Networking is a process through which you thoughtfully create and sustain relationships to exchange information. The most successful networking, like any relationship is built upon mutual benefit.
Steps to Success
Engage in the self-inquiry process before you begin building your professional network. Take some time to reflect on who you really are, what makes you unique and what career-related aspirations you have. Doing so will allow you to feel more natural and authentic when building relationships, especially with strangers.
Learn what networking is and is not. Keep in mind that meeting people and developing relationships is something you already know how to do. Apply the techniques you already use to meet and follow-up with fellow classmates, strangers at a party, professors, coaches, advisors and so on.
Generate a list of people you have already developed relationships with at this point. Keep in mind, it's not only about who you know but who they know as well.
The Five Fs
Practice and then practice some more. There is no better way to strengthen your communication and increase your confidence then to actually practice!
Follow up to maintain your relationships. This is the most critical part to the process. It's simple to just meet a lot of people but maintaining your relationships will require time and effort. Don't forget to thank people when they help you. This will ensure that they will help you again in the future. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are great tools to maintain your relationships so learn how to use them effectively.