Those who think that networking can be mastered through attending seminars, shaking hands and exchanging business-cards are setting themselves up for a unsustainable personal brand and professional solitude. If you could absorb this notion even up to some degree, then you will find yourself getting a lot more serendipitous.
My personal mantra for networking (read it as connecting) is adding net value to people around you and your communities without any ulterior motives. I think such graciousness sets you up for accomplishments and satisfaction in both personal and professional spheres in the long run. Build relationships with people not for leveraging them, but for enriching their lives. Once you do that, you will win over their hearts too. With this mindset, you will earn a circle of mentors, friends and weak ties that will not let you fail in realizing your aspirations.
Why would you be crazy enough to assist others when you are struggling yourself to get through your corporate jobs or scrappy startup lives ? By serving others to help them realize their personal desires and professional goals, they become more receptive to sticking their neck out for you when you need it the most. Get their foot in the door of opportunities that you think they never knew about. Once you start authentically practicing that by incorporating it as a part of your daily routine, you will start becoming "lucky" enough to find yourself in situations that will benefit you in ways you had never imagined. This does not mean that you always help in the hopes of reciprocity.
You would be in a constant quest for your personal development while making a difference in someone's life. By evangelizing a book, you might pick up a thing or two about writing or publishing books. By beta-testing a software with a strong interest, you might wind up becoming an employee for the startup. By helping out a writer find something really newsworthy, you might discover your calling in content or media business. Being selflessly resourceful is the key to personal enlightenment.
As absurd as it might sound, the key is to not jump on every chance you get to sell others on your skills or projects. The goal should be to take very chance you get to try to make people around you successful. Your generosity and good intentions will surely click the right chord one day. If you are always genuinely interested in what others do, learning from them and how you can help them, you may end up with a "win-win" scenario. And who doesn't want that? The philosophy of "practice makes you perfect" is as applicable in networking as it is in doing your math homework, founding companies or making executive decisions. Be in the game for the long haul. You cannot expect to get what you don't believe in giving.
I believe you can significantly grow your net worth by investing as much amount of time, efforts and authenticity in your relationships as you do in your own work. This does seem counterintuitive and exhausting at first but I have tried it and I am more than happy with the results. Embrace what I call value-driven, service-based networking.
Position yourself and act on occasions to make even a little difference in someone's life. Wondering how will you go about it? Here's how - start by taking mini steps. Make a list of people whose work you genuinely respect and email them saying how appreciative you are of their work. Offer your friend your helping hand for designing their new personal website. Have a great idea to save your school some money? Don't be afraid to reach out to the people higher up in the administration. Try to introduce the retired businessman who lives in your neighborhood to a non-profit that fosters causes that you know the old man feels passionate about. Everyone appreciates pro-activeness if shown the right way. Everyone has an innate desire to feel valued and appreciated. There are millions of opportunities for benevolence around us. All it takes is an eye of kindness and a bit of hustling.
Most importantly, by serving others, you can build genuine relationships that would ultimately determine your net worth in the long run. So, get up, get started and assist others. Remember that you will always be respected and remembered for your value-addition and generosity, even after you are gone.
Be curious. Stay humble. Be resourceful.
Feel free to shoot me an email with your thoughts, concerns or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have written a long narrative of how I have built a couple relationships with other millennials using the above mentioned tactics here.