How to build and maintain a powerful network

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By Emily Benigno

Kellogg’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Seminar brought together more than 120 members of the graduating class to help them prepare for their next role after Kellogg. Each session focused on different issues relevant for women in the workplace.

The seminar, led by Professor Victoria Medvec, brought together impressive speakers from different functions and industries who covered topics such as negotiating for yourself and how to create your narrative in the corporate world. One of my favorite sessions covered the power of your network and how to thoughtfully build your network to set yourself up for success.

During the session, Trish Lukasik, senior vice president of sales at PepsiCo, shared her insight from 17 years of experience at PepsiCo. Lukasik highlighted the importance of both building and maintaining your network. Her session had many valuable lessons, but here are a few that I took away:

Building your network is part of your day job:

Lukasik views building her network as important as succeeding in her day job. She advised we participate in events with as much rigor as we pick what we do at work. Lukasik is very thoughtful when she decides how to prioritize her commitments and how these commitments will contribute to her network. When selecting conferences to attend or events to participate in, she evaluates whether it will allow her to grow or build relationships with others outside her existing network. By assessing each opportunity, she’s able to align her priorities with these other activities.

Focus on creating unique ties:

The key to creating your network is building relationships, not just contacts. By undertaking shared activities, you have the opportunity to build relationships rather than just exchanging business cards. Lukasik advised us to seek out activities that have stakes, shared goals and passion. By branching out of traditional activities, you can get to know others better and develop true ties.

Maintaining your network is just as important as building your network:

At one point, you can expect to need to tap into your network for help. However, to have strong connections, you need to continually cultivate that network. Lukasik shared with us that she builds commitment and keeps connections strong within her network by handwriting notes to her team members to stay in touch. By keeping connections warm and sharing information with your network, you can ensure that you maintain strong relationships over time.

Lukasik and Prof. Medvec both shared valuable insight that showed first-hand how important it is to build and cultivate your network. Their perspectives sparked conversations that lasted long after her seminar session.

This session, along with the other sessions in the inaugural Women’s Leadership Seminar, gave graduating women the opportunity for reflection — as well as inspiration — before we move back into the workforce. The opportunity to connect with each other as a graduating class as well as with inspirational female leaders is an unparalleled opportunity that served as a great capstone to our Kellogg experiences.

Emily Benigno is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year MBA Program. Emily has worked in consulting and strategic planning across the energy, technology, and education sectors. She is from Houston and will work in the energy industry after graduating in June 2016.

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