If the word “networking” makes you roll your eyes, then you’re doing it wrong.
Don’t equate it with collecting stacks of business cards at awkward cocktail hours, or with playing Machiavellian office politics to rise up the ranks.
Networking should just be a natural part of the way you approach your career, Keith Ferrazzi explains in his classic bestseller, “Never Eat Alone,” updated in 2014.
When Ferrazzi first published his book in 2005, he had already been the youngest CMO at both Deloitte Consulting and Starwood Hotels and Resorts; the CEO of marketing startup Ya Ya Media; and the founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a management consultant firm with major clients like General Motors and American Express.
He credits his success to learning early in his career the power of accepting and seeking others’ generosity as well as being generous with his own connections and talents.
In “Never Eat Alone,” he breaks down the most common mistakes he’s found that cause people to be a “networking jerk.”
1. They schmooze.
People will be able to see through your insincerity if you’re just out to flatter as many people as possible, hoping that one of these artificial conversations yields something beneficial.
“Most people haven’t figured out that it’s better to spend more time with fewer people at a one-hour get-together, and have one or two meaningful dialogues, than engage in the wandering-eye routine and lose the respect of most of the people you met,” Ferrazzi wrote.
2. They gossip.
Sharing something scandalous or pejorative about a high-profile colleague or second-hand connection might win make you appealing at the bar among industry peers, but it’s a short-term, shallow play.
“Eventually, the information well will run dry as more and more people realise you’re not to be trusted,” Ferrazzi wrote.
3. They have nothing to offer in return.
Part of building a network is having the courage and confidence to introduce yourself to new people, but you’ll never build relationships by seeming like a hanger-on.
Don’t see every professional relationship as a zero-sum game, where you should tally favours on either side, but also understand that even generous people won’t want to feel like they are wasting their time helping someone who won’t be able to assist them in some way down the line.
4. They treat poorly those they outrank.
“In business the food chain is transient,” Ferrazzi said. Not only do you never know where you or the people you interact with will end up, but your colleagues will quickly take notice of they way you value hierarchy over relationships.
5. They’re not transparent about their intentions.
Be straightforward, not coy.
Ferrazzi explains that when he meets someone he’s been waiting to, he expresses from the outset his enthusiasm and his belief they could help each other out. “People respond with trust when they know you’re dealing straight with them,” he wrote.
6. They’re ‘too efficient.’
“Reaching out to others is not a numbers game,” Ferrazzi wrote. Don’t patronize people by sending out mass emails or letters with no distinguishing touches.
Ferrazzi explained that by the time he was CMO at Deloitte, he had a contact list of thousands of people, and he twisted his own networking philosophy, hiring temp workers to forge his signature on these countless letters. At one point, one of his friends joked that he really appreciated that he had received not one but three cards (a coordination mistake on Ferrazzi’s part) and that each had a different signature.
“When you look back upon a life and career of reaching out to others, you want to see a web of friendships to fall back on, not the ashes of bad encounters,” Ferrazzi wrote. In other words, don’t be a jerk.
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