Asking. Nobody ever wants to ask—at every level, with every kind of person, from the CEO all the way down. I think people get very narrow-minded, thinking that they can only reach out to people who are already doing a similar type of job. But the underlying network science says that it’s all about weak links. Those people who are the friend of a friend of a friend. That’s a much more likely place for something important to happen to you than your inner circle of close friends and colleagues.
If you don’t ask, you’ll never get. Sure, you may only get a little bit at a time. But if you don’t ask, 100 percent of the time you won’t get. You’ve just got to get over yourself. We live in a connection economy. If you can’t connect with people for them to understand what you have to offer, you’re working in a vacuum and you’re going to lose out. You end up getting bitter in that situation, because you see your peers are moving up and doing things, and you say, “I could be doing those things. Why not me?” It’s very easy to think that somebody knows you. And that if they know you, they will think about calling you, or asking you, or wanting you for something. But people forget. I was a headhunter for many years, and I was always amazed because easily 20 percent of the time, the final person who was hired was well-known to the client. (They just hadn’t thought about them.) That means that, for every five people you know, one is likely to have an impact on you or hire you—that should make you want to expand your circle.
Building a network is like cultivating a botanical garden: You don’t want everyone in your network to be one color or one species. You want a variety of ages and stages and professions and passions, and to tend them carefully.
Look at the people whom you admire most in your field. And literally map it out. Here are the four people that are doing great work at the organizations I respect. And just reach out. If you decided to contact one person a week, that would be fifty-two new people in a year. And it starts with that, just reaching out to someone because you admire their work, or are inspired by it. I’ve never met a person, no matter how well-known, who hasn’t been flattered by an authentic compliment. Professional love letters work.
Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career (The 99U Book Series)