While you’re in school, you are going to create relationships and associations that’ll last a lifetime. These contacts will help you when you need it, and expect you to do the same for them. When you are forging your network of allies and contacts its important to keep a few things in mind.
For starters, you need to be open, honest and respectful to people. You cannot build a network based solely on self-interest. The contacts you create have to be genuine. These people have to trust you, your intentions, abilities and outlook. You in turn have to be willing to give up part of yourself for these people. Don’t associate with a colleague you don’t respect. It’s a waste of time. True friendship is the best network. When it comes to personal contacts, quality beats quantity all the time.
Don’t think that networking is all about finding people that can help you in the future. If you expect someone to do you a favor in the future, you better be willing to return the gesture. Networking is successful when each person feels that they have gained a valuable ally. Seek out people who you admire and build up trust with them. If you feel any hesitation, abandon the contact, and find someone else who you will accept you into their fold of friends.
Flatter people and their individual areas of expertise before you ask for help. Compliments work wonders. If you truly believe that someone is an excellent resource for a particular subject, let that person know. Tell them something like, “You are my definitive source of info for this subject, and I have a question to ask you. " People respond to praise. If you show reverence for someone’s abilities, you’ll have a better chance of having them employ their skills to help solve your issue.
Communicate constantly with people. Stay in touch with classmates, coworkers and professors. If a semester has gone by since you last spoke with your favorite professor, then give that person a call. If you’ve already graduated, make real efforts to keep your connections current. It doesn’t take much to remind someone that you value their friendship and care about their well being. You don’t have to meet up and do lunch, you can simply write an e-mail or just to say hello. Your network is a living, breathing entity. In order for your network to remain healthy, you have to show it some love.
Contacts will help you in life, but only if you build up relationships based on even exchanges of admiration and honesty. Don’t take advantage of people, and don’t accept people into your fold who you are not willing to help out yourself. Just be friendly, keep in touch with the friends you make, and always let them know that you will be there if they need you.
Chris Stout is a frequent contributor to CareersandEducation.com Chris Stout is a feature writer that covers topics relating to MBA Programs and online colleges .