Networking books: great guides to meaningful connection

The age of social media has proved that many of us ache for connection, and that the “virtual” world provides an opportunity for people to meet and communicate in ways that weren’t possible even six or seven years ago. We can reach out and be in instant contact with people we have admired for years, including authors, notable teachers and entertainers. And while Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and all the others can be misused, I think that, on balance, their influence on the world has been tremendously positive. Never have so many people been able to stay in touch with people from all over the world ad from all points on their life journey. May it all continue, I say.

Social media has also caused us to think more carefully about that dirty word ‘networking’. Just saying it conjurers up images of forced business meetings and the frantic exchange of cards while craning over the person’s shoulder to see if there is anyone more important standing behind them. But I think the social net has changed that, and the way that people think about ‘strategic relationships.’ It’s possible that we have ushered in a new, more democratic age in which people are interested in others in really profound ways, ways that reject the usual social measurements of status, success and perceived power.

In a time in which many people are interested in cultivating, ad being part of a tribe of 1,000 true fans, social media guru Guy Kawasaki has talked about the death of social climbing. Nobodies, he says, are the new somebodies, and now is the time we took an interest in everyone we encounter.

I do crave meaningful connection with others, and I appreciate the new and interesting people I meet online. Perhaps I will never meet many of them in real life, but I have established some lovely virtual friendships with genuinely interesting and engaging people – you know who you are! The World Wide Web has enabled me to make meaningful links with readers, peers, people from my past, famous authors and even, crucial for the freelance writer, editors.

And I have begun to think more deeply and more strategically about that old fashioned idea of networking. I learn slowly that supporting others and making yourself available to them is essential and helps to build stronger relationships. That is why I would like to let you in on a little secret. I want to share with you three books that have changed my world enormously and are the three I insist people read who come to me for advice about establishing a writing career.

Some of the language in these books can seem a bit cheesy, especially for Australian readers – remember they are addressing a mainstream business community, for the most part. But be forgiving, and be alert, because each of them contains a tremendous amount of wisdom and good advice. I literally use the three of them constantly, and as soon as I finish I go straight back to the beginning and start again.
I can honestly say that these books and their techniques for community building have improved my life, my career, my friendships and even my wellbeing. I urge you to read them with an open mind.

1.    Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi – This is the book that many say changed the face of modern networking. The impossibly energetic Ferrazzi explains how he changed his life through the careful building of strategic relationships. He concentrates on establishing mentors and incorporating the important people in your life into all aspects of your life, no matter where they might fall on the work-friendship-family-social spectrum. He encourages people to become involved in t heir community, to support the work and goals of others and to introduce friends to each other. My main takeaway? Never waste a spare moment – get out your phone and start sending messages to people who haven’t heard from you in a while.

2.    Platform by Michael Hyatt – Hyatt was a publishing legend who struck out on his own. This book is the one I think that every creative professional must read. Indeed, anyone who is seeking to establish a name for themselves in their chosen work could afford to put some of his advice into action. Intensely practical, Platform goes through, chapter by chapter, all of the things you need to do to “build your platform” (a wonderfully archaic idea that has been revived) and start attracting people’s attention. Read my full review here.

3.    Guerrilla Networking by Jay Conrad Levinson and Monroe Mann – No joke, applying the techniques from this book has given me more work and helped me establish more important relationships than any other. It deserves to be better known and, though it was written before the age of social media, its techniques are even more useful and applicable now. It teaches us to share info about our projects and what we are going to do, to be daring and willing to try new things and to build influence through solving other people’s problems (something Keith Ferrazzi also teaches a lot).  My main takeaway? Create a fabulous reputation for yourself so that people seek you out, rather than you chasing after people.


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