Want to achieve your career goals faster? Create a monthly career goal — and February is a great time to begin your networking efforts. Here’s how.

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A good way to make sure the winter blahs don’t get you down is to create a monthly career goal. And if you’re looking for a new job during 2015, then February is a good time to begin your networking efforts.

Ugh, you might be thinking. You may even feel like running in the opposite direction at the thought of networking. But networking isn’t as horrible as you might think – if you approach it with a game plan and a goal. Here’s how.

Find places where you can network. There are an almost unlimited number of places to network. Research events in your area and look for online resources.

  • Association meetings: Find and attend local business and professional meetings. You can also attend your city’s chamber of commerce meetings and networking events.
  • Alumni events: Seek out networking events through your college or university’s alumni association.
  • Clubs/organizations: Many organizations offer the chance to meet new people, as well as learn new skills while you network, such as Toastmasters.
  • Networking groups: Join groups focused on encouraging networking, such as eWomenNetwork or Meetup, which helps groups of people with shared interests plan meetings and form offline clubs in their local communities.
  • LinkedIn: You can join groups that are of interest and then look for local networking events.
  • Online research: Seek out networking events that match your interests at sites such as Eventbrite or NetParty.

Clearly define your purpose. For example, your networking goal might be to find someone who works at a company where you would like to work, or to find people in jobs that interest you who are willing to tell you about their work and what it takes to be successful. You might even want to network to find career mentors.

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Get prepared. Treat all networking events as business events, not social events. Prepare what you’ll discuss, and think about how to introduce yourself to others or how you’ll explain the help you’re seeking (be brief). Here are a few other tips:

  • Don’t just show up at an event. Circulate through the attendees and proactively strike up conversations.
  • Smile! It will help you look approachable and open to discussion.
  • Be a good listener – don’t just focus on your own agenda/purpose.
  • Bring business cards.

And who knows? Maybe attending some networking events is what will kick your job search into high gear and help get rid of those winter blahs.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.