A few fields have an especially bad reputation for cronyism, but the truth is that it exists everywhere. Say, you are hiring a contractor. Your two top candidates are equally gifted and both have extremely impressive résumés. The only difference is, you personally know and like one of them and you don't know the other one at all. All credentials being the same, who would you choose?

Chances are, you'd choose the one you know. And why not? You already know you get along with her and have seen some of her past work as it was happening. The other one (though well referenced) is more of an unknown. And let's be real--we all want to work with someone we like.

Now you're on the opposite side. You want someone to hire or work with you. But you're the new kid on the block. How do you break through the nepotism barrier? You know the answer. You have to build a strong network. And to do that, you have to constantly be networking. This is crucial to the success of most businesses and is somewhat of an art. Should you find that your current strategies aren't working out, you may need to make some adjustments.

Do You Want Instant Gratification?

You know how The Supremes said, "You can't hurry love, no, you just have to wait"? Well, substitute the word "business contacts" for "love" and the song still makes sense. We all want to get business out of networking events, but one of the major mistakes people make is wanting instant gratification.

For example, say you're at a dinner and you walk over to start up a conversation with a new person. The conversation goes something like this:

YOU: Hi, I'm Alex.

PERSON: Hello, I'm George.

YOU: What do you do?

PERSON: I own a cleaning company.

YOU: Really? Well I make mops. We should work together--here's my card.

Yikes. All of a sudden things became very one-sided and you just put yourself in a very weak position by looking desperate. Instead of immediately talking about your business, compel the other person to become invested in you by being invested in him. Show interest. Ask lots of thoughtful questions and really take the other person onboard. Here's the revised conversation:

YOU: What do you do?

PERSON: I own a cleaning company.

YOU: Very cool! Do you mostly handle homes or businesses?

PERSON: Businesses. We service all of the Starbucks in the area.

YOU: Really? That's interesting. How did that happen?

Then he gets to tell his story and you show that you care about what he has to say. This will create a positive feeling around you. Eventually he'll ask what you do. Then you casually say, "Well, it's funny actually--we're sort of in the same industry. I make mops." And the ball is in your court. This puts you in a powerful position because he is coming to you for information, rather than your having to "sell."

Are You Not Being Aggressive Enough?

It is quite possible to go the opposite way and not be aggressive enough. Those of us who are guilty of this wait for the other person to follow up, which many times is like waiting for a bus that just ain't gonna show. Take initiative and send a nice follow-up email saying how great it was to meet him or her. Maybe ask this new person to lunch to continue the conversation. The point is: Follow up, follow up, follow up!

Are You Going to the Wrong Events?

If you are finding that you're having great, natural conversations that aren't leading to any type of business, you might be going to the wrong events. There are a huge number of networking events for business professionals, some of which are great and others that are not worth going to. To save yourself some trouble, research the event. Find out how long it has been around and look for reviews or ask for recommendations to find out if it's worthy.

Also, make sure you're going to stand out. Don't put a lot of your time into going to networking events with people who do the same thing you do--they can't send you any business. Instead, branch out. Identify the types of businesses that would use your service or are in line with what you do, and attend their networking events. You'll get a lot more client leads that way.

Networking can be daunting if you're new to the game, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find out that it's much easier than you think. Some say business is all about making connections, but the savvy networker knows it's more about actually connecting.