A Week of Networking: Bringing Equal Value

It’s been awhile since I had a week off that I could devote to my business pursuits. Over Christmas break I had basketball and so that means the last time when I could really immerse myself was over the summer.

I’ve been spending most of my ski week meeting with really interesting people in the Bay Area. When it comes to networking, I enjoy it, I find value in it, but I don’t like people who network just to build a Roladex of 5,000 people. I.e. I’d rather have 10 deep relationships than 30 shallow ones.

What struck me this week as I met with probably 50 other entrepreneurs, investors, or business people in general is that for the first time I felt like I was bringing something equally to the table. That is, to date, I was in “take” mode – gracious people would reach out a hand and I would gobble down their feedback and advice as gospel. Now, in groups, I realize that I can bring as much or more value to a conversation than other people. My voracious reading paid off for the first time, as it seemed like all week I was recommending to someone a book, article, or study they should check out. Better yet, I was making introductions to other people in my network.

Throughout the week I’ve had people tell me, a) keep at it man, grow your business to the moon!, b) don’t let school pass you by, it’s incredibly important, c) X is the most important thing to success in life/business, d) slow down man, you have your whole life!, e) hey – I love what you’re doing, we have a short time on this planet and I wish I had started as early as you did.

Translation: I get feedback that ranges all over the map (and I love it). Before, it was Truth. Now, I consider it in the context of my broad exposure to people, ideas, and advice. This allows me make better decisions and to be truer to who I am.

I also read an unedited galley version of Never Eat Alone to complement my week of networking. Interesting, some good tips, but I just don’t get how these “professional networkers” truly believe they have Roladex of 5,000 people who they can call and talk to anytime.

2 Responses to A Week of Networking: Bringing Equal Value

  1. Chris Yeh says:

    My opinion on networking is that the most important way to network is to pursue activities that bring you into repeated contact with interesting people, whether that be going to college, playing sports, volunteering, or blogging.

    I agree that professional networkers are of somewhat limited utility. If you are not genuinely interested in and pulling for someone, no amount of networking tricks is going to build a real relationship.

  2. Sean Murphy says:

    Malcolm Gladwell offered a detailed profile of an effective networker in his article Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg. For a practical “how to” guide I think chapters 3 and 4 of Rainmaking by Ford Harding are hard to beat.

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