Make Friends, Not Contacts: 5 Tips for Networking


Make Friends, Not Contacts: 5 Tips for Networking

It’s usually difficult to talk about “networking” without seeming opportunistic. The irony of course is that everybody, at least those who are successful, rely on other people to help them get to their end goal.  

To paraphrase some wise advisors, there’s no such thing as a “self-made” man. We need to stop pretending that we “can go it alone.” Whether we like it or not, who you know is as important, if not more important, than what you know.

In Never Eat Alone, master networker and entrepreneur Keith Ferrazzi redefines the traditional notion of networking around the building of mutually beneficial relationships. Throughout the book, Ferrazi proves that those who are “best at it, don’t network, they make friends.”

I must admit that I was very skeptical when this book was recommended to me, but found it quite insightful and actually refreshing on a topic that I never imagined could be discussed so sincerely. Perhaps one of the most striking comments in the book is Ferrazzi’s emphasis that “poverty… wasn't only a lack of financial resources; it was isolation from the kind of people that could help you make more of yourself.”

There are several lessons across Ferrazzi’s first book, of which I will list below what I believe are the most important 5 takeaways:

  1. Generosity: If you take one thing from reading this post let it be that “the key to success in one word” is generosity – generosity with your own network, no matter how small. The first question to ask when building relationships is not “how can you help me?” but in fact “how can I help you?” Real networking, as Ferrazzi defines it, is about “finding ways to make other people more successful.

  2. “Build it before you need it”: The “great myth” of networking is that you start reaching out to other people when you need something (which these days is probably a job). This approach is doomed to fail. To create a network of real relationships, you need to reach out to people “before you need anything at all.”  This is an important lesson for aspiring and current entrepreneurs as it emphasizes the importance of getting to know potential clients as friends first, not as customers.

  3. Know your mission: The more precise you are about your goals and objectives, the easier it is to develop a strategy to reach those goals. An important component of a strategy is “establishing relationships with the people in your universe who can help you get where you’re going.” In the book, Ferrazzi talks about the creation of a Relationship Action Plan that starts with goals and focuses on identifying key individuals that will help you reach your goals. In a similar vein, Ferrazi advises readers to constantly update a list of “aspirational contacts” that they work towards connecting with, in order to help you keep your career going in the right direction.
  4. Build and broadcast your personal brand: In the book, Ferrazzi quotes best selling author Tom Peters, who makes the case for the “personal brand” when he says, “To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

    Ferrazzi then adds the emphasis bluntly: “the bottom line for everyone comes down to a choice: to be distinct or extinct.” You simply can’t be part of a strong network if you are extinct. Of course its not enough to build a distinct brand; one must broadcast it too, and Ferrazzi provides several insights in the book on how to do so.

  5. Vulnerability:  One of the most profound insights from this book, and something I’ve long thought about, is the importance of vulnerability in creating strong, meaningful relationships. Ferrazzi believes that “vulnerability is one of the most underappreciated assets in business today.” The reasoning behind his conclusion lies first in the fact that “power today comes from sharing information, not withholding it.” Second, the issues we “all care most about are the issues we all want to talk about most” and by being honest, open and vulnerable, we allow others “into [our lives] so that they can be vulnerable in return.”

Finally, in Ferrazzi’s words as he paraphrases the one and only Dale Carnegie: “You can be more successful in two months by becoming really interested in other people’s success, than you can in two years trying to get more people interested in your own success.” So tell me, now, what can I do for you? 

Thank you

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