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Whatever business you are in, if you want to move ahead, networking is essential. Networking is built on key skills like sharing information, making recommendations and building trust. It is not the route to a quick sale, but rather, about contacting and helping other people who will in turn help you out when you have the need.

Howe effective is networking? According to research, a trusted referral generates 80% more results than a cold call. So how do you do it?

Good networking starts first and foremost with a mindset - you need to be constantly on the look out for opportunities to meet and interact with people. The bottom line is, the more people you meet, the better your chances of ultimately connecting with someone who can further your career or your business. If you have the attitude that building a good network is a worthwhile use of your time, you will create a resource that you can use in the future.

One of the keys to networking is to view it not as an opportunity to meet people who can do something for you, but as an opportunity to do something for other people. The more people you help - or at least offer to help - the bigger your potential pool of people will be who are willing to help you out when you need it.

So how do you meet people? You need to look for industry-based events where others in your field will be meeting. Once you start looking for opportunities, you'll find hundreds of networking events that you can attend. Some of these will be pure networking events - designed as a way for people to make business contacts - others will have a more structured agenda. You'll find these events organised by business links, trade associations, Chambers of Commerce and other similar business groups.

Another good place to meet people is at trade events. If your business is exhibiting at a trade show, it will provide you with a great opportunity to showcase both your products and services and yourself to potential customers. You'll be surrounded by people in your particular business, so take every opportunity to meet and get to know as many of them as possible.

Over time you will be able to build up a contacts list. A good contacts list is not just something that salespeople, PR agents and journalists need - by building an up-to-date file of contacts you will have a great way of always having the right person at your fingertips when you need them.