Hi, there fellow networkers, given this year's focus is on all things career, let's talk about networking. A topic that strikes fear in many a heart - 'I'm not comfortable talking to strangers', 'I don't know many people', 'I'm too shy', 'The folk I know can't help me', 'I don't like to invade other people's privacy', 'I don't know how' - just some of the pleas I hear on a regular basis. And none of them entirely accurate. So let's chat about what networking is, what it isn't, and how to go about it and soon you'll be exclaiming 'Networking? I've got this!'

'I'm not comfortable talking to strangers'...

Networking isn't about talking to strangers, that's cold calling. Networking is simply talking to your friends, and the friends you've not yet met. Having a chat, getting and giving advice, sharing information, being introduced to other people. Still sceptical?

'I don't know many people'...

Just say you've moved to a brand new town. Your new neighbour leans over the fence to welcome you, and before long you've learnt the name of the best hairdresser, doctor, dentist, the fastest way to the beach, the closest supermarket, the worrying traits of the dog over the road. Along the way, you've made a friend, and you've secured a raft of helpful info thanks to asking a couple of questions. That was informal networking.

I'm too shy...

Are you comfy chatting to fellow work colleagues and clients? What about family members, that bloke beside you cheering your team at the footy, the guys gathered around the BBQ, the girls supping champers in the kitchen, the fellow school drop-off Mums and Dads? All beautiful fonts of knowledge. And these people know other people. Considering the six degrees of separation concept, I call our city the 1.5 degrees!

'The folk I know can't help me'...

Would it surprise you to know that up to 85% of jobs are found through networking? Yes, according to research by PayScale. It's all about who knows you, knows what you do and can speak well of both. Let me give you an example...I urgently needed to employ six new team members recently and the thought of finding time to advertise, cull applications, phone screen, background research, interview and finally job offer was too much to contemplate. Instead, I reached out to my network and within three weeks, had my new additions on-boarded. Each came highly recommended, reinforcing the 'know you, knowing what you do and speaking well of both.

'I don't like to invade other people's privacy'...

I've found a majority of people want to help you; they were in your shoes, and they remember who helped them when they needed advice and guidance. From finding a job to moving ahead, networking should play a massive part in our career paths, yet so many of us avoid it.

'I don't know how to network'...

It's simple, pick up the phone, go have a coffee or a beer after work with your people. For those in the job market, reassure your friend that you don't expect them to know of a job for you, merely that you'd like to benefit from their advice and guidance. Focus your conversation on getting the advice and information you need (don't forget to reciprocate) as well as asking for referrals, 'who else would you recommend I chat to?' Afterwards, send a thank you note, an invitation to connect on LinkedIn so that you both stay on each other's radar and then keep them in the loop as you progress.

Spending a little time putting yourself out there through networking can help you gain more visibility, particularly with those who have decision-making capacity so go for it. Have fun building those new friendships.

Oh and one final thing - networking not only allows you to build social capital, it also builds your emotional IQ, and that's often listed as the No. 1 most valuable career skill.