Financial capital is the funding you need to get off the ground, sustain growth, and develop operations. Human capital is the team that brings value to your organization. And while both are essential resources for your business, social capital — the connections and shared values that exist between people and enable cooperation — is the key to entrepreneurial success.

The adage goes, your net worth equals your network: For some social capital grows slowly and steadily from birth due to a connected or wealthy family or a close-knit, private schooling. For the vast majority of us here today, we will wake up one day, clad with a business idea and a very big realization about just how small our network is.

The key to improving your social capital isn’t the number of contacts you make.  What’s important is making contacts that become lasting relationships.

Imagine if you were putting together a marketing plan for the coming year and you called five close friends to ask them for help — in the form of either a referral or new business. Now, imagine cold-calling 10 people for the same reason. You’ll most likely have better luck with your close friends.

A strong network is like money in the bank. Your network can help you build visibility, connect you with influencers, and open up doors for new opportunities. Building and nurturing a network is one of the most powerful things you can do to support your career advancement. Yet often, our networking efforts are just social, haphazard, and as a result, ineffective. You make friends and connections, however, these people are not always in a position to help you further your career or most importantly, they may not be willing to speak for you.

Here are 3 ways to build social capital:

1.   Network proactively.

Networking proactively is important. What happens if you don’t have a strong network, and suddenly you hit w speedbump? If you don’t have a network to tap into, you’re out of luck. It will most likely take you much longer to climb out of that hole!

Networking proactively provides an advantage by supporting you with a powerful collection of people who are willing and able to speak for you on an ongoing basis. The network is there for you when you need it because you’ve built the social capital.

2.   Be strategic.

Strategic networking is more than socializing and swapping business cards, it’s creating solid relationships to support your career aspirations. It takes focus and intention to build such a network, but it’s invaluable for your professional development.

Identify who you know and who you need to know to help you reach your career goal and build a power network to support your advancement.

3.   Pay it forward and leverage relationships.

Identifying the right people, those people who have power and influence and who are willing to recommend you, is the first step. Building and nurturing relationships of trust is next. The third important step is to leverage the relationships by paying it forward, being willing to help others and asking for assistance when you need it.

Women are less likely to build their favor bank and call in their “chips” and from their network. Their hesitancy to ask puts them at a distinct disadvantage to men who use their relationships to gain visibility and advance their careers.