The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Network (without being sleazy)

Raghav Haran
May 4, 2016 · 7 min read

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.

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.

Step 1: Add value via email

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:

Hi [name],

I read your post about X topic on 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.

Step 2: Ask for something small

Once you’ve made a good first impression, it’s okay to ask for something small.

Maybe you want to get their advice on something specific, or get their help in making a decision.

A good question might go something like this:

“I’m trying to decide whether I should do A or B. Based on the research I did talking to specific people / reading certain articles, I think the best plan of action is to do [X].

If my end goal is to do XYZ, do you think I’m on the right track?”

And because you made a good impression in Step 1 by showing that you’re the type of person to get results, the other person will WANT to help you.

Everyone wants to be seen as a mentor. They want people to view them as an expert.

It seems counterintuitive, but you’re actually doing them a favor by letting them help you.

Step 3: Let them know they were helpful

People love to ask others for tips, and think themselves in circles about what they should do next.

But most of them never do anything with the advice they get.

It just goes in one ear and out the other.

By asking others for advice, actually taking it, and circling back with them to share your results, you instantly separate yourself as a top performer.

And at the end of the day, you’re doing yourself the favor by taking their advice.

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.

Want more?

In my private email list, I share specific strategies to help you:

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Raghav Haran

Written by

Strategist for @GaryVee on @TeamGaryVee. Insatiably curious.

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning.

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