Whether you’re a self-proclaimed introvert or simply shy, networking just might not be your thing. While it’s okay not to love every second of your job search or professional advancement, it is important to network, whether you like it or not.

Networking is of utmost importance for every professional, whether they’re currently job searching or not. It can build professional relationships, which will only help you in your business endeavors. Plus, meeting other people in your field is a great way to collect valuable advice. Finally, networking often can actually increase your confidence in communication, which we all know is an invaluable skill. Practice makes perfect, right?

So maybe you’re thinking, “I know that networking is important, but I still hate it.” And look, we get it. Some people find themselves at a loss of words when speaking about work, while others view networking as “superficial small talk” and therefore a waste of time.

The good news is, there are a few networking tips you can employ no matter how you feel, in order to make it as painless as possible. Here are a few strategies to try. Who knows, they might just change your mind about this important business tactic!

1. Arrive early to group events

In high school, were you ever the last student to enter the cafeteria, only to find that everyone was already sitting with their friends, and there seemed to be no room for you? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Unfortunately, situations like this don’t change much even when we’re adults, but there is a simple fix.

When you arrive early to large professional events, you’re more likely to speak with people before groups have been formed, which – as we learned in high school – is a lot easier than doing so afterwards. Striking up conversation with a few individuals before the rest of the crowd arrives is sure to boost your confidence level so you’re ready to “wow” the crowd with your conversation skills. Just take it one person at a time!

2. Practice what you want to say

Whether you’re pitching an elevator speech, asking questions, or simply introducing yourself, practicing what you want to say before you say it is definitely helpful. Plus, while you’re practicing in the mirror, you may even think of something ingenious to say! It’s not silly to write it down, either. If you know what you want to communicate, you’re more likely to actually do it when the time arises.

3. Be a good listener

Sometimes just listening to other people talk is a great networking tactic. Let’s face it: unless we’re shy, introverted, or private, most of us just want to be heard. So, if you find yourself too nervous to talk about your professional experience, strike up a question with someone else. You’ll please them, and you may even learn something new in the process.

4. Bring a buddy

All feats are easier to overcome when you have someone by your side. As long as it’s an appropriate event (a.k.a, not a one-on-one coffee meeting), don’t be afraid to bring along a friend or significant other. Chances are, the person you’re bringing believes in you, and there’s nothing wrong with getting a confidence boost from that! It’s always easier to approach others or make the best use of time at a networking event when you feel comfortable.

5. Network online

It’s fast and easy to network online via LinkedIn and other social media platforms. And the best part: it doesn’t involve leaving your desk! For many of us, it’s a lot easier to begin a professional relationship via e-mail than in person, so social media has been a savior in that department. However, remember not to depend on the Internet for all of your networking. In-person conversations are much more personal and make a greater impression, so if you’re in the process of job searching, you may want to attend as many networking events as possible.

Although networking isn’t everyone’s favorite part of job searching (we admit, it’s a lot like high school), there’s no doubting that it’s important for your professional success. When you’re networking, remember to set reasonable goals. Try having conversations with five individuals at an event, because chances are you won’t get to speak to the entire room. Plus, keep in mind that confidence is key. But most importantly, remember that networking isn’t just about business. A lot of the time, great friendships are formed via professional meetings. We promise, it’s not all that bad.

Feeling ready to get out there and start networking? Don’t forget to  download Rake so you’re prepared to apply for jobs once you’ve gotten all those referrals! We’ll be here waiting for you.