I recently had breakfast with the US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich. A close personal friend of President Obama (and Clinton), Ambassador Bleich has had the kind of successful trajectory that many others try to emulate. I’ve found that diplomats usually have a pretty good handle on life, and this remained true throughout most of the conversation. A key point that stuck with me though, was the half-joking statement, “every now and then, one of your friends becomes the President of the United States of America”.
It reminded me of this quote by fellow thought leader Robert Scoble: “if you’re a geek and you don’t think networking is important then you probably are making about 60% of what you could make if you were a little more skilled at networking.”
In my own life, when I was working as a freelance Sound Designer, I remember a very busy period where I did about 40 high-profile theatre and/or music shows back-to-back over a couple of years. As usual in the the entertainment industry, for each one of those shows, the next one came from a referral (hence the industry catchphrase “you’re only as good as your last gig”). Usually the referrals were from the standard points; directors, stage managers, producers. Often though, the referrals were from unlikely sources; set designers, drummers, and even audience members!
You may have heard the 80s buzzword “B2B”, or business to business, used to describe communications and relationships between two corporations. Truthfully, there is not, and never has been such a thing. It’s really F2F, friend to friend (or acquaintance to acquaintance!). In other words, I have never in my life dealt with a corporation, and neither have you. I have dealt with Rosemary the Customer Support Officer, or Maria the Sales Associate, or Gary the Project Manager, or David the CEO. And they deal with me as Alan, not as my company name.
Networking doesn’t just relate to business though (that’s why it fits under the “Relationships” chapter!). There are currently more than 7 billion (7,000,000,000+) people on the earth, which are available to provide you with pretty much everything you could need. Obviously, most of these people are outside of your current network and perhaps outside of your current comfort zone, so you do need to communicate and network! Everyone has a story, and everyone has something substantial to offer. If you focus on the benefits – for the other person and for the world – people will delight in assisting you on your quest, and you can also assist them.