The Non-sleazy Guide to Building a Network
Talking to other people is the worst.
I was terrible at it when I was younger.
I remember every time I went to public events as a little kid, my mom would have to drag me to where the other kids were sitting, and then introduce me to them.
And then I would try to smile, talk to them, but then inevitably say something stupid.
I got past the “awkward little kid” phase as I got older, but talking to people randomly was still kind of tough.
Many of us have had experiences that make us feel like we’re introverts.
Maybe we feel “drained” after going out to parties. Maybe we don’t like going up to random people and initiating conversations. Maybe we took some random personality test online.
But the truth is, most people blame all their problems on their perceived identity instead of leveraging it to their advantage.
Networking is one of those things that can help people “skip the line” in their careers. You’ve probably seen this happen— there are always those people you knew in school who seemed “normal”, but after several years, their careers begin to skyrocket out of the blue.
They suddenly get a huge promotion. Or get featured in the press. Or work with celebrities.
They start to get tons of opportunities thrown at them, while everyone else complains that there are “no jobs left” in this economy.
They land jobs they love so much they can’t stop talking about them, while so many others drag themselves out of bed everyday to go “back to thegrind.”
What are they doing differently?
I can tell you this: It’s not because they “tried harder”, lived in the right place, went to the right school, or got some magical credential.
Here’s one huge thing they did behind the scenes: They built anauthenticrelationship with one powerful person, then got into their “inner circle”.
This is the secret behind almost every one of these stories.
Take Ryan Holiday as an example. In college, he built a relationship with Tucker Max, then started working for Robert Greene. Eventually, he became the director of marketing at American Apparel before he even graduated college.
This is not an accident.
There are literally thousands of examples of this happening throughout history.
Every successful career starts with reaching out to just one powerful person the right way.
Today, I’ll show you how to build a rock solid, powerful network in a completely authentic way — even if you feel like you’re an introvert, or not the “networking” type of person.
How to network like a normal person
The biggest stamp of credibility you can have when applying for any job isn’t a Harvard degree — it’s a referral from a powerful person in your industry.
A referral from the right person can get you opportunities that are closed off to everyone else. Sometimes opportunities that aren’t even advertised.
I knew a guy who worked in a big bank on Wall St around a decade ago.
Everything was going great. They were doing super well. All the employees felt like they were invincible. They made insane amounts of money, and everyone around them would always be impressed when they heard where they worked.
Until everything came crumbling down.
They basically went bankrupt and laid a bunch of people off.
Most people in this position would be scrambling. They would be looking for whatever job they could find to pay the bills. They would feel super anxious about how they were going to survive.
But this guy played a completely different game.
He got laid off too, but after making a few calls and sending a few emails, he had a new job lined up at another top tier firm within two and a half weeks.
And he even got a raise.
This story isn’t anything special.
Building a powerful network in an authentic way is one of the best ways to “recession proof” yourself. It’s the closest thing you could get to job security. It’s the closest thing to being “set for life.”
Imagine how relieved you would feel if you knew that at any given time, you had a team of super successful people helping you land top tier jobs that are more than just regular “9–5's” that everyone else settles for.
They might even be able to guide you away from mistakes that could cost you years of wasted time and effort.
Last year, I was considering working for a company, but one of my mentors (someone who knew the company from the inside) suggested I shouldn’t.
I probably would’ve wasted years of time going down the wrong path if it wasn’t for that one single email.
My network has been the single biggest factor in helping me get incredible opportunities that I thought were “out of my league” at first — like working with New York Times bestselling authors, companies with world class culture, and more.
The best part is, you can built your network from literally anywhere in the world.
Even if you don’t live in a big city. Even if you feel that you have nothing to offer, or you think that no one successful will want to talk to you. Even if you’re not an extrovert. Even if you don’t want to come off as sleazy or desperate.
It’s actually a very simple process. Let me show you how.
Option 1: Offer an idea or a suggestion
First, you need to figure out precisely what this person needs or wants at this moment. What questions are they tackling? Which challenges are they facing?
Here’s how I like to do this: Read their blog, watch their interviews on YouTube, listen to their podcasts, read their bookmarked articles on Delicious, and check out stuff they post on social media.
Immerse yourself in their content.
This way, you’ll know exactly what’s on their mind — at least publicly.
If you dig deep enough, you’ll eventually read or hear them say things like “I wish I had X,” or “I’m working on Y and it’s a pain.”
For example, I heard Jordan Harbinger (host of the insanely popular Art of Charm podcast) talk about how important iTunes reviews were to him on several of his podcasts, so I reached out with an idea for how he could get more reviews.
Notice how this email is not critical, but constructive. A surprising number of people come off as condescending when giving feedback — an easy pitfall to avoid.
Here’s a sample email script you can use:
I’m a big fan! Love your [blog, podcast, book, etc.] and all the great material you share.
I noticed on [specific tweet, post, comment, etc.] that you mentioned you wanted more of [X]. Here’s a quick idea I thought of that might help:
[Share your idea in one or two sentences]
Just thought I’d share this with you — hope you find it helpful!
Option 2: Offer gratitude
The first step after you find someone you want to reach out to is reaching out to them is offering value via email with no expectation of anything in return.
Most people think that they have nothing to offer someone who is a few levels higher than them.
After all, why would they ever talk to you?
But there’s one thing that’s always valuable to practically every single person in the world, no matter who they are: Gratitude. And every single person can offer it.
Once you find someone you want to reach out to, do deep research on them.
Find something they blogged about, posted on social media, said in an interview, or any material associated with them that you found valuable.
Get results using that material. Then, tell them about it.
I used a similar approach to start a relationship with SaaS entrepreneur Hiten Shah, who has now become one of my most generous, helpful mentors.
Here’s a sample email script you could use for this:
I read your post about X topic on ABC.com. I’ve read other similar posts but I specifically loved your unique insight about [Y].
In fact, I tested it out these past couple of weeks, and the results have been incredible. I got [XYZ results].
Thank you so much for doing what you do!
Most people are information addicts. They read blog post after blog post, but usually never take action.
By taking action on their advice, you immediately separate yourself from 99% of other people who are in their inbox.
You’re virtually guaranteed to make a good first impression this way.
Option 3: Offer to make an introduction
If you don’t have the right solution to their problems, then maybe you know someone who does. Maybe the person you’re trying to reach needs help with marketing, and you know a great marketer. Or maybe they’re trying to dress better, and you know a great stylist.
Notice how this is super authentic. You’re not being manipulative or sleazy here — you’re just being helpful.
I used this exact technique to reach out to Grammy award-winning rap artist Chamillionaire.
I knew that he was traveling to San Francisco to meet with some tech entrepreneurs and investors, and I happened to know some prominent venture capitalists in the area.
So I sent him an email offering to make an introduction to a VC I knew. (By the way, I didn’t have any fancy tricks to get his email address — I just signed up for his public email list, and responded to one of his emails.) As it turned out, Chamillionaire and the VC happened to cross paths at a networkingconference.
He showed her my email and started a conversation.
Two big things to keep in mind when offering to make an introduction:
- Always say what’s in it for the busy person — they’ve got a ton of people who want to meet them, so why should they take you up on an intro?
- Ask the more “powerful” person first if they’d like to be introduced.
And then what?
80% of the work is just initiating the relationship in the right way.
If you nail that, you’re already way further ahead than most people.
Now, you can do a whole bunch of things.
Maybe you want to pitch the person you reached out to and work with them. You can do that through pre-interview projects.
Maybe you want to keep the relationship going and just keep asking for advice. You can do that by repeating steps 2 and 3.
Maybe you tap into their network and get referrals for jobs that most people can only dream about. You can do that by asking for specific advice about your work (i.e. if you’re a marketer maybe you want to ask about content strategies, etc), taking that advice, and circling back to prove that you know what you’re doing in that field.
The best part is, all of this completely authentic.
You can do it from wherever you are in the world, no matter what type of person you are or what personality you have.
And soon enough, you’ll have an army of VIPs who have your back — for life.
Call to Action
If you’re an ambitious person who wants to take your career to the next level, sign up here to get my 4 Step Checklist to Landing Your Dream Job — even if you’re not sure what you want to do yet, even if you feel “underqualified.”