People in your network should not look/speak/think/act just like you. I repeat, people in your network should not look/speak/think/act just like you.
Your network should be made of people outside your social circle. A homogeneous network does nothing but expose you to other people with the same interests, ideas and backgrounds you already possess. Diversity is key in networking. Look for people who can help you expand your horizons. Your network should contain people who will help you increase your knowledge, develop your skills, or open doors you cannot open by yourself.
It’s never to soon to begin your network. In college you should already have been networking with peers, faculty and staff. Before your academic career ends, you should concentrate on developing two different types of networks: task-oriented and career-oriented.
A task-oriented network consists of people who do what you cannot. These people will help you make your job easier by providing a skill set you do not have. For example, what happens if you have a project where you can do all the background research, but you don’t know statistics enough to do the data analysis? You turn to someone in your network who has statistics knowledge that can help you complete your project effectively. Task-oriented networks help you efficiently (you didn’t have to teach yourself statistics) and effectively complete your work.
A career-oriented network consists of people who can help you advance in your field. These people will provide you with professional support, introduce you to opinion leaders in your field, or share job opportunities with you. Career-oriented networks help you increase job opportunities, meet influential others, and get you referred to others.
A final rule of networking is that more is just more, and more isn’t always helpful. Don’t spread yourself too thin and feel like you need to meet everyone in order to have the best network. The 80/20 (Pareto Principle) applies to networking: use 20 percent of your time establishing new contacts and 80 percent of your time nurturing relationships with those already in your network. Nurtured relationships often result in the best word-of-mouth as those who know little about you will hesitate to refer you.
If done correctly, a network should help you succeed in all areas of your career. The important things to consider are that your network includes people who are not just like you, people who can help you achieve tasks as well as career goals, and are people you can spend time getting to know personally.