1.) Add value
2.) Add value
3.) Add value
People have this idea that networking is sleazy and that it’s about trying to get something from someone, this clearly does not work and makes people avoid you like the plague.
If you approach every relationship with the intent to add value to people, see how you can help them, see how you can move them forward, how open do you think they’ll be to give back?
If you’re talking to someone who just started out in their career, fresh out of college, give some friendly advice to help them land a job, or dialogue with them to figure out what direction to take.
If you’re talking to a small business owner, ask how you can help improve their business or organization.
If you’re talking to an artist, see how you can help them market themselves better.
If you’re talking to a VIP of any nature, see how you can help them accomplish a goal, resolve a problem, and/or make them feel valued by asking for specific input/advice.
If you’re talking to an old friend, meet them where they are. Catch up with them and help them forward.
If you’re talking to someone that has hit a rough patch, lend an ear and help them up.
If you’re talking to someone who has a high profile, don’t be a starstruck fan, just add value like you would anyone else.
This has helped me build a network of friends from every kind of background/industry that would be happy to do a favor for me because I first did a favor (sometimes, many) for them.
Whether they are just a high schooler, an acclaimed author of 30 books, a star on TV, a millionaire, a single mom of 2, a guy struggling to get his business started, a CEO of a company of 100 employees, or even the lady at the bank, I only have one agenda — see how I can help them in a meaningful way.
This is a long term play, networking is not about what you can get in the short term. Networking is about planting seeds, watering them, and reaping a harvest down the road. Sometimes it takes a couple weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years. Do not expect instant returns — that is the exception, not the norm.
I’ve been doing this everywhere I go for 5 years. Every example I mentioned in the previous paragraph is a real personal contact. My network becomes more and more valuable the more seeds I sow and the more I nurture my connections.
Be generous, and people will trust you, be glad to know you, and happy to help when you need a favor down the road.
This question originally appeared on Quora: How do I grow and strengthen my network?