I used to hate networking. For many professionals, networking is a four-letter word, about as enjoyable as overnight layovers. It conjures images of awkward luncheons, stiff happy hours, bad food, and speed dating-esque encounters where you have the same conversation 20 different times. But there's a secret to the practice that makes it not just bearable, but more effective. Enjoyable, even. And it all starts with knowing how to network strategically.
Networking gets a bad rap — if only because many professionals don't know how to approach it properly. The way I see it, there are two main types of networking. First, there's the kind you do because you have to, because it's mandated by your company, appropriate in a given context, or happening out of sheer desperation (like sending cold emails when you're on the job hunt). But on the other hand, there's the type of networking you elect to do — networking that's set up on your terms and in a setting that feels comfortable. When done properly, it can actually be fun. And might even get you on the fast track to your next role or project.