Never Eat Alone is a modern classic, which explains the art of networking and gives you actionable advice on how you can harness the power of good relationships and become a good networker to build a career you love.
Keith Ferrazzi learned about the power personal relationships can have early on in his life. Not only did he observe how people interact and reciprocate favors as a caddie in the local country club, but also learned that moxie pays off, when his Dad went to his boss’s boss’s boss’s boss – the CEO of the steel company he worked for – to tell him he wanted more for his son than he ever had. As a result, Keith went to the best private school in the country on a full scholarship.
Nowadays Keith’s rolodex counts well beyond 10,000 contacts, whom he can count on to return his calls. In 2005, he shared everything he’d learned so far about being a good networker in Never Eat Alone.
Even back in 2005, over half of all jobs were found through personal contacts, with only 20% resulting from applying to advertisements and just 10% going to people as a result of unsolicited applications. By now, over 80% of jobs are landed through networking, so a few tutoring lessons in this subject you never had in school can’t hurt, can they?
Here are 3 lessons to help you become a better networker:
- Relationships aren’t like cake, they’re like muscles.
- You must build your network long before you need it.
- How you spend time with people is much more important thanhow much time you spend with them.
Ready to become a super-connector? Let’s do this!
Lesson 1: Relationships don’t disappear like cake, they grow like muscles.
There’s a great analogy in the book to describe how relationships actually work, which is a good thing to know before you start building them. Keith says they’re not like cake, which disappears over time, because it gets smaller with every slice you take.
Relationships have a lot more in common with muscles. The more you use them, the stronger they get, because they grow each time you exercise them.
But just like your muscles, building relationships takes time. If you go to the gym for the short-term investment of working out once until you collapse, and then expect to look like Arnold the next day, you’re in for a disappointment. Instead, constant generosity and loyalty will get you where you want to go. Sticking with the muscle example, if you show up to the gym twice a week for a year and are generous with how you treat your muscles (by giving them lots of breaks and eating well), you’ll reap the rewards of a good body.
For your relationships, this means not giving up on your co-workers once they’ve helped you with that PowerPoint issue you’ve encountered, and loyally repaying the favor, for example by generously listening to them for half an hour, if they tell you about their marital problems.
In a nutshell, if you want to be a good networker, never ask “How can others help me?”. Rather, always ask “How can I help others?” and you’ll do just fine.
Lesson 2: Start building your network now, not just when you need it.
There’s a really cool quote about the principle of starting early. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” (here’s a cool pic of it on my Instagram)
Just like you can’t buy safety vests when your ship is already sinking, you have to build your network long before you need it. If you build a basis of understanding and trust with someone, you can sure count on their help when you eventually face a problem you can’t solve alone. Nobody likes a leech, who only comes to you when they need your help. Everyone wants to feel respected and valued.
A good networker builds relationships like a marathon runner, not a sprinter. For example, when he was only 22 years old, Bill Clinton started writing down the names of everyone he’d met that day every evening, in order to remember them better. You can bet he called some of those people when he was campaigning to be president, and they helped him because they’d known him as a genuinely nice and interested guy long before.
Lesson 3: How you spend time with people matters a lot more than how much time you spend with them.
Most people get a headache thinking of networking, because they think of it in terms of width, not depth. You don’t have to have 10,000 contacts, like Keith, and you sure don’t have to send out 10,000 birthday cards each year. A good network doesn’t consist of fleeting acquaintances. It is a web of real, trusted friends.
That’s why you should look for what Keith calls relationship glue. The stuff that turns acquaintances to friends. You know, the tough mountain climbing trip you go through alongside each other, the 4-hour, midnight philosophy talk, or the exciting football game you went to.
Don’t look at how much time you spend with people, just how you spend it with them. Get to know people in a setting where they’re having fun, not where they feel they have to make small talk, in order to comply with social conventions. The best small talk isn’t small talk at all.
Be open, honest, share vulnerable moments from your life, and, most importantly, give people your full attention. One friend is worth a thousand contacts, so don’t rush building your network. Take it one step and person at a time.
My personal take-aways
That was a long summary. There’s tons of good stuff in the book, and since it mostly draws on Keith’s personal experience, it reads sort of like a biography, which makes the ideas from the book stick really well. Feels very much like a modern version of How To Win Friends & Influence People, and that’s a huge compliment!