It took me a decade to figure out what “networking” really meant: Meeting lots of people, being kind to them, and staying in touch.
Meet lots of people. Go to events involving people in your field. Reach out to leaders you admire. Talk to friends of friends — the network of people at your level may not be very powerful yet, but one day, they probably will be. Don’t ask them for stuff right away — after all, you just met!
Be kind to them. Write these people thank you notes when they help you out. Send them kind, congratulatory notes when they do something great. Just be nice.
Stay in touch. It doesn’t have to be much. Sending someone a note on their birthday counts. Emailing them a link to a story they might like counts. Reaching out every so often to grab lunch counts.
I know I’m using the word “networking” to describe this behavior, but that doesn’t really get at what I’m actually trying to do. All I’m really doing is meeting interesting people.
Sometimes, I can help these people. Maybe in the future, they can help me. But here’s my advice: Don’t go into this looking for favors — just try to meet as many interesting people as you can. You never know where those relationships might lead you.
That photo, which, admittedly, is a more obvious stock photo than I usually use here on the blog, is from rawpixel.com via Unsplash.