This article was originally published on January 24th, 2011. This was one of the first books on networking that I ever read and it still holds a special place for me. It was the first book that I read that married the strategies with the tactics of professional relationship building. I still highly recommend it.
It was good to reread Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone 5 years after I first came across it. As I dove into it again, I realized how much of Keith’s philosophy and tools I have incorporated into my own networking over the past few years. In some ways, it felt like I was going back to the source material, the original ideas, that got me started in building my own network. Never Eat Alone remains one of my favorite explorations of the networking mindset, incorporating an examination of both the theory and the practical steps required.
Networking requires planning, focus, and consistent effort because it’s based on building strong interpersonal relationships; and when done correctly, it can be a huge source of professional and personal success.
Ideas, Implications, Questions
- It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Keith makes it very clear that your professional connections can have a huge impact on your career. He does tend to focus on his connections with “movers and shakers” (e.g. presidents and CEOs), but I think that networking doesn’t have to be about meeting the most powerful people you possibly can. Your relationships can provide access to opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise. You never know what connection is going to be the one that helps you land the new job, the big client, or the love of your life.
- I think I refined my love of entertaining by reading Never Eat Alone. Keith has a whole chapter on not only how, but why, to throw dinner parties for your network. It’s something I learned from my parents (whose Sunday brunches are legendary): if you want to get to know people, share a meal with them. And from Keith I learned that it’s OK to blur the line between personal and professional connections. Some of my best dinner parties and barbecues have been a wonderful mix of my friends, colleagues, and clients.
- The idea of “pinging” people in your network is incredibly useful. (page 180) Even if you don’t have in-depth conversations with everyone in your network on a constant basis, there’s value in staying on the top of their mind. I think this has been one of the biggest advantages of new social networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. The new trick is to learn how to stay relevant to your network now that there’s all of this noise distracting them.
- Keith does a great job of linking the idea of networking relationships with the idea of mutually-beneficial relationships. I love how he points out that when you can help someone improve their health, wealth, or family-situation, you help them with the fundamental concerns we have as humans. (pg 165) While addressing those three fundamental issues in your networking, you accomplish two things: 1) You help someone fulfill those needs they most need met, and 2) You allow them the opportunity to move up the pyramid of needs to tackle their higher desires, (a la Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).
- A simple, but important idea, is that of connecting with the connectors. When you find yourself in a new social sphere, whether it’s a professional association, chamber of commerce, or soccer team, figure out the person who knows everyone and get to know them. They’ll be able to introduce you to everyone and so it’s the fastest way to grow your reach. (pg 136)
Should you read this book? Who should read this book?
If you are serious about using networking to advance your career, it’s well worth the time to sit down with Never Eat Alone. Whether you are an entrepreneur, salesperson, or corporate employee, you’ll find tools that will help you advance your career.