If you have a job you like, you’re not looking for any new opportunities, and it seems like a pretty secure position, how should you invest in your future financial security?

Professional networking.

Network Now

Once you graduate from college, you’re in this career thing for the long haul. You may have landed your first real job and you may be set for a few years, but this is the perfect time to start investing in your long-term career plan.

When you’re not looking for a job is actually the best time to network. Professional networking is the best way to open career options down the road. By meeting people and fostering a professional relationship with them, you make friends that are more than willing to put themselves out there and lend a hand when the need arises.

Now suppose you find yourself jobless. If you have not been networking all along the way, you’re on your own in this job search. On the other hand, if you have been investing in your network, you could have hundreds of people willing to introduce you to someone who is hiring, give you advice in your job search, or at least put your name out there with their own network.

That’s what the importance of networking in business comes down to—having friends in your corner when things get rough.

Your industry friends could shorten your job search. They could help you into a much better opportunity than you ever could have found on your own. By having a good network, you can expand your job search efforts by at least ten times.

Having this help not only relieves the stress of being in between jobs, but it can benefit your future financial security. Your friend’s referral could easily make the difference between finding a job that is good enough to get by and a significant increase in pay with better work opportunities.

So get started! Here are some tips to make your everyday networking efforts more effective.

Job Networking Tips

Talk to strangers. Your parents told you not to, but all that changes in the world of business. You’ll never grow your network unless you learn to have real conversations with people you’ve never met. Having a mutual friend introduce you to someone is invaluable, but learn how to meet people by yourself. Other than simple practice, asking questions and listening are the best ways to have good conversations with new people.

Give give give. While it’s possible to ask for help too early in a relationship, it’s never too early to offer help. Ask about issues a new acquaintance might be having in their current job, project, or career, and do what you can to help them out. If there’s nothing you personally can do to help, introduce them to someone who can.

It’s kind of an interesting mindset to have, but try to help people with no expectation of anything in return. Lend a hand just to help someone out. If you focus on the other person rather than yourself, they’ll be eager to help you down the road when you need it.

People are nice. It can be intimidating to ask a professional acquaintance for a favor, but keep in mind that people are generally very willing to help others out if they ask. If you approach them with the right attitude, you’ll find that acquaintances you might not even know particularly well are willing to go out of their way for you.

Ask for help, not a job. Give people the ability to help in a way they are able to. If you ask for help finding a job, they can introduce you to someone, post on their LinkedIn profile, or give you advice on where to look. If you just ask them for a job, that leaves them only one way to help, and it can be awkward if they would rather not hire you. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it could damage your relationship.

So go put yourself out there. Network with everybody. Your grocery store bagger might not be your next perfect employer, but their uncle who works at that company you want to work for might be.