In the age where jobs are hard to come by, and experience is less important that the all encompassing term, “it’s who you know,” everyone should be able to network at social gatherings, and in regular day to day living. Here are some great tips to help you get started.

Dress Professionally.
Whether you are attending a barbecue or a business function, always dress professionally. In fact, this is always the first step to being able to network. Of course, this does not mean if you are attending a picnic to wear a suit and tie, but rather to dress how you would want a future employer or business partner to see you at the event. Most likely this does not mean ripped jeans, messy hair, or B.O. It’s also important to remember to dress appropriately for your age. That short but yet cute Abercrombie & Fitch dress you wore in college just won’t look the same on someone in their late twenties as it did their freshman year. Focus on completing your wardrobe with more classic lines such as Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, J.Crew and similar brands.

Don’t Be Afraid to Smile and Make Eye Contact With Strangers.
If you smile and make eye contact with someone you don’t know, and they don’t smile back, I am pretty sure that an abyss will not open up in the floor that you would then fall in to. Smiling and making eye contact is the first way of telling someone, whether man or woman, “Hey, you look interesting. I’d like to know more about you.” Whether someone is unemployed or a CEO of a Fortune 500, most would be complimented that you were interested enough to smile. Everyone wants to be perceived as being interesting. Smiling and making eye contact is one way to show it.

Read the headlines.
If you find yourself at a party running out of things to say to someone you just met, you can talk about the weather. However, that gets old after a while and usually that’s where the conversation comes to a halt. One of the best ways to continue to the conversation is to know a couple news stories off the top of your head to keep the conversation fresh. I suggest staying away from politics and religion, unless you are 100% certain that the person you are speaking with is like minded. Have news feeds saved on your phone for easy access, so if you find yourself alone for a moment, you can do a quick brush up on the headlines before your conversation begins. News is an easy topic for conversation, and it also shows that you know what is going on in the world.

Know Your Elevator Pitch, but Don’t Sound Like a Used Car Salesman.
“What do you do?” is an awful way to start a conversation, but people continue to use it as a bold conversation starter. Make sure you have a hip and interesting answer to give them, and when you ask them this question in return, make sure you listen. You never know who you might meet. Think about the answer to this question in advance. Do you know a funny or interesting way to put your career? Also, think about who you are talking to. Are you a lawyer who loves to paint in your free time and just met an Artistic Director of a museum? Don’t just say, “Oh, I’m a lawyer.” Come up with something more creative such as, “By day I’m a lawyer, but by night I am surprisingly one killer plein air painter. You should stop by my studio some time. See, I’m working on this project...” At the same time, this would be an inappropriate pitch if that same lawyer were meeting the head of a law firm. In that case, it would be best for the lawyer to say, “I’ve been a real estate lawyer for the past 10 years and have been working with X. Right now I’m working on...etc.” You get the idea. Keep your pitch appropriate to the situation. Keep it short, keep it sweet. And always, always ask them in return.

If you ask a question, remember to listen to their answer. What fun is a one way conversation, and what type of an impression would you leave if you paid no attention to them? Many times, people are so distracted with how they are being perceived that they themselves forget to listen to the answers to the questions they are giving the other person they are in conversation with. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, people want to be interesting. What fun do you think it is if that other person answers your question, but you were too distracted to listen to it? Do you think they’ll stick around for much longer? One of the keys to being able to network is making the other person feel interesting and important. Probably the best way to go about this to to listen. With both ears. If for some reason you do get distracted, don’t feel like you have to pretend you were paying attention, stop them and apologize saying, “I’m sorry, can you repeat that? That clown was dancing around in the oddest manner and it completely distracted me from our conversation.” Or however you would put it.

Don’t Swear.
One of the biggest mistakes with networking is individuals getting too comfortable, and using salty language to make up for their lack of knowledge of the English language. Even if you are at a sporting event, or a crazy bar, learn to use other words in place of the other inappropriate words. Using salted language can easily make you appear ignorant and disrespectful to the receiving party, even if the other person is in the same age range as you. Salted language is crossing a fine line, and although it is commonly used today, many people remain unaware of the impression it leaves to others.

Of course, there are plenty more tips for networking, but these are the the most important skills to have in order to meet new important people. Not only could these help you professionally, but also socially as well. And, the more people you know in the world, the better a chance you have at success. Meet folks that are like-minded, and also those that are different. Get to know those from different walks of life. Your life will not only be richer through networking with them, but you will also be closer to reaching your own goals.