Opportunity doesn’t come from hard work, going to the right school, or having a great resume. Opportunity comes from other people.

That’s right. You might have resources or skills that make you qualified for a great job or client but the only way to truly access that opportunity is through someone else. Whoever that person is, he or she has to feel like they know and trust you in order to give you the chance to succeed.

This is an important point because many of us feel like if we work hard enough someone will notice and opportunity will come – not true. People notice you when you tell them what you do well.

If you are reluctant to reach out and connect with people you know, whether personal friends or colleagues, you are putting yourself and career at a disadvantage. Want to gain the advantage? Follow this advice.

Reach out and reconnect

Stop worrying if it’s been so long since you’ve spoken. People want to be acknowledged and seen.

It’s human nature; we all want recognition. When you reach out and tell someone you were thinking of him or her, you have a captive audience. Of course, it helps if you are genuine and truly have something to say, but believe me, they’ll be interested if you want nothing more to see how they are doing.

One of my most successful clients schedules a monthly lunch with people in her network. She decides which relationships she would like to nourish and develop and meets with those people on a regular basis. Sending an occasional email to say “hey” doesn’t cut it when you want to build relationships that work for you.

Be interested in how you can help them

Corollary to reaching out, you have to be interested in them and how you maybe able to offer help. Help can come in the form of active assistance or simple emotional support. Don’t over think and calculate. Be interested, ask questions and genuinely offer a way to help. It’s what we do naturally and in most of great friendships there’s an element of give and take.

Why should the give and take be different for colleagues and people we are getting to know better? There’s nothing shifty about being interested and developing a relationship unless you genuinely aren’t interested in the person.

Find out how they do things differently

Be curious about what they do and how they do it. We spend most of our days on automatic pilot. We think and do the same things over and over again. Reaching out to new and different people helps us to become aware of different ways to get things done. This also begins to open doors to new opportunities.

Identify what sets you apart

A recent Harvard Business Review article, How Successful People Network with Each Other, suggests that sharing something that is fascinating easily catches people’s attention. Identify what sets you apart and then talk about it. Not only does it make you more interesting – it makes you memorable.

Ask directly for what you want

People who truly connect with and like you are happy to help you, but they are not mind readers. In order for people to help you they need to know specifically what you would like for them to do. If you ask to be connected to one of their friends or colleagues, offer to send an email with a brief description of your background. If you want a lead on a job, give them specifics about the type of job you are want. People invest so much time and energy in building their network and connections but rarely ask for what they want.

Overall people like to help each other. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you want. People are inclined to do what they can to help you. But building those types of relationships takes time and effort. The key is that you balance the taking with the giving. Whether is acknowledgement, advice or support, make sure that you are doing your part in maintaining the relationship and people will step up and support you.