(Excerpted with permission from Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone)
Imagine, for a moment, that all your family and friends and associates are a part of a garden. Take a stroll through that relationship garden. What do you see? If you’re like most people, you see a tiny parcel of cleanly cut grass that represents the usual suspects of an ordinary Rolodex. It consists of your immediate friends, coworkers, and business partners: the most obvious people.
Your real network, however, is an overgrown jungle with an infinite variety of hidden nooks and crannies that are being neglected. Your potential for connecting is at this moment far bigger than you realize. All around you are golden opportunities to develop relationships with people you know, who know people you don’t know, who know even more people.
There are a number of things that you can do to harness the power of your preexisting network. Have you investigated the friends and contacts of your parents? How about your siblings? Your friends from college and grad school? What about your church, bowling league, or gym? How about your doctor or lawyer or realtor or broker?
[Learn how to Build Your Professional Network in this online class.]
In business, we often say that your best customers are the customers you have now. In other words, your most successful sales leads come from the selling you’ve already done. The highest returns don’t come from new sales; they come on top of the customer base you’ve already established. It’s easiest to reach out to those people who are at least tangentially part of your network. The big hurdles of networking revolve around the cold calls, meeting of new people, and all the activities that involve engaging the unknown. But the first step has nothing to do with strangers; you should start connecting with the people you do know.
Focus on your immediate network: friends of friends, old acquaintances from school, and family. I suspect you’ve never asked your cousins, brothers, or brothers-in-law if they know anyone that they could introduce you to to help fulfill your goals. Everyone from your family to your mailman is a portal to an entirely new set of folks.
So don’t wait until you’re out of a job, or on your own, to begin reaching out to others. You’ve got to create a community of colleagues and friends before you need it. Others around you are far more likely to help you if they already know and like you. Start gardening now. You won’t believe the treasures to be found within your own backyard.
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