If I had to summarize in just a few words the classic book on networking, Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, I would say, "Offer help and ask for help." Both are hard to do for many people, including me. I often limit the help I offer others because I don't want to miss my own commitments and priorities. I also limit how often I ask for help because asking for help sometimes feels like I'm trying to get others to do my work. It feels like I'm being lazy or taking a shortcut.
But my reluctance disappears when dealing with family. My best "networking" successes have involved my kids. I can think of three good networking successes involving my oldest son, Mackenzie, including one that happened this week.
- When Mackenzie was in high school, he thought he wanted to become a college football scout for the NFL. I wanted him to find out more about potential careers in sports. By reaching out to friends, I was able to get him a conference call with a scout for the Buffalo Bills, a conference call with the former Director of Football Operations for the Cincinnati Bengals, and almost got him conference calls with a sports radio announcer at WLW with ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon.
- When Mackenzie was looking for a summer internship after his freshman year in college, I wrote to several people in City Hall and got him an interview that led to an internship with Vice Mayor David Mann.
- And, three days ago, after Mackenzie decided to apply for the Criminal Law Internship Program (CLIP) in Washington D.C., I contacted every lawyer I know asking for opinions about the program. One of my friends put me in touch with two attorneys who had several years of experience with the CLIP program. One of these former CLIP attorneys lives just 3 blocks away from me! I'm looking forward to finding out the plusses and minuses of this program and passing this on to Mackenzie.
If only I could learn to be as brazen about asking for help for other things as I am about asking for help for my son! As long as I'm generous to others in return, my hunch is that the power of networking would live up to all the hype.