Networking, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions – a simple definition with a very broad meaning. There’s no one way to network, and the rules governing the term are not black-and-white either. While it’s a fact that networking is an essential component of a successful career, the particulars on how to get started and find your groove are not always easily accessible. Here are some foolproof tips to jumpstart your career in networking.

Seek Mentorships:

Ask any CEO or high-powered business professional and she’ll name a meaningful mentor who has guided her through her career. Mentors, like networking, are essential tools for achieving success in your industry. We all have people we admire for their talent, work ethic and drive — make that connection, take them to lunch and let them know you’d like to learn from them. This will not only result in great insider advice, but you’ll also be adding to your network.

Be Confident:

Confidence truly is key. It’s important to present yourself as a confident individual who is sure of themselves. It’s unsettling to interact with someone who is self-doubting and insecure – avoid these blunders by being prepared. Read the newspaper, study up on the latest issue of Forbes or research companies and people you know you’re likely to run into at a networking event. Present yourself as someone who is important if you want to be viewed as someone who is important.

Try Something Unconventional:

Networking has literally become a business, with companies like LinkedIn capitalizing on its immense impact on industry professionals; while these online sites are a great resource, they’re often diluted. With 500 million LinkedIn users, it’s nearly impossible to stand out from the crowd. Try an old-school approach by sending a new connection or hiring manager a personalized note or thank you card. Make time to reach out via phone or schedule an in-person meeting to ensure you’re forging a real-life relationship.

Make the Time:

Schedule time in your calendar every week to network. It’s easy to make a resolution to amp up your networking efforts, with zero follow through. Pencil in the time to invest in yourself. Send an email to old classmates, colleagues or roommates you haven’t heard from in a while. If you have a 30-minute block in your schedule designated to networking, you’re far more likely to do it than if it’s just a thought scribbled on your memo pad.

You never know who will impact your career most or where your next job opportunity will come from, so never burn any bridges, and always prioritize networking. Work these tips into your routine and you’ll see your professional network multiply.