They are the among the only lasting advantages in business – particularly in the fast-moving technology environment. And the question about how to grow one is one of the most common pain points for someone early in their career, particularly if they did not get lucky and choose the right company to work for, where the network was built-in for them.
So here’s a word: most people wrongly focus on the “network” side of the equation before the “proprietary” side. It’s relatively easy to guess somebody’s email address. And it’s a toss up who will respond to a cold email. It’s relatively easy to meet a luminary – attend the right conference, hang around after she speaks, you may get 5 minutes. But if you do this before the “proprietary” part, you’re getting it backwards.
Proprietary, in this context, means you are known *for something*. You are useful, have an expertise, or even simply a well-researched interest somewhere. If you reach out to me as someone generally interested in getting ahead, why do you stand out over any other person who shares that desire? But if you are yourself an expert, or have a truly differentiated point of view, then it’s a different game – you’ll often find they actually want to meet you as much as you want to meet them.
If you want to build out your network, step one: stop networking. Practice thinking independently; reading, writing, and building. Become the most interesting person in your field.