Walking into a roomful of strangers can be a daunting prospect because, as an official introvert according to the Myers-Briggs personality test, I find business networking challenging at the best of times. Networking appears to be self-serving, too, which leaves me feeling uncomfortable.
But working in an industry full of extroverts who appear entirely at ease when networking created a gnawing sense of my own shortcomings, so I set about researching how to hone these skills and found an older .Inc article about Keith Ferrazzi, a ‘Master Networker‘. Perfect! Although he was under 40 at the time, Ferrazzi had stellar academic and professional credentials and already accumulated more than 5,000 contacts including former US presidents, CEOs and celebrities. What were this Master Networker’s secrets?
The dynamic Ferrazzi shared his networking tips during a meeting with journalist Tahl Raz. And as I read Raz’s ‘The 10 Secrets of a Master Networker‘ I started to wonder whether undertaking even a fraction of Ferrazzi’s networking activities was possible for us mere humans – or more importantly – worth it?
At the time of the article, Ferrazzi was in a long-term relationship but didn’t have children and ‘spent almost all his time working’. Words from the article caught my attention: ‘dynamic’, ‘successful interactions’ and ‘connecting’ but they were drowned out by terms like ‘deliberate strategy’, ‘chip on the shoulder’, ‘gamesmanship’ and – perhaps worst of all – ‘manipulation’ and ‘phony’.
By the end of the article, it became apparent that becoming a Master Networker is simply not in my genetic makeup. I don’t want to be the person targeting a hit list of VIPs in a roomful of strangers, nor do I want to let the work of networking spill over into the sacrosanct time carved out for family and my fewer-than-5,000 close friends.
On the other hand, the article highlighted something Ferrazzi has done with which I strongly agree. According to Raz, Ferrazzi has turned the 1980s management tactic of gathering knowledge and keeping it for one’s own benefit on its head. Networking is, for Ferrazzi, about ‘a constant and open exchange of favors [sic] and intelligence’. As an information professional, sharing intelligence is rewarding and aligns with my intentions to share information.
Ultimately, Ferrazzi’s ‘career karma of how much you give…determines how much you’ll receive‘ is still relative in 2014, and can mesh with the ideals of authentic managers who value sincerity. And that IS a very important networking lesson from a Master Networker.