day to work. Here are some of the best ways for building connections with others in your field and maintaining the contacts you’ve got.

In the workplace:

Save time for small talk.

While you might feel overwhelmed with obligations in the office, make some time to chat with your colleagues. Drop in details they’ve told you, like their children’s names or their favorite hobbies, and work them into conversation when possible. Your colleagues will appreciate your sincerity.

Make out-of-office plans.

Once you get to know your colleagues, aim to spend time with them in the evenings and weekends. Whether you both sign up for a local baseball league or attend a gala for a worthy charity together, a sincere connection will help if you ever need to ask your colleague for advice or a request. After all, isn’t it easier to ask for to be a job references if you’re already great friends with your colleague?

Outside the office

Use social media to reinvigorate contacts.

LinkedIn is one of the best ways to network with connections both old and new. If you meet someone at a conference or are recommended to add a former colleague to your network, do so with a kind, personalized message, reminding them of the time you spent together. If you want to add new contacts to your network, LinkedIn also works. Search for industry keywords, and when relevant members of your community come up, connect with them by sending a friendly message.

Volunteer.

Volunteering for a local nonprofit can help you meet individuals you wouldn’t otherwise encounter. While these people may not always be in your field specifically, you can make connections that can bolster your career. For example, if you become a member of a local Board of Directors, you very well may be connected to local influencers who could impact your career.

Join a professional organization.

Joining a professional organization can help you make many new connections. Whether you attend a regular networking event hosted by the organization or make a sign up for a conference or convention, you’re sure to find a whole group of colleagues who are equally interested in getting to know you.

If you’re seeking advice about how to best leverage your professional contacts, CareerMoves can help. Since 2000, we’ve helped hundreds of job candidates use their networks, skills, and resources to secure the jobs they want.

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