Some people groan when they hear the word networking, and I can’t blame them. Networking often stirs up images of people making shallow small talk with each other. I recently covered some tips for building genuine relationships, and I hope this helps transform some of those awkward elevator pitches into more meaningful conversations. Networking feels useful when you’re bonding with someone!

Today I’d like to go over the basics of being a successful networker. People often forget that networking comes in many forms, and you don’t have to be at a formal event to make these connections happen. By identifying opportunities in the real world that allow you to connect with others, you will be able to network like a boss.

Below are some tips for taking your networking game to the next level.

Network Before You Need To  

You don’t have to wait to engage with people until you have a reason to do so. In fact, this approach can prevent you from making real connections. You don’t want to be that person who is only interested in serving their needs. (Here’s how to network without looking desperate.)

Before you have a reason to network, take the time to build genuine relationships. In time, you’ll develop a positive reputation for being polite and generous. When it comes time to address your business goals, you’ll already have a network to reach out to – one that likes you, too!

Know What You Bring to the Table

Every person has some type of value they can bring to the table, so know what yours is. And – make it good. You don’t want to sound like everyone else. Take some time to outline your strengths, skills, and connections and how they can help others. People need to know what’s in it for them, so be prepared to deliver this information.

Value Each Person You Talk To

Remember when I said that every person has value? That goes for the people on the receiving end as well. Be respectful of everyone’s time and recognize that they are valuable, too. By taking this approach, you avoid making quick judgements or dismissing someone as being unimportant.

I sometimes see networking advice that suggests only connecting with those who have important titles, but this can be a mistake. While you want to use your time wisely, sometimes those with titles like “secretary” or “clerk” can bring you more success than “CEO” or “president.”

Follow Up and Help Others

Following up with contacts is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most important things you can do for your networking strategy. Good communication is what develops relationships and builds loyalty. If you can, keep your interactions friendly and non-obligatory.

For instance, if you said that you’d pass someone’s contact information along, do so. Send messages when it’s someone’s birthday or work anniversary. This dialogue keeps your name relevant and makes people more open to hearing from you in the future.

Networking is something that you can do everyday, whether you’re sitting on the train or grabbing drinks after work. Building genuine relationships, helping others out, and keeping in touch is what networking is really about.