The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to community. – Paul Bloom

With the holiday season upon us, we’ll all have many opportunities to network, connect, and build relationships. Connecting with others is a certain way to improve yourself and the world too. When we connect with others, we learn, we grow, we discover new ways to make a difference in the world.  Here’s what I’ve learned about networking successfully:

Start by Showing Up

Pick a local community you like. It can be a local networking group like your Chamber of Commerce, or a local industry group, like a Marketing Executives Group, or even an outreach organization like Stop Hunger Now. Simply start by showing up and being seen, then avail yourself of the offerings of the group. Attend planning sessions, holiday parties, seminars with guest speakers.

I love those connections that make this big old world feel like a little village. – Gina Bellman

Introduce Yourself

Most networking and industry groups start meetings with introductions and guest speakers often ask for quick introductions so they know their audience, so come prepared with your 30-second pitch of who you are (distill the best of who you are into a quick intro that’s memorable). Having a good introduction is one of the most effective ways to be interesting and interested. People are going to ask, so have a well-thought answer to this question, too: “How can I help you.”  This is a lovely way to get referrals, introductions, meetings, invitations, and more.

Cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family. – Joseph Brodsky

Recognize the Welcome

You’ll know you’ve found the right networking group for you when you’re welcomed as you are, without any conditions or requirements. Once you find the groups that fit you, you’ll discover that the more involved you become, the more people you meet and the more benefit there is, from being invited to special events or by being able to take a more active role in the direction of the group. For many networking opportunities, you won’t even have to leave home; almost all industry-based networking groups offer webinars, podcasts or videos to speakers you missed, and LinkedIn groups to let you meet other members virtually.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. -Benjamin Franklin

Initiate Relationships

Networking is about getting to know people. Reach out, introduce yourself, and ask questions. Relate to the people you connect to. Find what you have in common and use it as a bridge to get to know each other better. Don’t connect with people for what they can do for you; connect with them for what you can do for them and what you can do together.

People find meaning and redemption in the most unusual human connections. – Khaled Hosseini

Networking is not an action; it’s an attitude. It’s a willingness to put ourselves out there just for the sake of connecting with others. It’s a means, not an end. I learn more about myself, others, and the world by connecting with more people, so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.