Instant Network is a 6-lesson online course on career networking in which Ramit Sethi, the course teacher, makes the case that the most powerful way to advance your career is through building relationships with experts and high-status people (which he refers to throughout the course as “VIPs”).
- Be authentic while networking
- Express gratitude after being given value from a contact
- Show empathy in conversations
- Do your best to answer your own questions before you ask them
About The Professor: Ramit Sethi is a New York Times bestselling author and founder of iwillteachyoutoberich.com. Many people read his material to learn how to use psychology and systems to automate their finances, make more money, find their Dream Job, start an online business, or master their inner psychology.
Ron Lieber’s Networking Process
The course opens up with an interview between Ramit Sethi and Ron Lieber on the topic of, you guessed it, networking.
If you’re not yet familiar with Lieber or his work, Ron Lieber is an American journalist for The New York Times, where he writes the “Your Money” column. He is the recipient of three Gerald Loeb awards for his writing in the column and he previously wrote the “Green Thumb” column for the Wall Street Journal and is the author or co-author of five books.
This is how he used networking to fast-track his way to those accomplishments.
His Professional Networking Process
#1. Keep in mind “Ron’s Three Reach-Out Rules.”
Make your messages and emails:
- Individually-written (NOT sent from a firm, organization, or company)
- Thoughtful (NOT generalized to be sent to multiple email addresses at once)
- Connected to something the receiver does (NOT random)
#2. Keep in mind “Ron’s Reputation Rule.”
Develop a reputation for being high-power (giving a lot of value) and high-warmth (friendly).
#3. Use the “Dash of Notes Method.”
Take 30 minutes and dash off five separate notes to five different people whose work you really admire when you think something they did is good or done well.
Examples could be:
- A company providing a great service
- A chef at your favorite restaurant
- A journalist whose stuff you like
For notes to professionals, note what in particular spoke to you and how you plan to or have tried to put it to work in your own life.
For example, Lieber recommends you say something like:
You: “Ron, I read your column often. The column that you wrote X weeks / months ago about Y made me think that you might be interested in Z.” [Then provide a couple of paragraphs on topic “Z.”]
#4. Add value.
Lieber: “[In your career or in business] You’re only as good as your next great idea.”
And, that idea can come from anywhere — a reader, a PR person, or whoever. So, you can be the person who provides ideas to others as a way of adding value to them.
In terms of editors specifically, they need ideas more than most.
Editors often get overwhelmed with really bad pitches. So, giving them value before you pitch them can separate you from the masses of other standalone pitches in their inbox.
Reach out to a couple of people each month who are better than you at what you want to be good at.
Tell them they inspired you and what specifically inspired you. Be as detailed as possible.
Then, you can offer them a suggestion or feedback as a way of giving them value.
His Content Networking Process
#1. Guest post.
Guest posting can create opportunities for yourself that puts you in touch with others. It can start with picking a small yet popular niche and starting your own blog about it.
So, an example that Lieber gives is you can pick up a cookbook, go through each recipe page by page, and try them out one by one. Then, write a separate post for each recipe about your experience.
Ramit Sethi’s “Natural Networking” Process
This time, a step-by-step strategy from the teacher himself.
Let’s get into it.
His Professional Networking Process
#1. Find experts.
You should NOT talk to everybody because that will only wear you down over time.
Only talk to someone who:
- Has or had your dream job.
- Works or worked at your dream company. (If they no longer work for your dream company, they may give you more honest information since they have fewer incentives to lie.)
- Is some kind of authority in your industry.
Use LinkedIn to identify the right experts who can give you specific, brutally honest insights into your dream job or industry.
- Email your 1st level connections. (These are the connections you likely know personally, have met, or are directly connected to.)
- Request and email introduction from your 1st level connections for your 2nd level connections. (Your 2nd level connections are your “friends of your friends”.)
- Send LinkedIn messages to your 3rd level connections. (These are the connections who are outside of your profile.)
#2. Reach out to experts via email.
Once you find your experts, reach out to them and ask for fifteen minutes of their time.
Meeting in person is ideal, but a phone call is fine too.
Send the email on Monday or Tuesday and ask to meet later in the week.
#3. At the actual meeting, ask good questions.
Here’s how to conduct yourself at the meeting:
- If you have a 30-minute long meeting, spend approximately 22-25 minutes asking them (your contact, who Ramit often refers to as the “busy person” or the “expert”) questions.
- In the last five minutes, you can spend a few minutes talking about yourself.
- Then, wrap up by asking a couple of very carefully thought out questions.
Make sure to begin with a really deeply conversational tone (avoid the movie-like investigative reporter tone of firing questions at the target connection).
Do this by finding at least one thing on your target connection that will give you at least 2-3 minutes of (preferably non-professional) conversation.
During the meeting, make sure to:
- Give value. (One way to add value to people is to notice what they’re doing — the big as well as the little things — and let them know you noticed.)
- Be curious about the target connection and what they have to say throughout the duration of the entire meeting.
- Be more empathetic in order to be more value-adding and build trust-based influence over them.
And, finally, remember that your informal meetings are for you to test your ideas and gain new insights by asking questions. They are NOT:
- To get hooked up with a job. (Never ask for one here.)
- To talk about yourself.
#4. Follow up and build the relationship.
The difference between what makes networking slimy or not is whether or not you follow up with gratitude.
Most people just take advice or help from the expert and disappear forever. And, of course, the expert soon forgets about them (unless that person reaches out to the expert again — usually because they want more help).
His Event and Meeting Networking Process
#1. Properly prepare before you attend.
- “What are the top five questions people are most likely to ask me?” And, “What are five answers I can give?”
- “What are two or three stories I can put into a story toolbox?”
Then, practice responding to those questions and telling those stories.
#2. Follow the “natural networking” process.
Follow the rest of the “natural networking” process starting from step number three.
Michael Ellsberg’s Networking Process
When writing his book, The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful, Michael Ellsberg networked, connected, and built relationships with multiple millionaires (some of whom are celebrities) so he could interview and add blurbs from them to his book.
Here’s how he did it.
His Professional Networking Process
#1. Remove your negative associations with networking.
The way to successful networking is by going from a “taker” mentality to a “giver” mentality. You likely have more to give than you might realize.
A couple of ideas of what you can give might be to:
- Give advice for free. (Do not give advice for free to everyone though. Develop an idea in your mind of the types of people you would be willing to go the extra mile to connect with. Then, only give out free advice to individuals who fit that mental profile you’ve created.)
- Share your expertise or skill sets. (If you have or have ever had a job before, it’s because you have a skill set that can help people achieve something. Therefore, for a certain class of people, you should be on the lookout for how you can add value to them using the skill sets you’ve already developed.)
Ellsberg prefers to invest in conferences than in the stock market because he believes that, once you have some networking success, it all becomes a “snowball effect” that compounds into more and more success (which is a positive — and sometimes true — attitude to hold about networking).
#2. Use the “Promoter Method.”
Add value to the people who are close to your target contact.
Continue adding value to that target contact’s social circle until you’ve created a “chain” of connections who can link you to the person you really want to talk to (for example, that billionaire, celebrity, or executive).
In other words, create a “step ladder” of connections that lead to the “big fish” contact you want to connect with.
Remember, networking, especially for VIPS, is a long-term game.
*Psst…You can get a complete explanation of and strategy for the Promoter Method in Step Four of The Clever Connector.
#3. Talk with your connection with the goal of giving value.
Talk with your connection — have a little chit-chat — while directing the conversation toward areas where you can add value.
Here’s a three-stage process for non-sleazy, natural networking conversation:
Stage 1: Rapport-Building (3 – 5 minutes)
Common ground is great for deepening the connection. The more profound, unique, or uncommon the commonality, the faster the connection is deepened.
Stage 2: Strategic Inquiry (5 – 10 minutes)
Learn about their cares and challenges. Ask questions that move you toward collaboration. Think about how you can help.
An example would be to ask, “So, hey, what are you really excited about in your work / business right now?” Then, after they answer, ask, “So, what have been some of the challenges you’ve been facing in order to achieve that?”
Stage 3: Value Proposition
If possible, propose how you can help them.
#4. Follow up.
Ellsberg recommends you always follow up within the first five days.
#5. Keep in touch.
Sending out articles and blog posts to add value (as a way of keeping in touch) is good, but weak, in Ellsberg’s opinion.
Instead, become a party organizer. Host your own soirée and invite different people that you’ve connected with over time to the event.
In doing so, you become the person that people come to when they want to know what’s going on in town — you become the “party person.”
Ellsberg most recommends hosting “champagne soirées.” (The idea is to network over drinks.)
Become the party person and host business or social events once per month to grow very quickly.
Real Life Applications
Avoid giving a complicated call-to-action in your emails
In your emails, use the “yes / no test.”
According to Ramit, this test is the secret to getting a “yes” because a good email pitch is one where the recipient only has to say “yes” or “no.”
For example, here’s the wrong and right way to close out an email:
– Bad: “I’d appreciate any advice you have for me.”
– Good: “Are you free for a phone call at 1 pm?”
Generally speaking, avoid making your emails exhaustingly long
There are exceptions to this rule. But, generally speaking, don’t be chatty.
At first, only use five sentences max in your email. (Ramit notes that, once you master this, you’ll find times when you need to break this rule. But, to start, follow this rule as best you can.)
While always being honest, give any excuse to meet.
For example, Ramit says “I’ll be in town Friday” is a social trigger that increase your chances of compliance.
It makes a difference in how others interact with you because when someone is responding to you, they’re not only responding to the message, they’re responding to the messenger.
And, a slow, sluggish, “I don’t really want to be here”-type messenger doesn’t have an easy time making new connections worth having.
Send meaningful comments to create small touchpoints
Sending them a comment that you noticed something big or small they’re doing is a good strategy for creating small touchpoints to build enough rapport to schedule the actual meeting.
Help them save face by avoiding framing their challenges as “problems”
Avoid using the word “problems” when you’re looking for areas where you can add value to their life, career, or business. Ramit says that people don’t like to publicly admit to having problems, much less problems they need outside help with.
So, using the word “challenges” instead is a great way to help them save face and can even imply that they’re up to important things.
Give value before asking for favors
Give value before asking for favors.
And, don’t ask for the favor with a “give me this because I just gave you that” attitude. That’s what Ellsberg calls a “quid pro quo attitude / approach” and it’s not as effective.
Sociologist, Lucio Buffalmano, might call this being a “social bean counter” and would agree with Ellsberg here because framing the interaction or exchange as being overly cold and transactional erodes rapport, social capital, and some of your emotional bond.
Gives some poor social skills advice
Ramit recommends you play Bob Lieber’s conversational game that he plays with people who might have less to talk about (people who aren’t married, don’t have kids, etc.). He says, “Try to see how long you can go without asking someone where they went to college or what they do for a living.”
And, while that’s good advice, it can leave you wondering what you should say and, for the more advanced folks, you might be left wondering why he didn’t simply give some good questions to ask (scripts to use) in conversation like many other networking experts do in their programs.
Provides conflicting information
At one point, Ramit recommends you send your emails to your contacts out on Mondays.
But, in another one of his programs, 50 Perfect Email Scripts, he recommends against sending emails on Mondays because he believes that’s when everyone receives the most emails and your email is likely to get lost or pushed to the bottom.
Ignores the WIIFT rule sometimes
The “what’s in it for them” (WIIFT) rule is a rule that makes sure you’re giving value by taking into consideration what the other side wants. The more value you give, the more likely they are to give you what you want back in return (unless you’re dealing with a taker, but that’s a different conversation).
Ramit recommends you approach each topic of conversation as, “It’s a win-win for us to talk and, more specifically, a win-win for us to talk about this topic.”
But, if it’s not a win-win to talk, you could be taking without realizing it and, as a result, hurt your chances of building that relationship.
So, better, might be to ask yourself, “Is it a win-win for us to talk and, more specifically, a win-win for us to talk about this topic?”
Then, only proceed if the answer is “yes” or if you know you plan on transitioning to a topic that is a win-win later.
Uses poor humor at times
Ramit says to make each question earn its way into your conversation or meeting by making sure you don’t already have the answers. And, that’s great advice.
Ramit notes that he, a busy person, gets messages that fail this rule all of the time.
He gives the example:
Person: “Ramit, what do you think I should do?”
Ramit: “You tell me. What do you think?”
Person: “Well, I guess I’ll do X.”
And, in this example, Ramit says:
Ramit: “I want to kill them! Now they’ve answered their own question and wasted my time. Don’t make the busy person do more work than you!”
The “I want to kill them” felt a bit much and over the top, in my opinion. Especially, since many of the people who are joining his courses are learners, looking to learn what they don’t already know. So, to criticize someone for a mistake that a learner might be currently making feels a bit inconsiderate.
And, this isn’t the only joke that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Some good advice based on the stereotype content model
Ramit says that asking bad questions is a “low-competence trigger” (it signals to the other side that you might not be too competent). So, you can ask more “good” questions at the meeting by using the “scenario planning technique” (which is the process of trying to answer each question yourself before you actually ask it).
And, not only is it a WIIFT win to consider your contact’s time and energy this way, but asking questions that signal intelligence does lead others to believe you’re likely a “high-power” individual.
Scripts and step-by-step strategies
Was a treat to read through the scripts and detail, step-by-step reports of how exactly to network.
Given how much vague advice there is about how to network around the internet, it was great to get information so specific I could take it and really hit the ground running.
Instant Network (8/10): This course would have made its way up to ten stars if it explored more of what Lucio teaches in the social exchange lesson of Power University — something that’s crucial for successful networking. And, Ramit recommends a few power moves in this course that would annoy any high-quality individual.
But, the social mistakes in this course were few and, all in all, it did provide a really great framework for effective networking even without the advanced material.
You can get more ideas in this course on social strategy.