Networking feel icky to you? That just means you're doing it wrong! Here's what networking really is.

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Looking for work? Sick and tired of being told that the best way to find a job is through networking?

You may be, especially if you have no existing network to speak of. Maybe you stuck with the same employer for years and just never saw the need to build outside relationships. Maybe you are naturally shy. Or maybe the whole idea of “networking” puts you off. It feels false and manipulative to you, as if you’re cultivating relationships solely in the hope that those relationships will be helpful to you.

Ugh.

If that’s the case I have bad news and good news for you.

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The bad news is that, yes, networking really is the best way to find a job.

The good news is that all that business about networking being manipulative and false is simply not true — IF you are doing it right.

Networking is not sucking up to people whom you feel might be useful to you. It’s not amassing an enormous contact list of folks you barely know and don’t care about. It’s not attending tedious receptions, dripping cocktail in one hand, a stack of sweaty business cards in the other.

Networking is, purely and simply, the building of solid, long-term relationships with people you like, are interested in, have things in common with, and trust.

In addition, good networking is reciprocal — meaning, you are always looking for ways to help the folks in your network and they are always looking for ways to help you. Nice, huh?

At its best, networking is based on a mutual admiration and respect that evolves over time. In fact, being a good networker is a lot like being a good human being. You keep in touch with people. You are genuinely enthusiastic about helping them achieve their goals. You are trustworthy, generous and a good listener. Most of all, you act toward others as you would have them act toward you.

Creating this kind of high-class network takes time, yes. So if you are starting from zero you will need to work hard to catch up, now. It’s okay — you are not the only one.

When the time comes that you need help, people will be there for you. Promise.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.