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Letís demystify networking, shall we? Itís not those uptight functions where everyone wears a sticky name tag or dinners where you go around the room and listen to "elevator speeches." Everyone dislikes those events but we do it because we think itís one of the most important ways to get ahead.

And it isÖgetting to know people, widening our professional and social networks, is important for everyone whoís looking to advance. But we should be doing that all of the time. So letís stop calling it networking and call it "talking" and letís do it strategically.

In the course of a busy work day, thereís always time to reach out to someone you know. If you donít have a reason, make it up. Call someone to schedule a lunch or ask for the name of the hotel they raved aboutÖmake people feel important and part of your life so that when you need a favor, youíve opened the door a crack. Staying in touch with interesting, influential people is a must Ė thatís how you attract success. At some point youíll be privy to information that no one else has and youíll be able to act upon it.

Reframe your daily routine as a "talking opportunity." If youíre single and feeling ready to get back into the social swim, treat your entire day as a series of encounters that could lead to the love of your life. Put yourself in the right frame of mind by looking your very best. Dress as if everyday counts! If you grab coffee in the early morning, try visiting a different coffee house rather than your usual haunt. Notice whatís going on around you. Talk to people. Flatter them if itís appropriate. Itís these small little moments that add up to a connection that can benefit both parties.

Take a look at your email database. If there are people on the list you havenít talked to in a while, send them a short, clever note. Remind people that youíre here, that youíre engaged with life and open to new opportunities. The consummate networker doesnít wait for a cocktail party to spread her sparkling witÖshe uses it all the time because sheís building a reserve of good will that sheíll need later on.

Go to places where professionals congregate such as wine tastings, book readings, adult education classes. Skip room service. Eat lunch out at least three days a week. Be seen. Writers know the muse doesnít find them, they sit and write and the muse alights. Same thing for serendipity. It strikes when youíre out and about and letting people know that your light is on.

Talk isnít cheap. Itís strategic. So find the good people that like to make good things happen and talk to them. And then do it for someone else.



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