Friday, June 24, 2011

Best Networking Advice Ever

Free-form Friday

Networking. It's yet another thing we're supposed to be doing to build our careers. As an anthropologist, I've long understood the value of well placed relationships in theory, but I've been unclear how to put that theory into practice.

Recently I came across the best networking advice I've heard to date from Doug Eboch. In a post on, "How NOT to Network," he advised us to network laterally.

Here's how Doug defines networking laterally:
There are different kinds of networking. What Joe was trying to do I would call “networking up.” In other words, he’s trying to build a relationship with someone more successful than he is. That is a logical way to go but actually not the most useful kind of networking. Tom Cruise networks with Steven Spielberg, I don’t. I don’t have much to offer Spielberg and real networking is a two way street.

"You’ll get most of your breaks by networking laterally. When I was starting out as a writer the people that helped me the most were the interns at production companies and the assistants to agents and producers. Those people are looking to move up and they do that by discovering great material that nobody else knows about. If my work is good then helping me helps them."
Perhaps part of my difficulty is that most of the networking success stories focus on networking up: making that critical connection to someone who can give you a break. But if I put on my anthropologist cap and think about what I've observed, the real networks that pay dividends day-in and day-out were formed among peers.

So how do you do it?

In a second post, titled, "How to Network," Doug lays out his rules of networking:
  1. Nobody is doing you a favor. "If you are talented and your work is good, you have value in the business relationship."
  2. It’s an ongoing relationship. "When you meet someone the goal should be to build that relationship not to get them to do something for you."
  3. Nobody is unimportant. "The guy delivering your script could be a major player long before your movie ever gets made." Corollary: "What you need to be looking for is talent and drive."
  4. Quality is the commodity. "All the charm in the world will not help if you don’t deliver good work."
Don't put your energy into trying to impress someone who's much further along than you are. (Chances are they don't have the time or energy to pull you up to their level anyway.) Instead, look to peers--people in roughly the same place as you--and see if there might be some place where two heads are better than one.


Image: Photography by BJWOK / FreeDigitalPhotos.net