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Ask not what your network can do for you

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

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.

Here’s how:

• 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 Management, 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.

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