In networking, you need to begin planting a seed: what do you and the person have in common? How can you work together towards a common goal? Or perhaps you are planting a small plant and waiting for it to grow (maybe you met someone through a mutual connection and some roots have already formed.)
Without sunshine and water, a plant will quickly waste away and die. Have you “watered” your professional relationships through email, phone, or a meeting? Have you “fertilized” your relationship by sharing something that the recipient may enjoy?
Networking is not about what you need, but what the recipient is interested in. Just like you are not going to drink Miracle Gro or feed your gardenia filet mignon, you need to identify what is desired by your network. It’s not about focusing on what others are able to do for you.
Once the garden is planted, watered, and cared for, it will provide you with years of fruit, flowers, and shade. As your network is tended to, people will reach out to you to assist you when there is something they can do to help you!
And if you are as crazy as I am to garden in 100 degree and humid weather, please drink lots of cold water and wear sunscreen and a hat!