I completely agree with everything here with one small nuance. If you are talking to/networking with people, then you should make a point to make a legitimate personal connection with them. This doesn't mean that they have to become your best friend, but there should be an interest in the person, and NOT just what they can do for you.
Engaging with people honestly and openly (as is appropriate) will bring a deeper connection than "I'm trying to get a job at your company, can you give me a reference?" If you do find yourself starting this conversation, then you should open discussion about the company and their experience there. Make it rather personal. Let them tell stories about their experience there. This will help you to better understand what a day in the life at that company looks like. Moreover, learning this information about several companies will help you to understand the differences between them.
This 100% great advise. This builds a stronger connection that grows over time, have more benefits then just a job, and isn't transactional.
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