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Why is networking a dirty word?

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The bottom of this post has a free giveaway. Read on!

Everybody hates the word networking. Once, at the dinner table in college, I surveyed 20 people who lived with me. I asked them what they thought of “networking,” and 19/20 said they had negative connotations. Networking is sleazy, they said.

You can’t argue with that. I hate when people say “Ramit, you’re a good networker” because it’s such a loaded word.

The thing is, I totally disagree with common perceptions of the word. Networking isn’t about going up to people and getting 5 million business cards. It’s not about having the biggest rolodex. I mock those people. It’s about having deep relationships and giving more to people than you expect back.

I could write a lot more about this–because the #1 reason for any success I’ve had has been the people around me–but I won’t. You know why?

Because someone already did it. And they did it much better than I could have.

There is a book called Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. This is the book I wish I’d written. It’s that good. And I’m giving away 2 signed copies (signed by the author, not me) to readers of IWillTeachYouToBeRich.

It’s easy to win. Just add a comment here and talk about

  • Your worst experience with “networking” (whatever you think it is), or
  • Your best experience with networking

I’ll pick 2 of the best entries and send you signed copies.

It’s the holiday time and I want to give stuff away. And this is one of my favorite books of all time.

The contest ends Thursday, so tell your story here.

Update: The winners have been announced.


And, if you want, sign up for Keith’s newsletter. It’s good.
Thanks to Ian for arranging these books.

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26 Comments on "Why is networking a dirty word?"

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Mike Willingham
10 years 8 months ago
Thank you for this opportunity, Ramit. I always enjoy reading your posts and applying many of the principles you are so passionate about. My networking began really, as an accident. I am originially from Little Rock, Arkansas, and have been a private jeweler for almost 20 years. Little Rock is a smalls city, only about 250,000 people. However, it is a city with many affluent people who love to attend fundraisers and society events. I am one of those who love to attend those as well. After attending five or six of these events, I began to realize I was… Read more »
Jonathan Otto
10 years 8 months ago
My best experience started as a neighbor queried me about helping him buy some computers. This led to me setting up everything electronic all around his house. Later he asked me if I’d be interested in working at the IT department of his law firm. The best part about this opportunity was not the job, but more networking, and mentoring. Every time I fixed a partner’s computer, they taught me a lesson: what to major in, where to go to school, where to work, what to learn, how to communicate. The initial network gave me references for schools and jobs,… Read more »
scottandrew
10 years 8 months ago
I’ve never had a truly bad networking experience. Usually, the worst that happens is: nothing happens. 🙂 So here’s my best: I’m a solo musician of the coffeeshop variety. On my way back from the South By Southwest music conference in Austin, I was standing alone in the airport waiting to board my plane, when a guy with blue hair standing nearby noticed my guitar case. “Did you play at the conference?” he asked. We started chatting about the different acts we’d seen, who was good, etc. It turned out this guy was a music promoter in my hometown. When… Read more »
Ganesh
Ganesh
10 years 8 months ago
My personal opinion is that it’s impossible for an individual to learn all that’s there to learn by experience. Especially for a young person, mentorship is an absolute must. Every single interaction of mine with either a business man or a scientist has been accompanied by lessons in life. Stuff that no textbook or school will teach you. Here’s one more secret. Well established business men/scientists are keen to help you out. Honestly, they are curious to know your approach to life, and let you know if you are making the same mistakes as they did. Do I call this… Read more »
Russ
Russ
10 years 8 months ago

Not so much an experience as a viewpoint: The Sales Manager who hired me for my 1st job out of school always said, “Networking is only 1 letter away from being ‘Not-working'”.

I did, and still do, disagree with this sentiment, but thought it was an interesting example of people’s preconceived notions and/or misinterpretation of a concept.

-Russ

Jabra Ghneim
10 years 8 months ago
I wouldn’t be where I am today wasn’t it for networking through the years. My wife says that it is hard for people to forget me. he following story is one of many that has blessed my life financially over the years. Three years ago I made friends with a co-worker at AOL. He left AOL but we kept our contact alive. One day he called me up, gave me a phone number to call. That phone call improved my financial fortunes for good and is the reason why I have a successful business today. The people I called needed… Read more »
Carver
Carver
10 years 8 months ago
The most interesting question (the header) was left unanswered: Why is it that people consider ‘networking’ a dirty word? Look at two extremes of people: the ones who are so naturally talented at networking that they don’t realize they are doing it, and the ones who are so introverted that they define any interaction with other people as networking. To the first group, there’s no conscious effort to network, so to them any activity called networking must be “posing” and have ulterior motives. To the introverts out there, talking to new people can be such an effort (rather than a… Read more »
DUST!N
10 years 8 months ago
My worst networking experience? Easily, it was an Art Director’s Club meeting. These meetings are full of creative types (of which I am one). They range from college students to local veterans. I was very tired of the superficial chit-chat that most of the younger creatives engaged in, so I opted to sit at a table with some industry veterans instead (a photographer and creative director). I was hoping that they would share more mature insights and discuss more meaningful subject matter. Wrong on both accounts. Once we broke the ice, the two men in their mid-forties engaged in an… Read more »
Jennifer
Jennifer
10 years 8 months ago
Worst networking experience? Standing next to my bf while he’s networking. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s destined for a life of politics. He runs a non-profit with several high-profile local business and political ties. He’s got that irrestistible that small-town boy charm that everyone naturally falls in love with. So, standing next to him means that I have to say neutral, boring things for hours on end that are calculated to make him look good and give people the fake smile while volunteering to do dumb things I don’t believe in . . . like flirting with old… Read more »
DWorth
DWorth
10 years 8 months ago
My best experience “networking” was on a job interview in Westlake Village, CA. I flew in early, and stopped at a local grocery store to pickup a couple of things prior to checking into a hotel. A lady backed into my rental car, but did very little damage (maybe a scuffed bumper.) After taking a quick look at both cars, I told her not to worry about it, it really wasn’t a problem. She continued to appologize, then took off. Later that evening, my prospective new boss had invited me to dinner at his house. Imagine my surprise when he… Read more »
Vinod
10 years 8 months ago
I left my previous company which is in Mumbai after working there for 5 years and moved to Bangalore with high hopes for long term plans. Once I reached Bangalore I came to know this is not the place I want to be. Accidentally I met a old friend and I told him I don’t like this place. Today morning I got a call from my old company asking me if I want to go to UK for couple of years for an interesting assignment. Somehow they came to know that I don’t like this place. It doesn’t matter what… Read more »
Dickkie
Dickkie
10 years 8 months ago
This is a wonderful oppotunity. Thank you Ramit, along with this prolific website that has become the one I visit most frequently. Here is my best experience of networking: When I was still earning my BS in computer science back in Beijing, I responded to a seemingly casual “help wanted” poster and volunteered to be a guide accompanying a British family whose great-grandpa was burried in Beijing. Without any previous experience at all, I somehow managed to not only present a city in all her glamor and reality, but also to find the grave of the great-grandpa and the dilapidated… Read more »
HogFan
10 years 8 months ago
Ironically, my worst experience with networking was also my own fault. A few years back, while I was still working on my Computer Science degree, I decided I would put my techie skills to work by talking to some wealthy contacts I knew to ask if I could work for them in my spare time. Initially, I was offered a position in this way: “You can make your own hours, come in whenever you want, and we’ll pay you $XX.XX/hour for your trouble”. The work went fine for a while, until I started getting calls from random people looking for… Read more »
AndyB
AndyB
10 years 8 months ago
The following experience wasnt mine, but I am friends with the person that it happened to, and observed his clear discomfort about being in “networking” situation that he didnt want to be in. A couple of years ago, I decided to follow a life long dream of learning how to fly. As I immersed myself in the culture of aviation, I realized that getting hired at an airline is highly dependent on getting a recomendation from a pilot that is already employed there. In my opinion, this has mostly to do with cultural and personality reasons, but it also has… Read more »
MartinB
MartinB
10 years 8 months ago
Having recently arrived in London, I was invited to attend a monthly meet up of an Ivy League university graduates. The monthly event was not restricted to people who had graduated from this particular institution, but it guaranteed that the core of the group would be. The invitation was extended by an acquaintance of a friend of mine who I met in another monthly reunion event. She was not a graduate of this institution herself and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to see networking in full swing and possibly make contacts of my own. I fall under the… Read more »
Beth Bridges
10 years 8 months ago
I had a negative networking experience that not only was bad, it was famous! People who weren’t there told me they heard about it. I work for a Chamber of Commerce. Me, my mom, and one of our Chamber members who has his store across the street from the Chamber office, went to an event that was not a Chamber event, it was for our local downtown association (where we are located). It was a holiday shopping experience where all the shops were open for the evening, with decorations, lights, light snacks … just a really lovely evening of people… Read more »
James
James
10 years 8 months ago
The worst experience came from the one sided nature of a connection and therefore the limited link with the other person. I had met a key mover in the medical-device industry who was eager with regards to may experience and future prospects. This person had played up my potential and offered an extensive set of links to further my career search. But, due to the one sided nature of this network, there was nothing I could offer up in return and once the offer of assistance failed to materialize my network connection changed to that of a person coming hat… Read more »
stephen
stephen
10 years 8 months ago
So anyhow, I was finishing law school and looking for a job. I had been active in service and leadership. I had worked at several law firms as a clerk. I had clerked with a couple of judges. I had been meeting and connecting with as many people as I could. In Keith’s lingo, they were mainly shallow bumps, but they were bumps none the less. However, I managed deep bumps with my employers. I found the perfect job opening. I wanted it. I immediately began to talk with my mentors and contacts to see who knew any of the… Read more »
David Zinger
10 years 8 months ago
I just took the book Never Eat Alone out of the public library (yes, there still are libraries with real live librarians there to help you). This was just after I had breakfast with 3 other people that I worked with last year. The librarian got the book because it was on hold for me. As she passed it to me she said, “I read that book.” We then discussed the book a bit and she said it was helpful and useful to her. She was a newer librarian that I had not met before but I think we just… Read more »
Boris
10 years 8 months ago
A few years ago I was the CEO (and founder) of a Wireless ISP (Wi-Fi Hotspots) in The Netherlands. One evening I attended a birthdayparty of a business contact I didn’t even know that well. I didn’t feel like going at first but felt it was the right thing to do so I went anyway. At the party I spoke with a guy who told me he worked at a large telecom operator. At the end of the evening we exchanged emailaddresses and shook hands. As I came home I decided to email him with a small compliment and my… Read more »
Mike
10 years 8 months ago

I think an important point to add to all of this is is to never burn bridges. When you leave a company whether by your choice or theirs do not tell people you hate them or your true opinion about them. You never know who they know or where they might be working in 5 years. Also make sure not to talk badly about a company in front of people you don’t know, you never know who they work for or if you will be applying to work there one day.

Stuart
10 years 8 months ago
The tool of informational interviewing is one that I learned when I was in the MBA program at Virginia Tech. I simply wrote handwritten letters to athletic directors at Division 1 institutions across the nation asking for 10 minutes of thier time to ask them what it took to be in their shoes. (I am now not pursuing that career.) One letter I wrote was to CM Newton, the AD at Kentucky. At the time, he was pretty powerful and the chair of the NCAA basketball selection committee. It was a late Friday afternoon and I was taking a snooze… Read more »
jay
jay
10 years 6 months ago
My best networking story is this: I was renting an apartment in Boston and need two roommates to pay the rent. Of course, finding roommates was a harrowing experience with all kinds of odd people coming into my apartment, plus the fact that I was a motivated “Buyer” almost led me to live with some of them. Anyway, couple of weeks in, someone comes to check out the place who was a good forty years older than me. Even so, we sat down and talked and turns out that he was a very cool guy. In addition, he was a… Read more »
faiz
faiz
10 years 5 months ago

good esay

Sharon Robbins
Sharon Robbins
10 years 3 months ago

Hi,

Love your web site!!

Regarding Networking, because it did feel sleazy and because I didn’t feel comfortable asking people for something with out being up front about my intentions.

Your idea totally turns things around.

Barry
Barry
8 years 4 months ago

Don’t ignore the flaws your mentor displays. Everyone has flaws. Learn from their flaws so you don’t repeat them.

Also be realistic as well as idealistic. The sooner you learn that you must first survive in order to thrive, the better off you will be. Ultimately, it’s your life and times that matter.

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