How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know”?

The truth is, career advancement is very much about who you know. Think about how many times you’ve been granted opportunities because of a personal connection to someone, possibly a friend or neighbor? When competition is high, it’s that recommendation or referral from an in network person that can set you apart from everyone else.

Being a powerful networker is crucial to succeeding at your career. Yet with all the social channels available for networking yourself, you need a thoughtful strategy. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself wasting time and resources by sharing repeated information and not getting your information into the right hands.

In this post, we are going to look at the power of in person networking and how you can ensure that you are successful at marketing yourself. When done correctly, you can align yourself with key job opportunities, land new clients and have access to fresh talent for future projects.

Set up friendly introductions.

If you have a person in mind that you want to meet, do a little research and find out if they know anyone in your personal circle. This way, you can reach out to your friend and ask for a friendly introduction between you and the other individual.

Explain your reasoning, such as how you’d love to build a strategic relationship. Hopefully, your contact will have no problem initiating a friendly introduction and setting you on a direct path to a new and rewarding relationship.

Share your benefits upfront.

Some people wait to share their benefits because they don’t want to be seen as pushy. However, when you ask for a favor, you should always give before you receive. Think of it as a small gesture that shows your generosity.

Your gesture doesn’t need to be anything fancy. It could be an article or case study. It could be an introduction to someone on your team. The purpose of doing this is to create a friendly introduction that shows your willingness to help.

Over time, look for opportunities where you can offer help. Once you and the person have built up a relationship, they won’t hesitate to accept your help on a project.

Aim for quality, not quantity.

Some people’s idea of networking is collecting as many business cards as possible and then entering the names into a database. While it’s nice to have a decent collection of contacts, you want these people to be quality contacts. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Rather than schmoozing with everyone in a room with the intention of collecting their cards, aim for creating meaningful relationships. The relationships you develop should be based on the various goals you have.

Start by making a list of the people you know that are instrumental to your success. These might be friends, coworkers or people you’re hoping to meet one day. They could even be people you follow on social media or individuals that you admire.

Once your list is complete, write down a reason why each person is important and rate your relationship status on a scale of 0 to 5. The purpose for doing this is to see which relationships you should focus your time on and why. This way, you’re not wasting time on people who won’t help you meet your goals.

Follow up with those you’ve met.

Many people never follow up with the connections they meet. They might get too busy and forget to reach out, or they might not want to come across as being too aggressive. In reality, there’s nothing wrong with sending a quick follow up message, and if anything, it will advance the career, not hurt it.

Here’s a tip that will make these initial interactions easier. On the back of the business cards you receive, write down a few notes about the person you met. Maybe they have a family back home or are planning an international trip. When you send a follow up message, you can throw in the personal detail and show the individual that you were listening.

You don’t have to write down notes for everyone. Focus on those that will advance your career most. Also, maintain the connection by sending out messages every now and then. It helps to have a schedule for keeping in touch so that you are consistent with your efforts and follow through with your goals.

Causal connections don’t need as much maintenance. A simple retweet on Twitter will do. But for those who are more pivotal to your success, an email or meetup for lunch is more appropriate.  

Look for common ground.

Thanks to social media, you can learn a lot about your connections without having to ask them. As you do some digging, see what you can discover about the individuals you want to form stronger relationships with. What does their LinkedIn profile say about them? What types of information are they most likely to engage with on Twitter? What pictures do they post on Facebook?

By learning about your contacts, you can discover their passions and use this to fuel meaningful conversation. You can also uncover common ground that you share. People will be more willing to engage with you if they feel your conversations are genuine and that you relate to each other in some way.

Of course, the best way to learn about a person is to simply ask them. Don’t be afraid to ask where they’re from, what they love about their profession and what their home life is like.

In person networking is an important part of advancing your career. In order to be effective, take the time to define your goals, who you want to meet and how they can help you. Then develop strategies for how you plan to maintain contact with these individuals. When an opportunity arises, you’ll realize that your hard work has paid off.