The more people know - the more people that know you - the better. MR CORPO explains why flattery will get you everywhere, why you should always ask for a 2nd date while you are still on the 1st date, and why networking is easier than you think. Set yourself a goal to meet one new person every month and before you know it you will have an army of supporters. Today's topic was requested by Noah who is stuck in Middle Management at his company in San Francisco. If you have a work question write to MR CORPO by email @ firstname.lastname@example.org or hit us on the social channels.
How to Network
JUSTIN: You got to give the people...give the people what they want.
JUSTIN: Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Mr. Corpo podcast. For those of you that are not in the new, that opening salvo that shot across the bow, that was me tipping my hat to my favorite podcast, the Jalen & Jacoby show. Go check it out. It features Jalen Rose from the Fab Five from Michigan, and then a guy named Jacoby -- I don't know if it's his first name or his last name or his only name, like he's Pele. But go check that out. Today's topic comes from a listener, and that's why I picked that song. You gotta give the people what they want. And if the listeners want a specific topic, they can reach out to me, they can hit me on the social channels, they can hit me on Twitter. They can hit me on Instagram, they can hit my email at email@example.com. And let me know what's on your mind, let me know what topics, let me know what you're struggling with.
But today's topic is how to network. And it comes from a listener whose name is Noah Palmer, who is firmly, firmly entrenched in middle management at a company in San Francisco. So shoutout to Noah. Let's get to work.
JUSTIN: Today's episode is gonna have three parts: number one, what is networking? Number two, why should you network? And number three, how can you network? That's what we're going to cover today. Now, before we even get started on the topic of how to network, there's a problem. It's the word "network." It sounds like something a computer would do. It sounds complicated, and even more than that, it sounds boring. It sounds like something my dad would say or the old CFO or some other old guy would say at some generic training event. It's white noise. It's this soundbite that sounds good, but it doesn't mean anything.
So in answering our first question of, "what is networking", I want to replace the word "networking" with something that is a little easier to understand and maybe even a little bit less intimidating. When we're talking about networking, we're talking about talking to people. When we're talking about networking, we're talking about talking to people. It sounds like I'm repeating myself, but I'm trying to make that point clear. That's it. Networking is another way of saying, you should talk to another human being as a human being. You've heard people say, "You need to network. You need to build your network. It's good for networking." What they're really saying is, you need to talk to other people so they know who you are and you know who they are. It's as simple as that. Networking is talking to people.
And that brings us to part two: why you should network. The workplace is an ecosystem with thousands of moving parts and people, and while you may not always be able to see how everything is connected, trust me: everything is connected. You've heard the story of the butterfly who flaps its wings and the end result of which is a tsunami halfway around the world. Well, your office is the same. Everything and everyone is connected. Everyone is intertwined. We already know that it isn't just you and your boss who decides if you get promoted. It's your boss's boss, it's HR, it's your boss's boss's boss, it's peers, it's cross-functional partners. And here's the thing: it's also the CFO, and it's also the guy at the end of the hall that you have no idea who he is or what he does. He is going to decide if you get promoted. That person who you've never met who's never met you, who's never had a single interaction with you whatsoever, they're going to play an integral role in the future of your life.
So if you're willing to accept that you exist in a workplace where everything is connected and where the random person or the random people, let's say, are going to decide what happens to you in your life, wouldn't you want as many people as possible to know you? Wouldn't you want to know as many of those people as possible? Wouldn't you want to tell them about yourself rather than someone else passing along gossip or hearsay or, they don't know you so they're just gonna move on till they find someone they do know? Well, the best way to do this is to talk to people, otherwise known as networking.
Before we move onto the topic of how to network, I wanna list three reasons why you should network. 05:01 Number one, control the narrative. You are your greatest advocate, or at least you should be. So doesn't it make sense that you should be, or you should want to be, the person controlling, dictating, influencing what other people think about you? Get out there. Start networking. Control the narrative about yourself.
Number two, it's good to have options. Life is funny, it takes twists and turns you never would have suspected. Job opportunities open up in difference divisions at different companies, and you never would have thought you were gonna end up there. But it's always to your advantage if you know someone that's there. And because life doesn't go in a straight line, you don't know where it's gonna go, you don't know what the future holds. So the best thing to do is cast a wide net. Build your network. Get to know as many people as possible. Trust me: there have been three or four opportunities in my career where a big job came along. A job I would have absolutely loved to have. But I didn't even get a foot in the door, I didn't even get a chance to interview, I didn't even get a shoutout because at an earlier stage in my life, I wasn't building my network. There were people I worked with early in my career that went on to big and successful things. I didn't talk to them. And guess what? I paid the price later on. I didn't get a chance at that great interview.
Now, I'm not talking about some huge, labor intensive effort. It didn't take a lot for me to network with those people, it's not like -- I didn't move mountains to talk with them. All I'm talking about here is, I didn't even say hi to those people, and I count saying hi as networking.
Okay, the third topic: people. The more people you know, and the more people who know you, the better. It's as simple as that. In a world that is so connected, the more connections you have, the better. Whether it's solving a problem at work and you're able to say, "I know that person. Hey, I know someone in that division. Hey, I'll call so and so, because I talked to them earlier." Whether you're launching a new business -- people are the most important part of making life work, or making work work. So the more authentic human interactions and the more human connections you can cultivate, the better.
Okay, so we've redefined networking as simple talking to other human beings. We've also justified the many benefits of talking to these human beings in an effort to justify why you should talk to these other people, why you should network. Now let's talk about how you network. Here's the thing about networking: it's easy. It's stupid easy. And anyone can do it. Here are three ways to network: number one, say hi. Saying hi to people is networking. Saying thank you is networking. But saying hi is the most important and overlooked and easiest method for networking. You know when you're early to a meeting and people are kind of trickling in? It's kind of awkward because everyone doesn't know each other, everyone wishes they had showed up a little bit later, because it's a little bit strange when there's only a couple people in the room. Maybe you even do know the person but they're not your best friend. You know what I'm talking about. We have these kind of situations every day, every week, big and small. And in these moments, everyone kind of retreats to their own chair. They find an empty row, they flip through their papers, they're pretending to look at something. Or nowadays they pull out their phone and they just scroll through things. They're purposely shutting themselves off from the people around them and saying, "I'm busy, look, I'm not lonely, I'm doing something so you don't need to bother me." It's at these moments you need to network. And by network, I mean say hi. It's a stranger. Introduce yourself. It's a co-worker. Make small talk. It's a big boss, walk over and say hi. "Hi, Jeff, I'm Justin Kerr. I'm a senior merchant in the kids division. I just wanted to introduce myself." Because here's the thing: Jeff, even though he's an SVP, even though he's an executive vice president, whatever the title is, he's also a human being. And he's also nervous. And he's also feeling awkward that he showed up in a room where there aren't enough people, and he's a little bit early and he's not sure what he should do. He may also be shy. He's human. So treat him like a human, and say hi. Guess what happens? One week from now, one month from now, one year from now, five years from now, Jeff is going to remember you. He's gonna think fondly of you because you're the person who said hi.
And while you may think I'm over-exaggerating or I guess the phrase is just "exaggerating", the truth is, I'm not. Because while I presented the idea to you as simply saying hi, 10:05 in fact there're many more layers to it. By saying hi, you showed self-confidence. You showed good manners. You showed Jeff that he could trust you to talk to other people in a normal way. That's about 50 percent of what it takes to be a good leader, to be a good person.
Now, before I move on from the benefits of saying hi, I don't want you to interpret my point as being, you should only say hi to big bosses. The point is, you should say hi to everyone. Cause the thing is, you don't know. You don't know who's gonna leave the company and create the next great startup. You don't know who's gonna be working at a company you're gonna want to work for. And whether you say hi or not at that meaningless meeting is gonna determine if you have an ally or a stranger waiting for you at the gate. And finally, you don't know how much it'll mean to that other person lower on the totem pole if you just go say hi to them. Remember, it's an ecosystem -- everything is connected. So say hi to everyone. If you're nice to someone who's lower on the food chain than you, guess what? They're probably gonna talk to other people and say, "You know what? That guy's pretty nice. He said hi to me." So you're spreading the good work, you're networking without even networking. And all you had to do was say hi.
Alright, I wanna move on to other ways of networking. If saying hi is the casual side of networking, there's also a more strategic side to networking. It's easy, too. Anyone can do it. I'm gonna focus on two methods. One, the email cold call. And two, in the moment slash follow up. Let's say there's someone in the company you'd like to meet. How do you cross that bridge? How do you make that connection? One option is, ask for an introduction. If your boss knows someone or if someone knows someone, ask them to make an introduction for you. This is using your network to build a bigger network. That's a great way to go.
But let's say you have no connection whatsoever to this person -- what do you do then? Here's what I want you to remember: flattery will get you everywhere. Send them an email, and say you like their style, say you like the way they work, say you like the way they think, say you like the way they handle things, and you'd appreciate a chance to talk with them even for 15 minutes. I don't know a person in the world that wouldn't respond favorably to such a message. Flattery will get you everyone. Now, here's the key: keep it short. The less words, the better. I think three sentences is too many. Two sentences is perfect. Sentence number one should say, "I like you." Sentence two should say, "Can I meet you?" That's it. Guaranteed success 90 percent of the time. Make it easy for them to say yes. That's why we said 15 minutes. You're gonna have plenty of time in the future to build a relationship. Keep the email short, keep your first meeting short, 15 minutes. And if you like each other, if you hit it off, you're gonna have plenty of 30 minutes sessions, one hour sessions, long lunches, whatever you want. So don't try and get everything at once. I guarantee you, if you ask someone for 30 minutes or an hour, they're gonna say no. Who wants to be trapped in an office with someone they don't know for 30 minutes or one hour? That sounds like a nightmare to me. Now, if you wanna move your chances to 100 percent response, you need to add a specific point of interest. A topic that they love, a specific comment that they've made you wanna reference, or a shared interest. Keep it punchy.
Alright, that's how to network via the email cold call. And I can get you a 90 or 100 percent acceptance rate on that, so use that. Here's another way to network that's more in the moment, or with a follow up. You'll recognize this as a version of what we just talked about, but it's a little bit different. If you're coming out of a meeting where there's someone that you like or something that you've connected with, use the excuse of that specific topic or that question or a disagreement to launch a relationship. Grab someone in the hallway and ask, "Would it be okay if I grab you for ten minutes to follow up on that point? Or, "I'm interested in what you said at that meeting. Would it be possible for me to set up some time for us to talk about it? I'm not sure I totally understand." Remember, flattery will get you everywhere. No matter what happened in the meeting, no matter what titles they are, everyone gets nervous about what they're doing and self-conscious about was it received well, was it not, were people listening, was it not. If you're able to walk up to someone and acknowledge their existence, let alone flatter them, trust me: they're going to want to engage with you, they're going to acknowledge you, and it's gonna lead to good things. Now, that's what I have to say about networking.
15:00 But actually, that's not all I have to say about networking. I wanna take this next section into the bonus section. Bonus section! Bonus section! Come on, Jessica! Bonus! Bonus section! Bonus section, I love you! Bonus section. Now, you might have heard me call out Jessica in that bonus section introduction. We have our first live audience member of the Mr. Corpo podcast. Sure, we are now recording episodes live and broadcasting them to you via Instagram when we record the episodes. But now, we have live audience members. Jessica, we're so happy to have you here.
JUSTIN: I've got four random points I wanna make about networking. Number one: don't be the annoying person who shows up and tries to set meetings with every top executive. That's being a kiss-ass. Nobody likes a kiss-ass. Don't do that. Number two: don't try and meet every single person at once. Slow and steady is better. I recommend that you set yourself a goal of meeting one new person every 30 days. Once a month. It's easy. It doesn't sound like much. One new person every 30 days? Anyone can do that. I can do that, you can do that, it's simple. But here's the math: at the end of the year, there's gonna be 12 new people that you have a relationship with. That you've created a positive interaction with. Twelve new people that become allies of yours, supporters of yours, fans of yours, or that you can draw on at some future time. Twelve new people at the end of one year. Fast forward at the end of three years, 36 people. Think of your office. If I could tell you you would have had 36 people who like you if you had made a little bit of effort once a month, that sounds like a good thing. And think about this: I was at Gap, Inc for 11 years. If I had followed my own advice, I would have 131 people who loved Justin Kerr. Now, I know for a fact I don't even have that many people now. I totally missed the boat. I never followed my own advice. But I would probably be president, CEO, or something super amazing if I had followed my own advice and had 131 people who said, "You know what? That Justin guy, he's okay. He said hi to me." Alright.
So one person a month. Set a goal. Cause here's the other thing: if you go out there and try and set meetings with everyone right at once, you're gonna do that and you're gonna flame out and you'll never meet anyone else the rest of your career and it's a wasted energy. So set a specific goal, a small goal, an achievable goal, and let it build up over time.
Number three, what are you going to say? Sure, you can get in the room if you follow my advice. But if you don't have your act together, it can do more harm than good. So here's what I encourage you to do when you get in the room, when you're networking, when you're talking to someone. Whether this is in a hallway conversation, whether this is in a formal setting, whatever the case may be, here's four things I want you to do. Number one: reveal a secret. You can say, "I never admitted this to anyone, but X." It can be so small and trivial, but it draws the other person in, because you're showing a vulnerability. You're letting them in, you're giving them a secret.
Number two, share something person. You're just a number at work. But if you can break that paradigm by showing your human side, by showing something that you're interested in. I love comics. I'm a beekeeper. I swam across the ocean. Whatever the case may be, I walk to work. It doesn't matter. You don't have to have a wow. You've got to give them something to hold onto that allows them to, when they see you, they remember, hey, that's the guy that walks to work. At least that's something. So share something personal. That was number two.
Number three, have a specific question. You've gotta go in there having something that you want to ask, that you've prepared. If you're lucky, the topics will just roll and you'll go with it and there'll be a thousand things you talk about. But if you don't hit it off, you wanna go in there and make sure you have at least one topic that you say, "This is something I wanna get out of this meeting, here's a question for you." It's gonna make you look prepared, it's gonna make you look smart. And it's gonna take the pressure off of the other person of having to carry the entire conversation.
And here's the fourth thing, and this is really important cause a lot of people miss this: ask for a second date. If you like the meeting and you like how it's going, it's better to ask for the second date during the first date. You're in the room. You have their attention. It shows them that this isn't a one night stand. You wanna keep this relationship going, and it may make them more willing to go deeper and open themselves up. So ask for that second date while you're in the room.
Alright, my final point: 20:10 network within your network. Don't go big game hunting. Don't look for executives, don't check a box and think, "I'm networking, I talked to the CEO, I talked to the CFO, I talked to the Vice President." That's one thing. It has its own place and time. I encourage you to strengthen your immediate circle. Start with your own team. If you're a boss, network with your team. Talk with them. Have human interactions with them. Say hi to them. Don't skip over your cross-functional partners, the people you see every day. Are there people in your world, you walk by their desk every day and you never say hi? Break that paradigm. It gets awkward for everyone. Just say hi to them.
That's networking. Build up your network, start small and build outwards. Focus on the everyday. The stronger your foundation is, the stronger your network is in your immediate sphere, the better off you're gonna be, okay? Now, here's the thing: every human interaction is networking. Sure, you're gonna build new interactions, you're gonna strengthen existing interactions, and you're gonna re-establish forgotten human interactions. Reach out to the old boss. Reach out to the old co-worker. Reach out to the old employee that used to work for you. Drop them a quick email. See how they're doing. This is networking. It's another form of networking. Just cause they're not in your office, doesn't mean that they're not relevant. In fact, they may be more relevant for you, because they're out in the big world. They're outside your tiny little box that you exist in.
So take advantage of that, drop a quick email, just tell someone, "Hey, I was thinking of you. How's it going?" Let them pick it up from there. That's gonna be worth it's weight in gold as you go out in the world. And maybe it's one year, two years, three years from now when you need them. Put that down payment, it doesn't cost you anything. Go say hi to somebody.
Alright. That's it for the Mr. Corpo podcast today. And that all came from Noah, who sent me a text at midnight on a Friday and the next day I sat down, I woke up in the morning, and I wrote 20 pages about how to network. It had never crossed my mind. So get out there, shoot me a message on the social channels, let's figure out what else we can solve for everybody.
Rob, thanks for another great episode. Jessica, thank you for being our best live audience member of all time. Also our first, but our best. You're setting the standard. And shoutout to everyone else who's joining us on the live Instagram feed. Um, I don't have anything else to say, but in the future you can type us questions and I'll take your questions during the live show. And by the way, mrcorpo.com is our website, where all of our episodes live. You can buy some of the books and you can check everything else out. So that's it. Signing off from the Mr. Corpo podcast. Onwards and upwards.