The only way to network successfully is to build and maintain genuine relationships; and the first step is to consider how you can provide value to the other person!
On the first day of an undergraduate degree students are often told “networking is vital to future success”. It is the same thing on the first day of any corporate graduate program and it’s most definitely, the same thing on the first day of an MBA.
The message that is not always conveyed is the right way to network. Both parties in a business relationship should get value from it… else the relationship doesn’t exist. Please note, I do not mean that the relationship needs to be equally beneficial; in fact that’s rarely the case. More often than not, one person will be more senior than the other, and will likely have more connections and more experience.
You may be wondering “But I’m only just beginning my career; what can I offer a senior leader?”. Well, the first thing you can offer is ‘genuine interest in what they do for a living and what they have to say’.
Once you have made initial connections, you should continue to look for ways that you can help your contacts. As only one example, the next time you read any business articles, think about which of your contacts might appreciate them and consider sending along an extract with a link. A word of caution, share articles in the right way (i.e. only share a few relevant articles: it’s about quality not quantity).
If you keep an open mind, I’m sure that you’ll find many ways you can help the people in your network…and trust me; your efforts will be rewarded.