Now that you see how a network can fit in with your general skill set, the question is, how do you cultivate one. Here are some tips and ideas:
There is nothing like being in a country and meeting local people to establish relationships, get to know new people, and start new friendships. Make sure you keep track of everyone interesting you meet and you make a point of finding them on social media so you can reach out to them in the future, whether that’s Facebook, Vkontakte, etc.
Ask people to introduce you
A personal introduction can give you access to people who otherwise wouldn’t pay you much attention or you wouldn’t be able to reach. For example, ask a friend to introduce you to their colleagues or some of their other friends; or tag along with a host family member to a family gathering. The more people you know, the more people can introduce you to others, helping your network grow exponentially
Use social networks
If you know what kind of person you are looking for, social networks, especially LinkedIn, can be valuable tools to getting in touch with people that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to find. Just make sure you include a personalized note that explains why you are reaching out and highlights what they might gain (even if it’s something very small) from taking the time to chat with you. If you’ve never done this before, it might feel a little strange at first, but it is perfectly appropriate and normal as a way of reaching out to people.
Participate in organized activities
If you have a chance to go on a conference in your country of interest, or participate in a volunteer project, or be part of another organized activity, even if a short one, take it. That’s a great way to meet some local people in a context different from just traveling about or hanging out with classmates.
You can also cultivate contacts with local people who travel to your country. Whether these are people visiting for a conference, participating in presentations at think tank, or coming on a short exchange program, you can cultivate on-the-ground contacts by meeting with them in your home country as well.