Simply collecting business cards at a work-related event isn’t going to build your network. To gain the benefit of meeting new people and make your network work for you, you need to work for your network.
• Make a genuine, meaningful offer of help. For example, call or send an e-mail saying, “I’ve heard through the grapevine that your business is looking for team-building exercises. I’ve looked into that before and have some valuable information that may help you.”
Tip: It may be best to call after hours, says psychologist James Waldroop, an author and CEO of Career Leader. Rather than put someone on the spot, you can leave a message.
• Ask yourself, are you cultivating the valuable lynchpins within your network?
Noshir Contractor, professor of behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of, has his students do this exercise: He asks them to create a list of their Board of Directors, or acquaintances whom they can call on for important work-related help.
Now, he asks, figure out who introduced you to those people.
“They will discover that, often, there are just a handful of people who introduced them to the most important people in their lives,” he says.
His advice: Cultivate those contacts “because they are helping to broaden a network.”
Sometimes, too, the students realize that they introduced themselves to their most important contacts. In that case, they aren’t using their network well.
— Adapted from “How to Make Your Network Work for You,” Ariana Green, Harvard Business Review.