Friday, March 9, 2012

On Networking and Paul Revere

Leo uses Facebook to  keep up with his extensive network
I recently read a book that changed my opinion about networking.

The book was The Skinny on Networking by Jim Randel.  I picked up a copy after Baker from Man Vs Debt described it as the best book on networking honestly and genuinely (something like that, I can't find the post again). From what I can tell, Baker is a no bullshit kind of guy, so I thought the book would be worth reading.

I used to picture "networking" as a group of guys in suits fake laughing, trading insults, and generally congratulating themselves on being masters of the universe. The whole business sounded distasteful and sleazy.

Reading Randel's book made me realize that I was already doing some networking without knowing. When I worked for a large corporation, I made it a point to (try) to be helpful and friendly to everyone else. Sometimes I wasn't successful, but my temper and occasional lack of a verbal filter are topics for another post. I made an effort to play nicely with others because I learned quickly that 1.)You never know who will be your boss next week and 2.) Things get done more easily if you know the right people and they are willing to help you.

Point #2 was really emphasized when I read started to read (and might one day finish) The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. He explains why you know all about Paul Revere's midnight ride but have never heard of that other guy who rode through the night trying to warn people of the attack. Paul Revere was a "connector"- a guy who was involved in all kinds of diverse activities and who knew lots of people. Think about it-who are you more likely to open the door to in the middle of the night: your brother's business associate who you met at a neighborhood Christmas party, or some guy you don't know from Adam? And that's why Paul Revere was successful in warning people of the planned British attack, and that other guy has faded into obscurity.

Hopefully none of us will have to stave off a British invasion, but the point is that it's much easier to accomplish things if we have cultivated the right connections. It's hard to know in advance who the right connections will be, so its best to make a LOT of connections. Get to know those people, help them out if you can (sometimes you are the right connection), and they will be much more likely to contribute to your success when you need them.

What I have learned about networking is that the lessons from kindergarten still apply: be nice to everyone (try anyway), share your toys, help others when you can. I still haven't mastered "If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all," but I'm a work in progress. Overall it seems like a good way to live, and having people to help you when you need it is just gravy.

I was looking back at my New Year's post about resolving to say yes more.  I'm not doing a very good job of sticking with it, but I want to get back on the wagon. Not only does saying yes lead to more interesting opportunities, but it helps you make those connections. Paul Revere didn't get to be the subject of a famous poem by skipping parties and staying home.  Those of you who know me personally are welcome to hold me accountable!

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and let me know if you want to borrow this great little book!

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