How to Build a Network: Tips to Make Connections (+ Scripts)
Today, we’re going to explore one of those factors that can actually matter MORE than how much experience you have.
That factor is your personal network.
Ordinary people shrug and treat their network as just another word, something that “other people” have but they do not. Witness any nerdy guy talking about jocks to see the kind of “I don’t have that” barriers I’m talking about:
Curious people say, “Hey, I keep hearing about a personal network. Is it possible I actually have one but I don’t know it? How would somebody like me connect with VIPs? Is it even possible? Ok, let me read on.”
Top performers know that if they lost their job on Friday, they could make a few phone calls and send a few emails — usually, fewer than 10 — and have a job offer by Monday. That’s the power of networking. Compare this to the horror stories you see written up in newspapers about people unemployed for months or YEARS.
Top performers can have another job in days (not a typo). In fact, using their networks, top performers actually hear about unadvertised jobs that ordinary people do not.
I know because I’ve been on both sides of the table. And today, I want to pull back the veil to show you how natural networking actually works — ethically, and at the highest levels.
Case study: How your network can help you
Let me show you specifically how this works.
One year in college, I was looking for summer internships. After meeting a few people and being uninspired by the jobs out there, I decided to call one of my friends, who worked at a startup, and get her advice. I said, “Hey, I’m looking for summer internships. What companies do you know about?” I still remember that it was a Friday afternoon, because she told me to send my resume to her, which I did as soon as I got home.
By Monday, I had a job offer.
And here’s the most ridiculous part. I was told to negotiate my offer…WITH MY FRIEND FROM 7TH GRADE.
How did this happen? Yes, I spent the weekend doing lots of research on the company. And yes, when I walked in to interview on Monday, I used my Briefcase Technique to absolutely crush in the interview.
But what REALLY matters is that my friend recommended me and put her reputation on the line to get me hired. Since she was so valued at the company, her recommendation carried a lot of weight. There was no job listing on the website or Monster.com. They created it for me, and the compensation was essentially “whatever.”
By the way, what did she get out of it?
Ask yourself this: If I was a loser with no skills who wouldn’t show up on time and did sub-standard work, would she have referred me?
OF COURSE NOT! Instead, she knew I would do an awesome job…so when she referred me, she actually got social value from introducing me and fighting for me to get the job.
Read that last line, as it’s critical. If you are a top performer, VIPs WANT you to succeed, and will actually send you job opportunities and recommendations…because it’s in THEIR interest to do so.
This flies in the face of what most people think (“Why would a VIP want to help ME?? Waa…). Your network can be incredibly powerful. In this case, I never would have received this opportunity — let alone the compensation I did — if I had gone through traditional channels, like the typical resume Black Hole of Doom like everyone else.
The takeaway: Our networks can actually be MORE important than the years of experience we have.
“Waa! But Ramit…”
Right now, many of us are thinking, “Well that’s great Ramit, you jackass, but I don’t have friends who can make a call and get me a job. I didn’t go to the same college. I don’t live in NYC or the Bay Area. I don’t have the same eyebrows you do.”
These invisible scripts and reactions are normal. Of course we feel betrayed and skeptical when someone tells us we’ve been sitting on a potential goldmine and we haven’t done anything with it. Can it really be that easy? Why wouldn’t everyone do that?
I want to be crystal clear about two things.
1. Building a powerful network is not easy. If you want something easy, go find some stupid blog that posts Top 10 Career Tips for Success!
My students work harder than ordinary people, but they also get massively disproportionate rewards. For example, if the average person spends 1 hour a week sending their resumes out, my students will spend 3…but they’ll get 10x the response rate. That’s what I call disproportionate results.
2. Building your network is not about sending a fake email to someone, pretending to be interested in them, then asking for a job. If that is your goal, leave. Building real relationships is about investing in them first, figuring out what they want and love, and then helping them get it — NOT instantly expecting a magical job offer. In fact, most of the “networking” you do will simply be helping people and getting nothing back in return. If this makes you uncomfortable and you want a 1-for-1 ROI on your work, leave.
When you change your mentality about networking, understanding that it’s about adding value instead of extracting it, you will see massive changes in your life. I won’t just tell you this — I’ll show you.
I recently asked my students what they’ve learned about their network — and the results they’ve gotten from using my material on natural networking.
“He replied in less than 3 minutes”
Hey Ramit, I’ve been using your networking scripts ever since you posted them on your blog a few weeks ago. After 4 rejections and many non-replies (at other companies), I have scheduled an informational interview with a finance manager at [MASSIVE SOFTWARE COMPANY]. I used my alumni connections through my university to reach him – I wrote an email using the basic elements of your scripts and he literally replied in less than 3 minutes! -Anand P.
“I have learned years worth of material in a few hours using the…scripts”
The Natural Networking module is worth the cost of the entire Dream Job course by itself. I have learned years worth of material in a few hours just by using the Natural Networking scripts to talk to experts in my industry. I have emailed 10 experts and have talked to 9. Each person gave me great advice to step career to a new level. -Gopi M.
“…Completely natural and honest”
Ramit, I used your networking email script and it worked! The first email got me an informational interview with the president of a powerful local marketing agency. I also scored an informational interview with a high-level executive from a popular TV and print media empire. All of it felt completely natural and honest. People seem relieved that I am up front, have no angles, and understand that they are busy. And they seem to enjoy being useful, so we all benefit! – Andrea P.
Notice how these are win-win for everyone. You’re not taking advantage of anyone. You’re not scamming people (a common invisible script when it comes to building your network). What you ARE doing is adding value first…even if you don’t have money or valuable connections. In fact, later I cover exactly how a no-name 20-something can add specific value to a VIP.)
But for now, I’m going to give you one of the crucial ways you can continue adding value that almost nobody does. For the first time publicly, I’ll show you the exact word-for-word script to use to use your network in an ethical, non-sleazy way — straight from my Find Your Dream Job course.
Introducing the “Closing the Loop” Technique
First, if you’re curious about how to actually get the attention of VIPs, you DON’T have to do THIS:
I sent this to the person he talks about in the last paragraph. She asked if I was going to meet him. I said I was afraid he was going to wear my skin as a jacket.
You do not have to be creepy!! For the first time, I understand what it feels like to be a woman above the age of 13.
Notice that in the second paragraph, he actually acknowledges that he should focus on ME (the busy person)…and then he does exactly the opposite!
No, no, no. If I ever find out one of you sends an email like this, I will find you, fly out to meet you (I have a lot of free time), and kill you myself. Jackasses.
You can start by focusing on simply sending a “Hey, I noticed you’re doing really interesting stuff” note. I started doing this in high school. I would be reading a magazine and see an interesting piece about somebody doing something cool. I would just send them an email saying, “Hey I read about you in Wired. That is really cool, and I’ll be following your work.” It turns out that even after being covered in national press, most people don’t get nice emails like that where the person emailing doesn’t want something from them.
Later, in college, I would find interesting professors and email them to ask them more about their work. Usually, they would tell me to visit them at office hours, and that’s how I got lots of mentors and advisors. (One key thing you can ask in meetings with VIPs is: “Who else should I be talking to?” If you’ve impressed them, they won’t just suggest people — they’ll often introduce you themselves.)
Let’s say you’re interested in the fashion world. You want to become a designer. Where should you start?
Would you email Calvin Klein? No, a top-tier designer gets hundreds of emails a day from people wanting things from them.
Start with someone more approachable — perhaps a fashion blogger, or a freelance writer. They know the space, have connections, and can help you understand the lay of the land. Notice that this is the hard work I talked about. If it were simply as easy as emailing Calvin Klein (or whoever) to get a meeting, everyone would do it.
But once you’ve connected with someone you admire — whether it’s via email, phone, or best of all, a coffee meeting — what’s the secret to turning that one-time meeting into an ongoing relationship?
The “secret” is following up — in the right way.
See, the biggest mistake people make when networking is simply not doing it.
But the second-biggest mistake is NOT FOLLOWING UP. Do you know how many people have asked me out to coffee, taken 30 minutes of time to “pick my brain”…then I never hear from them again? I didn’t want a one-night stand! I wanted commitment!! Again I feel like a woman.
What does a VIP want from someone who asks for his advice? He doesn’t need your money or introductions. He already has those.
A VIP wants to know that you listened to his advice and actually followed through.
Think about it: If I meet with someone, and they write back saying, “Hey Ramit, thanks for the time, and thanks especially for pointing out that [GENIUS POINT I MADE]. I took what you said and reached out to Beth Jones and Mike Smith and found out [AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENT]. That helped me get a $3,000 raise and also get Fridays off”…
THAT is worth more than any amount of money he could give me. And it’s the first step to building a relationship.
If you’re going to meet a VIP, whether it’s over the phone, via email, or in person, why go to all that trouble…and then drop the ball by not following up?
I’ll tell you why: Because when we talk to a VIP, in the back of our heads, we have a voice whispering, “There’s no way I can help this guy. He has more money than I do…a bigger email list…he knows way more about (whatever) than I do…I should just get his advice and then not bug him again.”
This is exactly the WRONG approach to take.
And yet this is what everyone does. If you believe you’re being a nuisance to the person, you will be a nuisance. The truth is, busy people are desperate to mentor and help other people who are going to take action. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people will not follow up on what busy people say.
Why am I giving you this script?
Even though I’ve helped thousands of students find their Dream Jobs, and I could keep my very best material in my premium courses, I wanted to give you this powerful nugget. I know that when I invest in you, you can see surprising benefits and dramatic changes — often within hours. Just look at the 2,000+ comments in the last few days. Or some of the dramatic results my Dream Job students have received — in their own words.
Sometimes, we need a little nudge.
The Closing The Loop script
The Closing The Loop script helps you stay in touch with people you’ve met once and turn a one-time meeting into a long-term relationship. When you use this, you won’t come off as sleazy, slimy, or scammy — because you’re truly putting their needs ahead of your own.
Notice that a simple “thank you” message isn’t enough. Everyone sends that! It’s become the price of admission. How do you go beyond that to actually make the VIP want to help you?
Enter the Closing The Loop Technique:
1. Thank You (same day)
Just wanted to thank you again for meeting with me earlier. I’m definitely going to get in touch with Susan like you recommended. I’ll keep you in the loop, and of course, please let me know if there’s anything I can do to repay the favor!
[RAMIT’S ANALYSIS: Notice the simple thank you, but also a reference to a specific action item you’re going to follow up on (showing you were paying attention during the meeting/call). This email ends with a friendly offer to help and asks nothing of the VIP.]
2. Add Value (1-2 weeks later)
Saw this article in the Wall Street Journal and it reminded me of what you said about productivity tests! No response needed, just thought you might find it interesting.
[RAMIT’S ANALYSIS: This email is where things start to get surprising. The VIP likely didn’t expect to hear back from you, since almost nobody follows up beyond one email. In this email, you’re sending a valuable piece of material — an article, blog post, photo, whatever — of something you KNOW he will find interesting.
How do you know what he’ll find interesting? Because during your meeting, you listened and took careful notes.
Finally, pay close attention to the phrase used in the last sentence: “No response needed.” This is music to a busy person’s ears. Think about it: I get 600+ emails/day, and do you know what most of them want? They want something from me. When you can say “No response needed,” and send me something I find fascinating, you’re adding value to my life.]
3. Close the Loop (2-3 weeks later)
Wanted to give you an update: I did end up talking to Susan, and you were right — Acme is definitely a fit for me. I’m reaching out to a friend there to learn all I can about Acme before I apply. If there’s anyone else you think I should speak to, please let me know.
Thanks again! I’ll let you know how it goes.
[RAMIT’S ANALYSIS: Here, you show the VIP that you actually took action on what he suggested. This will instantly differentiate you from 99% of people. Notice you name specific names, let him know if he was right (or even if you chose something different than his recommendation)
In the last 3 sentences, there are also 2 non-obvious things going on. Can you spot them?]
The simplicity of the Closing the Loop technique belies its effectiveness. Just like my Briefcase Technique, it seems simple and obvious — until you use it. Then its true power is revealed.
One more testimonial to the Closing The Loop technique that you taught last night. I reached out to a prior boss I haven’t seen in 4 to 5 years about a position I heard about at that company. All I had asked for was if I could still use him as a reference and his up-to-date contact info. He responded in less than a half hour. By following up and offering to keep him in the loop, he then responded with an offer for a letter of recommendation and an offer to send a personal email to the hiring manager on my behalf. Holy Crap! It really works…
How you can use the Closing The Loop Technique for building your network
You can use this today with powerful results.
If you haven’t already found someone to reach out to — someone you admire, someone you want to ask for advice from, someone you’d like to build a relationship with — start here.
Once you have someone you’ve connected with once, it’s important to build the relationship by constantly adding value.
Who would you like to reconnect to? Who can YOU help and what would be most interesting and useful to them? Send them that. Put them first — not you. When you do, repeatedly showing that you’re investing in them first, you’ll separate yourself from the everyone else who (1) rarely reaches out to anyone for advice or help, and (2) only reaches out when they need something.
Stand out, and you will instantly have more credibility and higher-level connections with VIPs, who will want to help you.
How else can you apply this? Imagine going to an informational interview at your dream company. You finally got a meeting, yet you know you’re not supposed to ask for a job. So what do you do? How do you turn this meeting where you’re asking for advice…into an invitation to apply for a job?
Enter the Closing the Loop technique.
By carefully deploying this script (tweaking it for your needs), you can turn yourself from a frustrated job-seeker, going from meeting to meeting…into a top performer who easily demonstrates why you’re different than all the other people the VIP has met with. In the end, when properly implemented, the Closing the Loop technique actually makes VIPs want to recommend, help, or even hire you. And it’s totally ethical and transparent.
Building your network: steps you can take today
Let’s get specific and go from practicing social skills to applying them to your career — and ultimately, living a rich life.
Pick ONE item to do:
1. BUILD YOUR NETWORK — After today’s post, you realize the power of having a powerful group of people who want to help you. When it comes to building your network, I’m going to link you to two posts (here and here) that show you how to connect with VIPs using word-for-word scripts.
Your challenge: Identify 3-5 people you want to get advice from and email them, asking for the answer to a specific question (or a coffee meeting). I suggest testing your approach. Below, in the comments, post how it felt to send these emails.
2. CLOSE THE LOOP — If you’ve recently met with someone, you know how important it is to add value beyond a first meeting.
Your challenge: Use the CTL scripts and timing in this email to follow-up with 1-3 people. In the comments below, share what your NEXT email will be in your CTL series.