Networking: How to Become a Connector

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This is my 6-page summary of Keith Ferrazzi's influencial book on networking - Never Eat Alone.

Some people think that "networking" just like "politics" is a dirty word. Neither really is. Especially networking, if you look at it the right way and practice it correctly. Keith talks about networking=generosity=career karma. If you help others achieve success and share your Rolodex treasures, you in turn will achieve success in everything you do. Oh, and build your network before you need it, it isn't a short-term process, it is a life philosophy. Keith shares his experiences, his failures and successes, and gives a ton of actionable tips.

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Networking: How to Become a Connector

  1. 1. Ekaterina’s Book Buzz “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi "There is no such thing as a "self-made" man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success." George Burton Adams QUICK OVERVIEW: Some people think that "networking" just like "politics" is a dirty word. Neither really is. Especially networking, if you look at it the right way and practice it correctly. Keith talks about networking=generosity=career karma. If you help others achieve success and share your Rolodex treasures, you in turn will achieve success in everything you do. Oh, and build your network before you need it, it isn't a short-term process, it is a life philosophy. Keith shares his experiences, his failures and successes, and gives a ton of actionable tips. CONTENT: Don't keep score. The secret to success is generosity. You've got to be willing to give generously before you take. AND sometimes you have to go out there and ask for it (and be willing to accept it). Connecting is a constant process of giving and receiving - of asking and offering help. By putting people in contact with one another, by giving your time and expertise and sharing them freely, the pie gets bigger for everyone. A network functions precisely because there is recognition of mutual need. However, there is no score system - the more people you help, the more help you will get and the more help you'll have helping others. It's like Internet - the more people who have access and use it, the more valuable the Internet becomes. Many people think it's a dog-eat-dog world, where the meanest, baddest dog in the neighborhood wins. But nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, a lot of people still also have a tendency to romanticize independence. Most business literature still views autonomy as a virtue. However, if you are not willing to accept help sometimes, it will be a career-killer. You need to start building your network now, not when you are out of job, you need a favor and you are desperate. People can smell desperation and insincerity. Relationships are solidified by trust. You gain trust by asking not what people can do for you, but what you can do for them. The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity - if your interactions are ruled by it, your rewards will follow suit. Help everyone, young and old, experienced and inexperienced. The business world is fluid. Yesterday's assistant is today's influence peddler. Pay attention to what others need and help they are seeking and provide it before they ask, add value to their personal and professional life and when the time comes people will be happy to assist you as well. Some would call it manipulating, but it really isn't. What you can give to others:  Career advice, counseling, mentoring  Opening doors to young people through your contacts  Solving someone's problem (example: you hear a co-worker talking about looking for a new house, connect him with the great realtor you know, right there and then on the spot)
  2. 2.  Contribute - give your network your time/expertise/money  Clip relevant articles and send them to the people who might be interested in them  Make a summary of research you did and distribute to relevant people, send it to your management  Send constant suggestions on how to improve something in your company to your management. No answer? That's ok, keep sending!  Become a knowledge broker, distribute knowledge. Identify books on WSJ bestseller list. Buy a book, read it, send a summary of your notes of the Big Idea to some people you know and don't know who might be interested. Don't have time? Send an article or the book itself (if you want to impress). Create your own Big Idea of the Month Cliffs Notes and send out with a note "here are some cool ideas I think you'd like to be on top of". What's your mission? Have you set your goals? Have you written them down (very important!)? Do you have a plan to accomplish them? Research shows again and again that people who set goals AND write them down do achieve them. You would be surprised that even the goals that seem outrageous to you at the time will come true if you plan them out step by step and follow your plan. Have you heard this before - "a goal is a dream with deadline"? Well, it is. First, find your passion. What do you truly love? What are you good at? Or want to be good at? What do you want to accomplish in life? What are the obstacles that are stopping you? Most people don't take time to think through that, they accept what they should be doing instead of what they want to do. Second, put your goals to paper. What tools/materials/skills do you need to accomplish it? Yes, you are right, it takes time. It requires thought, determination, persistence and faith. Start looking for people you know who might help you achieve your goals, reach out to them, they may know other people. List everyone you know (including your pastor, realtor, financial advisor, relatives) - you will be surprised what kinds of people they know and might introduce you to. Third, write it all down. Your goals must be: specific and detailed; you must list the steps you'll take to achieve them; believable (if you don't believe you can reach them, you won't); challenging/ demanding (step out of your comfort zone). Once you have a plan, post it in a place where you will see it on a regular basis. Evaluate it constantly. Forth, create a personal 'board of advisors'. In any business, even the best-conceived plans benefit from external vetting. It helps to have enlightened mentors who will act as both cheerleaders and who will hold you accountable. Build it before you need it. Creating a strong community/network is not a short-term solution. You can only truly gain someone's trust and commitment little by little over time. Here is how:  Create a new project that can force you to learn new skills and introduce you to new people  Take on leadership positions in the clubs/organizations that interest you  Join your local alumni club and spend time with or shadow people who are doing the job you would like to be doing
  3. 3.  Enroll in a class in a community college on a subject of interest  Ask people you already know (your relatives, friends at church, old college buddy, your doctor or your lawyer) whether they know people who can help you get where you want to go, you would be surprised  Become a conference commando (see below)  Can't get in the clubs or organizations you want? Create your own. No, really. The genius of audacity. One of my favorite Keith's quotes in the book reads: "There is genius, even kindness, in being bold." Sometimes by asking you can make someone's day. Really! People love helping others. So what's the worst that can happen? You will be rejected. What is the big deal? Is it really that horrible? But by asking or reaching out to people and introducing yourself, you can make best friends for life. The networking jerk. He is the man or she is the woman with a martini in one hand, business card in the other, and a pre- rehearsed elevator pitch always at the ready. He or she is a schmooze artist, eyes darting at every event in a constant search for a bigger fish to fry. You don't want to become one. Do your homework. Whom you meet, how you meet them, and what they think of your afterward should not be left to chance. Preparation is - if not the key to genius - then at least the key to sounding like a genius. Before you meet with any new people, research who they are and what their business and personal interests are (their hobbies, challenges, goals, interests, proudest achievements). What is going on in their business (Did they have a good quarter? Do they have a new product?). All people naturally care, generally above and beyond anything else, about what it is they do. These days, doing such research is easy: internet (company's website, personal affiliations); library (periodicals) - read articles by and about people you intend to meet; literature from the company's public relations department (call them and explain that you are looking for some background information); annual reports. William James said: "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." Create your Rolodex. Create a database. Record: names, interests, relatives, birthdays, contact info, etc. Carry those lists with you when you travel. If you have time, stop and see several people when you are in town. If you only have an hour, ask several people to lunch at the same time - you'll catch up with them and introduce them to someone new (a great value-add for them). Just make sure you pay attention to the chemistry between people (will they get on well with each other?) - trust your instincts. If you want to find people you don't know, refer to other people's lists. Newspapers and magazines do rankings of different kinds all the time. You need to know the key players in your field. Create "aspirational contacts" on your list - high-level people who have nothing to do with your business, but who you would like to meet. One day you might.
  4. 4. Warming a cold call. When you call people for the first time:  Establish credibility by having a reference (a mutual acquaintance).  State your value. Cut through the clutter of other calls by personalizing your call with specific information that shows you are interested enough in their success to have done some homework about them and their needs/interests. Offer help, solution or an introduction to an expert you know.  Talk a little, say a lot. Make it quick, convenient, and definite. And close by suggesting a specific time to meet. You goal is not to make a sale, but to get an appointment - friendships are made face to face. Try to get their agreement to meet in writing which you can then present to their "gatekeeper" and get that appointment. Managing the gatekeeper - artfully. Make the administrative assistant your ally and never ever get on his/her bad side. Otherwise you will never get that appointment/interview. If needs be, send him/her small gifts, always remind about yourself, but don't be too annoying. If you have an email address for the person you are trying to meet with and you send him/her a simple but clear email: "Dear Michael, I'm a friend of Jane's and she suggested I talk with you… Jane thinks we should know each other". Leave the other information for the meeting. Never eat alone. The dynamics of a network are similar to those of a would-be celebrity in Hollywood: invisibility is a fate far worse than failure. You should always be reaching out to others, over breakfast, lunch, whatever. In building a network, remember: above all, never, ever disappear. You are thinking it takes too much time to meet with everyone. You don't have to meet 1-on-1. As mentioned earlier, invite several people to lunch. Or have monthly dinners where you would invite different people at different times and spice up the group and conversation. You'll have fun and help others extend their network. Invite someone to share a workout or a hobby. Invite someone to a special event like theater or concert. Constantly include others in whatever you are doing. As Robert Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet, says: "The value of a network grows proportional to the square of the number of its users." Follow up of fail. Most people don't follow up well, if at all. If you meet someone on an airplane, at a party, at a conference, send them an email within the next 12-24hrs "It was a pleasure meeting you. We must keep in touch." Cite something particular you talked about in the course of conversation that serves as a mental reminder of who you are. Program your PDA to remind you in a month to drop the person another email. If you met a speaker at the conference, send a note about how much you enjoyed his/her speech right away - the first ones are the most memorable. Why go to all the trouble of meeting new people if you are not going to work on making them a part of your life? But remember - and this is critical - don't remind them of what they can do for you, rather focus on what you might be able to do for them; give them a reason to want to follow up.
  5. 5. Hand written note these days can particularly capture a person's attention. If a person agrees to meet, try to get it in writing. Then when time comes, you have his commitment in writing behind you. Don't forget to follow up with those who acted as the go-between for you and someone else. Express your appreciation for their help. Become a conference commando.  Volunteer to help a conference organizer and in turn you'll get access to the inside information on who is coming to speak and where they'll hang out.  Better yet, be the organizer.  Speak at the conference - you will establish yourself as an expert in the area and you will get to attend for free as well.  Create a co-location event at a conference where you can speak on a specific topic and attract people to. It may grow substantially in years to come.  Throw a dinner party of your own at a local restaurant (who wants to eat boring conference food anyway?) - fax invites to people through the hotel front desk (no secretaries to screen the message!).  Draft off a big kahuna - if you get to know the most popular man or woman at the conference - the one who knows everyone - hang with them as they circle through the most important people at the conference.  Talk to speakers before they hit the stage. Often, that anonymous schlub slurping yogurt at the breakfast table will take on the aura of a celebrity after he's spoken on stage. Find them before they've gained celebrity status and you have a better chance to connect. Health, Wealth and Children. The motivations that drive most people come down to 3 things: making money, finding love, or changing the world. Don't laugh. Get comfortable with that reality. To become a connector is to become a keen observer of the human psyche. You need to connect with people on emotional level. According to Michael Milken "There are 3 things in this world that engender deep emotional bonds between people. They are health, wealth, and children." But remember, if you are going to deal with people's most important issues and try to help, give those issues the commitment they deserve! Pinging - all the time. It takes effort to maintain relationships. Pining is a quick casual greeting and it can be done in a number of creative ways: a quick email, a quick voicemail to a friend to just say hello, reminders on your calendar about birthdays. (Note: everyone waits till Christmas to get in touch, but that's when everyone else is doing so, so pick a different occasion like a birthday, it will be much more appreciated). Create a rating of your contacts. "Personal" are those who don't require pining, you contact with them organically. "Important business associates." "Customers." "Prospects." Etc. Rate everyone 1, 2 or 3. "1” - contact each month, several different ways. "2" - touch-base people; include them in your mass email about your business/update, holiday card, birthday call. "3" - you don't know
  6. 6. them well, but try to reach them at least once a year. You can also categorize people by location/geography and carry these lists with you when you travel to those destinations - "Hi Jen. Just landed in NY and it made me think of you. Can't meet this time, but just wanted to say hello." Be interesting and knowledgeable. Know what's going on in the world, be a person of content, have a unique point of view, know your job. Set yourself apart from everyone else. Work on WOW projects! Find a new angle on an old story. Become and expert of something. How do you become a content creator? Latch on to the latest, most cutting-edge idea in the business world, immerse yourself in it, get to know all the thought leaders and literature available, distill that into a message about the idea's broader impact to others and how it could be applied in the industry you work in. Then teach, write and speak about your expertise. Ask seemingly stupid questions (example of the question "People sure like burgers and fries. Why not give it to them quickly?" answer: McDonald's and fast food industry). Build and broadcast your brand. See other resources for more details on personal branding like Tom Peters' books, "Career Distinction" by William Arruda and Kirsten Dixon, and others. Let me (Ekaterina) know if you need recommendations, I read a number of them. Find mentors, find mentees, repeat. Take it seriously, devote the time and energy it deserves. It is a powerful tool. In closing, in the words of Keith Ferrazzi: "Wherever you are in life right now, and whatever you know, is a result of the ideas, experiences, and people you have interacted with in your life, whether in person, through books an music, email, or culture. There is no score to keep when abundance leads to even more abundance. So make a decision that from this day forward you will start making the contacts and accumulating the knowledge, experiences, and people to help you achieve your goals. But first be honest with yourself. How much time are you ready to spend on reaching out and giving before you get? How many mentors do you have? How many people have you mentored? What do you love to do? How do you want to live? Whom do you want to be a part of your life?" Note: Keith mentions Intel's mentor program in his book as an example of what corporations should do for their employees. It was a nice endorsement to see.

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