Networking: you can’t live without it these days. For some people, networking comes naturally. For others, it’s the bane of their existence and is incredibly anxiety inducing. There is an art to networking though, and anybody can learn to network like a boss. Here’s how:

Set your intentions

Before every networking event or opportunity, set your intentions. If you have a goal, you’ll be far more successful and get more out of networking. Don’t simply wander around exchanging business cards simply to be seen and acknowledged. That won’t get you anywhere in your career. Your intention can be as simple as learning more about web development or branded partnerships. It doesn’t have to be complicated or hard to attain.

Have a game plan

Just like setting an intention for a networking event, you want to approach each networking opportunity with a strategic game plan. Do your research and find out who will be in attendance if you can. Know who it is you’re looking to meet and talk to or what kind of industries or businesses with whom you want to connect. If you have a game plan, networking will be easier and less overwhelming.

Don’t be aloof

Don’t be aloof and close yourself off to anyone. Be open and friendly. You don’t want to limit your network; that would defeat the purpose of attending an event. You never know who could cross your path or who down the line will need your expertise, or vice versa. Networking is mutually beneficial, so stay open to all opportunities.

Have your cards on hand

This tip may seem like a no brainer, but how many times have you been talking to someone new and failed to hand out a business card? Maybe you forgot to restock your wallet or left them at home altogether. Maybe they just weren’t in a convenient enough place for you to offer one and the opportunity ended up passing you by. Do not let this happen again! Have your business cards convenient and ready to hand out.

Keep it casual

Don’t be too thirsty. People can smell desperation and it’s a turn off. Keep it casual when networking. Be confident and friendly, and people will come to you. Don’t be too eager! Don’t try and initiate a partnership the first time you’re meeting someone, no matter how perfect the connection may seem. Take your time and just focus on building the relationship and learning as much as you can.

Be open about your goals

At the same time, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not or in a position that you aren’t. Don’t list off skills that you don’t really have or services that you don’t actually feel comfortable offering and executing. Be open about you are and what your career goals are. Being open and upfront about what you want in your own career is different from asking for help or for a favor. Keep that in mind. Don’t treat them like the same thing.

Focus on building and expanding your network

Treat a networking event or opportunity as a chance to expand your network. Meet people and engage in conversation. Trade business cards, linkedin pages, whatever it is that works for you. Build your network as wide as you can, because the more robust it is, the more opportunities and connections you’ll have down the line. You never know what you may need or what someone else may need from you in the future.

Don’t ask for anything in return

In absolutely no circumstance should you ask for anything in return. Just because you hand out your business card and offer a service to someone, does not mean they are required to reciprocate. Do not solicit them for help! If somebody thinks they have something to offer you and wants to help, let them do it on their own time at their own pace.

Always follow up and stay in touch

Networking doesn’t end once the event does. Follow up and stay in touch with your new connections. Email them a hello and add them on LinkedIn. Keep track of them on social media and like their posts. Slowly foster a connection in the real world or online, whatever works for you and your career, but do not let networking fall by the wayside. Stay on people’s radar. You never know what may come up!