Think back to high school…

Who were your friends? Did you fit in with the jocks? The chess club members? The computer geeks?* It may seem cliche, but finding the right friends in high school is very similar to finding a professional niche.

Networking means making connections – but finding the right connections is where things get tricky. Thankfully, there are some questions you can ask yourself to identify your own talents and interests, making it far simpler to connect to others in the same sphere.

What are my hobbies?

Yes, it is important to start with this basic of a question. Make a list with a number of your own hobbies and even go so far as to identify the most important personal interests. Becoming confident in what you enjoy can help you connect with people of similar interests.

What am I good at?

Another basic question. Write another list of areas in which you consider yourself strong. Once again, being confident in your strengths goes a long way in networking. These two questions help you to find your niche – which you should use to your advantage in the next few situations…

Get out there.

Now that you have identified your interests and talents, find outlets in which you can get connected. For instance, if you are interested in gaming and design, find a conference where those topics are the focus. Always be on the lookout for areas in which you can connect with people who possess similar interests.

Make friends

Invest in the people at the events you attend. Find similar interests or talk about passions and talents. In addition, if you have read my post on building a killer business card, you should be giving out your card at the events you attend.  Be sure to get contact information. Who knows? You may have the chance to give your card to someone at Google (that’s my dream, at least).

Reach out

Once you have secured contact details from people you meet in your niche, actually contact them. Keep in touch with the people you meet, regardless of whether or not they can get you a job at Google. Staying invested in people you meet strengthens those ties and builds a stronger network.

Be patient

Obviously, not everyone you talk to is going to hand you an amazing job opportunity. Finding the line between being friendly and being irritating when reaching out to your connections is of paramount importance. You never want to burn a bridge because you pushed for a potential opportunity. Again, be friendly and take your time.

…inevitably, your network will become large and strong enough to provide the connections you need in the right job field. If you identified your interests and talents before connecting with the right people, you should have carved out a niche for yourself, which will benefit you in the long run.

Most importantly, keep in mind you have made friends regardless of whether or not your networking leads to a job opportunity – and everyone needs some great friends, right?

*My niche was with the computer geeks in case you were curious.