My first job out of university was in the public relations department of a top company with a stellar reputation for forming deep ties to the community and going the extra mile to satisfy customers. Company leaders expected that I would uphold these values and be a strong ambassador.

Networking was essential to my ability to succeed. On any given day, I would find myself talking to media to pitch a story, visiting a customer’s home to discuss the latest product, or negotiating a major event sponsorship in a key market. I had to develop exceptional networking skills in order to cultivate new audiences and partners, to sell the vision of the company, and to connect with people in ways that were meaningful to them. Early on, I established a strong network and formed relationships that continue today—almost 20 years later.

I’m often asked how to build a network. Here’s what I tell people:

It’s about quality, not quantity. When building your network, remember that you are seeking to establish your reputation and credibility with people of influence, not just collecting contacts. So be strategic and deliberate about your network. Think about what relationships you need and why you need them. Also, consider who is connected to whom and how they fit into your path.

You have to give to get. Know that networking with people is often less about your interests than theirs, so find ways to bring value and stand out. Take the first step to establish ties. You can share best practices, send people a book you think they’d like, or write a nice letter of congratulations to recognize someone’s accomplishments.

It’s easier than you think. While you want to be focused as you build your network, don’t be blind to opportunities to make connections, because you never know what doors could open. Say yes often when asked to participate in discussions and events. You will meet new people and automatically build ties.

On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
The key to staying competitive is continuous learning.

On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
I had excellent mentors early in my career who challenged me regularly. They saw potential in me that I didn’t always see in myself. One in particular encouraged me to grow beyond my field of expertise and gain international experience. I had been in the same field for 11 years, and progressed up the ranks quickly. I was confident and comfortable in my role, and saw no reason to change. But with his urging, I took a leap to move overseas, dive into a new industry, and apply my skills in a different field. The move changed my life in many ways and taught me that it’s important to get out of your comfort zone. If you do, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve.

On Facing Challenges
Relocating to Europe stretched me in ways I could not have anticipated. Everything was new—language, culture, ways of working, leadership styles. I soon realized that what made me successful in North America was not the same recipe I could apply working overseas. I had to find new ways to motivate teams and drive performance.

Robyn’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Know your strengths and build your brand based on those, instead of obsessing over your weaker skills.