Networking means different things to different people.

It conjures up all kinds of thoughts. Many believe it's a waste of time and therefore create reasons not to participate. Some have no one to go with and feel uncomfortable not knowing other participants. Some believe that everyone wants to sell them something. There are just so many reasons not to network.

If you have any doubt about the value of networking, then you need to ask yourself if you want to be successful. If the answer is yes, then you need to network. It's as simple as that.

So we have established a need to network -- the desire to be successful. I've learned some tricks to successful networking. If you follow these, you will probably end up loving networking.

It's not all about me. When I meet people I am genuinely interested in them. It broadens my horizons to listen to what they do, how they do it and what challenges they face.

Be careful to go to the "best" networking group that will help you to grow. If you surround yourself with like-minded people, those who want to succeed, are driven and share your ambition and are willing to help, it will be magical. It's amazing the power of a group. To accomplish this, I make a point of getting to know an organization before I join.

Be clear about what you expect. Many people expect it to be a dismal experience, so it is. Others go in with a clear objective of meeting two or three people with whom they would like to follow up. Other times, they simply want to reconnect with people with whom they have lost contact.

Being a part of a networking group allows me to share my knowledge and experience with others -- and they share with me. It's great to get their feedback on what I am doing too.

It is wonderful being with people who can help you and whom you can help. Often, these new business acquaintances become new friends.

Networking comes in all shapes and sizes. Some groups are more formal than others. I happen to like groups that offer both. Try some of these things and let me know what you think.

Kathy McShane is managing director of Ladies Who Launch, Connecticut. She can be reached at kmcshane@ladieswholaunch.com or ladieswholaunch.com/southwestct. Send your business questions to phines@bcnnew.com.

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