what if all the advice we’ve heard about networking is wrong?
You already know that networking is one of the most important ingredients to success in business, in job search and many other life situations. But if you are like most people, you cringe at the thought of going to the next networking meeting full of strangers. If that adequately describes you, you might want to pick up business professor David Burkus’ latest book on the topic: A friend of a friend of a friend of a friend…..Understanding the hidden networks that can transform your life and your career.
Early on he writes that traditional networking meetings are actually not the most efficient way to meet the right people to connect you to your next job or to start your next business venture with. He proceeds to present a number of scientific findings coupled with real life examples of the approaches that do work. At the end of each chapter he presents exercises that every reader can do on their own to apply the chapter’s findings and facilitate their own networking success. Some of his key findings are:
“Find strength in Weak Ties”
While most people will turn to their trusted close friends and family after a career setback, Burkus presents scientific and anecdotal evidence that it is your weak and dormant ties that will most help you in your job search or business endeavor. While close friends are eager and willing to help, their networks are too similar to your own to unearth new information or leads. It is much more likely that a former supervisor or colleague or past college friends who we have not been in close contact with will furnish the opportunity or information that will lead to a career breakthrough. Therefore Burkus recommends to start a regular practice of reengaging old acquaintances (which represent the weak or dormant ties).
“Skip mixers – share activities instead”
Another finding of his research will have many readers breathe a sigh of relief. Burkus advocates shunning traditional networking meetings consisting of a large room full of strangers who awkwardly try to connect and network. He argues that most people at these events just engage with the people they already know or that are very similar to themselves. He presents research that suggests we meet people much more easily and naturally when we engage in activities together where the primary goal is not networking and that draw participation from diverse sources. Some examples are: serving on non-profit boards, volunteering, taking classes, participating in team sports or being active in religious institutions. These kinds of shared activities create stronger bonds among participants than networking mixers ever could.
These are just two of the main takeaways. There is a lot more material in the book. The author presents a lot of research to explain how networking works and why some approaches are more efficient than others. Burkus addresses networking issues specific to job search and to founding or growing a business. An added value of the book is the section “From Science to Practice” at the end of each chapter. Burkus gives the reader “homework assignments” to practice the preceding chapter’s materials in their own life. All the practical information can also be downloaded from his website. Following along and completing the assignments will definitely make you a more skilled and efficient networker.
If you’d like a fresh new approach to networking, you may check out A Friend of a Friend by David Burkus from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.
Written by Anne Nowak