Networking. They say it’s the secret to professional success, but how do you actually get going? Here are six essential tips to get you started.

1. Schedule informational interviews

An informational interview is when you, a job seeker, meet either with an HR representative or with a professional who holds a position that interests you.

If you are meeting with an HR professional, you can ask whether there are any openings at the company, how you would best prepare your application, and what the company looks for. If you are meeting with a professional, you could inquire about how they got where they are now, and what advice they can give so that you can follow in their footsteps.

In either case, try to develop a deeper connection with the person you are meeting so that when you are ready to apply for a job, they might even be able to put in a good word for you.

2. Connect with people on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is perfect for connecting with working professionals from all over. Once you create an account and have your employment history and a professional headshot on your profile, start connecting with people — first with those who you know and later with people with whom you have mutual connections (you can see this on their profile).

Especially when connecting with someone you do not know, be sure to include a personal message when you click connect (this is not automatic, look for the message field). Once you are connected, and if you want to try to forge a deeper connection (or perhaps even try to set up an informational interview as detailed above), you can then send direct messages to that person.

3. Attend networking events

This requires some internet research. Take some time on Google to see if there are any networking events or conferences happening near you that might spark your interest. If you are still at university, check at the career center if they know of any events. There may also be specific networking events, e.g. networking events only for females, that you can explore.

If attending alone is intimidating then ask a friend or two to see if they want to join. Be open to conversing with new people, listening and then asking questions.

4. Referrals, referrals, referrals

When there is an opportunity to connect with someone new through a mutual contact, take it. No matter the case, there is always someone in your networking circle who knows another person who you WANT to connect with. Have your mutual contact give the other person your information and also ask for that person’s contact information as well so you can reach out to them directly. When contacting them, always mention that they were referred to you. This way they will know you two already have a mutual connection and this gives you an advantage.

5. Join Facebook Group Pages

Yes, people still use Facebook. Go into the search bar and look for group pages where members share a similar career background to you. For example, if you are looking to start your own business try searching “Entrepreneur Group” under the “Groups” search filter. These group pages can be open or private. If private, just ask for permission to join the page and wait until your invite is approved. Social media does wonders for connecting, and joining Facebook group pages is always effective.

6. Join Organizations or Clubs

We’ve all joined at least one organization or club during school, but that does not mean it stops there when you graduate. Research online and see what organization or community club you can join that is either online-only or a required in-person meetup. The organizations or clubs do not strictly have to relate to your choice of career, as this can be difficult to find sometimes. Any type of organization or club you join will always have a diverse group of members that will be useful to connect with either way. You may never know who you might meet who could open the door to some great new opportunity.

Networking is an important method of advancing your professional career and really shouldn’t be shied away from. Whether strictly professional or more casual, such as getting involved with clubs or organizations, networking is a great way of ensuring exciting new experiences and opportunities. Always be enthusiastic and put your best foot forward.