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Ease Into Networking

Kate Traynor

If the thought of networking with colleagues makes you cringe, consider social networking instead.

A social network is a group of friends and acquaintances who interact during activities that are not necessarily work-related. You can cultivate a social network by joining an alumni association, social club, or civic organization; working as a volunteer; or getting involved in just about any activity that involves others.

Even if your social network is completely unrelated to your work life, you may develop friendships and contacts that could prove useful to your job prospects. And if you ever face a job transfer, knowing how to create a new social network from scratch in a new town will be a vital skill. But, where do you start?

Civic and community organizations. Type a state or town name or a ZIP code into Yahoo Inc.’s "get local" search engine to bring up information about local civic, cultural, religious, sports-related, business-oriented, and other groups you can join.

Alumni associations. Your fellow college and pharmacy-school graduates are a ready-made community of people who have at least one thing in common—their academic experiences. Alumni groups may gather to watch a ball game, enjoy a meal, attend a seminar, or volunteer for charity or fundraising events. Even if you have moved far away from your old school, you may be able to join a local chapter of your alumni association.

Volunteer groups. To find opportunities to perform volunteer work in your community, visit VolunteerMatch and type your ZIP code into the search engine. Organizations listed with VolunteerMatch include groups involved in health care, literacy, conservation, politics, and many other issues.