Photo by Nathan Herring

Networking is the single most important skill to help ensure that you get a serious look from hiring managers in a weak economy. Unfortunately, it is also somewhat misunderstood. On the surface, networking may just look a lot like meeting and having conversations with people who do stuff that interests you --- or worse, that doesn’t interest you --- and there’s some truth to that. However, in the purest sense, networking is about building rapport, having substantive conversations, and finding commonalities with other professionals in a limited amount of time. Most importantly, when done properly, networking is neither sleazy nor forced. With practice, you can explain yourself to people in compelling ways and develop the starting points for new professional relationships in only a few minutes.Here are some key points that I wish I had known when I started out on my transition into the civilian economy several years ago:

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