To start networking, try social networking

I talk about networking a lot and I'm going to talk about it again, because it's so important. Networking isn't just about getting what you want or being sales-y; it's about building community. It needs to stem from a place of generosity, otherwise your efforts will seem completely inauthentic. You can't just wait until you need something to begin networking. Your community-building efforts should start today (if they haven't started already). If you're nervous about networking, in terms of going up to someone and talking to their face, why not start on social?

Do what works for you
I have a networking plan that I complete before every literary event I go to (it works before any event, but I go to more literary events than anything else). I find that if I don't complete this plan beforehand, I get so nervous or distracted while I'm trying to network that nothing gets done. I even got (way) outside my comfort zone and turned it into a video because I know that others feel the same way. It's my tried and true strategy, which relies on doing research before the event, utilizing social media, and managing your time so you're not spending more time prepping than actually connecting.

But maybe you don't go to literary events. Or you don't go to events because what you do or what you're interested in doesn't really have them. That's the beauty of social media; most things you want to do can be done from the comfort of your couch. You might have to get out there and get face-to-face eventually, but you have to start somewhere (and you always need a plan).

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So figure out your comfort zone and start there (but don't be afraid to push your boundaries a bit)
If you're a writer, try Twitter. Photographer, blogger, or artist, try Instagram. Looking for a job, try Linkedin. A quick Google search of "____ + tricks and tips" (people love the phrase "tricks and tips") will bring up hundreds of articles about how best to use these different platforms. Do not read hundreds of articles. Pick 2-5. Grab a pen and paper or open a notes doc on your computer or print the lists out and highlight them, whatever works best for you. Set a timer for 30 minutes (I'm a big fan of timing tasks otherwise you'll disappear into the black hole of Google and never return) and write down the tips and tricks you find. More often than not, you'll realize that a lot of the tips are repeated from blog to blog and article to article. Pick a couple that seem the most relevant and helpful and try them out.

For example, I'm trying to grow my Instagram following. There are thousands of resources out there for how to do this, but I set a 30-minute timer, read only two articles, saw that I needed to be using hashtags more effectively, took a photo, set up a keyboard shortcut on my phone, posted a photo (which became the second-most-liked photo on my account), and got four new followers in a couple of hours. It's not groundbreaking, but in 30 minutes, I learned something new, implemented a strategy, took action, and reached my goal.

Give it a try and see what goals you can achieve.

Caitlin Harper