Welcome to the Crushing the Office “Book Club,” a regular series of posts that break down a business book into the key themes, insights, and other nuggets you can use immediately in our mission of crushing it at the office.
In my opinion, it’s a universal truth that the more you learn, the more your potential to earn. There are countless sources of great information out there (hopefully, this site included) and dollar for dollar, books probably offer the greatest bang for the buck. If you look at any great leader, chances are they’re also a voracious reader (well, except for this guy).
We’ll be looking at books about business, but also other aspects of life and culture to get a more rounded perspective on work and life. Like Keith Ferrazzi lays out on page 218, I want us to “take a deep and boundless curiosity about things outside your own profession and comfort zone.” Sure, you can learn a lot about management if you only read Peter Drucker, but I think there is much to be learned when we reach outside of our comfort zone to study other perspectives and ideas.
Have you ever been to a conference and stood at the periphery, not knowing how you should proceed and whom you should approach? Have you ever met an executive or influencer (or really anyone, for that matter) at a conference, only to reach out a year later about a great opportunity and them not remember you or turn you down? Or have you struck up a conversation with someone but then not known how to advance the conversation past the introduction? How about communicating your ideas, or getting noticed by your boss or your boss’ boss? These are all situations we’ve found ourselves in and struggle to effectively navigate.
I think we can all agree on two things about networking: we all need to do it, and it usually sucks. The biggest reason we all think this way is we’re going about it all wrong. It’s not about a transaction between two people (what can this person do for me?), it’s about connecting with others and building relationships. On page 8, he argues that “connecting is one of the most important business – and life – skill sets you’ll ever learn.”
Key Themes/Actionable Insights
Reframe networking into connecting and building relationships. It’s not about how this person or group can help me right now, it’s how can we become friends and help each other in the future. “We can go through life, particularly conferences and other professional gatherings, making shallow, run-of-the-mill conversation with strangers that remain strangers. Or we can put a little of ourselves, our real selves, on the line, and create the opportunity for a deeper connection” (pg. 149).
Start now. Don’t wait to start building your “network” when you need something, or you’re looking for a new job (or worse, out of work and needing a new job). “People who have the largest circle of contacts, mentors, and friends know that you must reach out to others long before you need anything at all” (pg. 42). People will know if your main goal when talking to them is to get something from them, and they’ll be less likely to help you as a result. Instead, start reaching out to people and build and nurture that relationship knowing that one day it’ll help you when you need it.
Follow up. This is the key piece to the entire puzzle. What good is it to connect with people if it doesn’t turn into a relationship. Someone you met at a conference three years ago is not a “connection.” They’re simply someone that you met along the way. Mr. Ferrazzi says to give yourself between twelve and twenty-four hours after you meet someone to follow up. A short email is fine for this situation. It’s a good idea to mention something that you discussed to help cement the meeting in the other person’s mind. In the past, I’ve used handwritten cards to add a more personal touch the follow-up, but that’s not necessary for most situations. No matter how you follow up, the content is the same: “it was great to meet you, I look forward to talking with you again” or a variation on that theme.
Stay in touch. The other key to following up, and this is probably done even less than the initial note, is keeping in touch with everyone. This is the water for your network’s flower, and it can’t grow and thrive without it. The problem is, this is the hard part and takes effort. Mr. Ferrazzi calls it “pinging.” It’s a “quick, casual greeting, and it can be done in any number of ways.” He lays out several strategies in the book on how and when to go about it, but not matter what, it needs to be done. This is one of the skills that you build over time, and once you incorporate it into your routine, it becomes easier and more effective.
Pay attention. Anytime you have a meaningful interaction with someone in your network, take notes. This doesn’t mean that you should keep a detailed log of what you speak to everyone about, but take note of the important things going on in people’s lives, especially if you don’t talk to them often. Think of how it makes you feel when someone you haven’t talked to in a while remembers a project you’re working on or genuinely asks about how a family member is doing?
Never Eat Alone is one of the most insightful and inspiring business books I’ve ever read. The principles outlined in the book aren’t necessarily groundbreaking by themselves, but they are incredibly powerful and life changing when put into practice.
What challenges have you faced when trying to build your network? What strategies have you used to overcome the networking obstacles in your career?