Only practice will improve your networking skills; but the following tips can get your started:
Leave the Office. You need people to network, so make an effort to attend business and social functions. Have lunch with co-workers or volunteer for task forces. Even if you're not athletically inclined, participate in company sports events or other social activities. You can also become active in professional and trade associations, a Chamber of Commerce, community committees and parent-teacher organizations
Be Aggressive. Don't wait to be approached at a professional function. If you are standing alone, introduce yourself to another solo participant. You can start by asking, "Have you been to an association function before?" Be sure to exchange business cards and note where and how you met.
Speak Out. To make yourself known in industry circles, volunteer to make a speech for your professional organization. Participate in discussion at industry functions, instead of sitting silently.
Find A Niche. Become an expert on a particular topic so others will seek you out for information. Expand your reputation by submitting articles to trade publications and contributing to your company newsletter.
Keep in Contact. You don't have to constantly " do lunch" to keep your network alive, but you should stay in touch. Periodically, send newspaper or magazine articles to colleagues and remember associates with a card or note on holidays.
Employment Briefs/ National Business Employment Weekly 4/97