With this month’s Work It theme in mind, today I am sharing some more career advice for all my young professionals out there. Whether you’re just starting off in your career or you’re looking to make that next big leap, one of the best skills a young woman can learn is how to network. The word networking often gets a bad wrap, but at its core networking is all about building relationships within your industry. So much of advancing in your career has to do with having colleagues who inspire you and mentors who take an interest in your work. Here are a few networking tips to keep in mind…

Be Your Own Brand

Regardless of industry, it always pays to be good at branding yourself. Think about the key traits that represent your personal brand—both aesthetically and your core values. Know what makes you tick, and how your work stands out from everyone else’s. Once you’ve identified your personal brand for yourself, you will be able to talk about it confidently with others.

Carry A Card

Some people might tell you that business cards are irrelevant in today’s digital age. But I beg to differ. Having beautiful, well-designed business cards are one more way to brand yourself that you can instantly show off to anyone you meet. (Of course you should also have a beautiful, well designed website to go with them.) Invest in something special—think thick cardstock and letterpress—to ensure that your card won’t get thrown away at the end of the day. And keep your cards on hand at all time because you never know who you’ll end up meeting, even in a social situation.

Try For Face Time

If there is someone you have been working with for a while via email or social media, make an effort to meet in person at some point. Sitting down with someone face to face always makes a much greater impression than any phone call or email can. It also helps to go to events in your industry, even when you’re not actively looking for a job or seeking new business. Just getting in the room with people in your field will inspire you, and can lead to connections that will help you later on.

Make Meaningful Relationships

Networking is not about making connections just for the sake of business. If you can make real friends in your industry, your “network” will be that much stronger (and “business lunches” will be that much more fun!). I consider most of the women I work with my dear friends. Because we’re so close I know I can count on them for creative inspiration, business savvy, and important connections within the industry.

Be Social Media Savvy

When used properly, social media can be a great tool for making and strengthening business connections. But if you are going to connect with an industry colleague on social media, make sure you are using it appropriately. I recommend only adding a business contact on Facebook if you know them very well and consider them a friend too. Otherwise, use a site intended for networking like LinkedIn. As far as Instagram and Twitter go, it can pay to follow companies and brands that you admire. It will help you keep up with whatever they are doing, and more and more companies are even posting jobs on their social media channels. (We hired our current LaurenConrad.com interns after posting the position on our Instagram!)

Dress to Impress

First impressions are everything when it comes to networking. So the same rules that go for dressing for the office go for industry events. Even if you’re technically “off the clock” (at a happy hour with colleagues, for instance), you will want to dress professionally.

Connect the dots

The word “networking” gets a bad wrap because so many people think it is synonymous with trying to get ahead. But networking shouldn’t be an entirely selfish endeavor. A good networker is always introducing his or her contacts to one another, and trying to help their colleagues make important connections. What goes around comes around, and having this attitude will help you in the long term.

What other business-related questions do you have for me?

Let me know below!

XO Lauren