If you’ve been thinking about ways you can push your career forward, it may be time to start actively networking with other professionals. Networking involves connecting with other people who have similar mindsets and goals. When you network, you can meet new people, share ideas, and even plan events or projects together. For some young professionals, learning how to network can be tricky. Fortunately, no matter what your experience with networking and meeting new people might be, there are several steps you can take to start connecting with other professionals. Here’s what you need to know.


1. Ask questions

When you attend a networking event, make sure you prepare some conversation starters and questions ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions or ideas if you have a concept you’re curious about. Part of developing your conversational skills means learning to ask the right questions, including follow-up questions. This lets the other person know that you’re truly interested in what they have to say. If you feel shy or uncomfortable speaking with other people, it’s okay to prepare possible questions ahead of time.


2. Listen carefully

After you ask a question, make sure you actually listen to the answer. Learning how to network can be tricky for anyone; however, actively listening can help demonstrate your interest. It will let the other person know that you actually care about what they’re saying. When you’re listening to someone, don’t stare at your phone or look around the room. Instead, give the person you’re speaking with your full and undivided attention so you can make sure to get the most out of the encounter.


3. Follow-up promptly

If you meet someone you connect with or you enjoyed talking with, don’t be afraid to reach out. Sometimes you may need to reach out first, while other times you may find that people reach out to you. Always bring business cards to every networking event and give them out to new people you meet and connect with. Make an effort to contact people you connected with quite promptly. Invite them to a follow-up meeting, another networking event, or even out to coffee so you can speak together again.

When you’re ready to take your networking skills to the next level, make sure you take the time to connect with people in your area. Attending networking events, asking questions, and communicating effectively can go a long way in ensuring that you’re able to meet people who can help you move forward in your career. Even if you don’t work together on a collaboration or project, simply speaking with other professionals in your career field can be quite beneficial and inspiring.