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When networking, count your contacts -- and make them count

For those who are nervous about networking events, prepare ahead of time. Come up with some "stepping-stone questions" said Waymon. Ask about the best conventions or people in a certain company or sector. Or ask for suggestions on classes or seminars you may want to take.

When you're reconnecting with former coworkers or old friends, take time to educate them about your skills and successes, and about the ideal job you're seeking. Be specific about the job and even the companies you're targeting.

"People don't realize the amount of risk they're asking someone to take when they advocate for you. . . . They need current information about who you are, what are your successes," said Waymon, co-author of "Make Your Contacts Count."

Make most of your networking connections face-to-face or by telephone, she said, since those are the most fruitful ways to turn up work leads. Once you're there, focus intently on the person for the five or 25 minutes you are together. Turn off your phone or silence it and do not take it out even for a second during your conversation, said Mitchell. "Even if they just look at that phone, that display, they've already offended somebody. . . . It throws the person you're talking with in limbo."

"Concentrate on the person when they're with you," she said. Pay attention to their vibes before extending the conversation or requesting more help. "Don't ask for too much in the beginning. . . . Take baby steps."

Elmer is a freelance writer.

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