Networking is a contact sport
October, 2010On any given week, I receive five to ten books or book proposals from authors asking for an endorsement, an opinion, or a mention in a column. When they are really good, the answer is yes. When they are really, really good, I want to share them with the world.
I'm known as something of an expert on networking, having written books of my own on the subject and speaking about it to Fortune 1000 companies all over the world. I can recognize a winner from a mile away.
Such is the case with Networking is a Contact Sport, a new book by Joe Sweeney, who built his career by "combining his love of business and his passion for sports." The title doesn't refer to hard hits or banging bodies -- it's about staying in contact with folks whose paths cross yours throughout a career.
Joe is eminently qualified to write this book. His resume includes owning four manufacturing companies, serving as president of the Wisconsin Sports Authority, and founding a sports marketing agency that specializes in assisting and representing coaches and athletes. He is currently a managing director of an investment banking firm that brokers business transactions and raises capital for middle-market businesses.
But Joe claims his networking abilities were developed at a very young age, long before he got his start in business, being raised in a family of nine boys and one girl. An early example he shares is his meeting -- at age eight -- with then-Notre Dame football great, coach Ara Parseghian. He was hoping the coach would provide a football scholarship for his older brother, a walk-on at Notre Dame. (For the record, his brother was awarded a football scholarship for the following year.)
Another insightful chapter tells about how Joe "drafted" Bob Costas to speak at the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1995. He didn't know Costas, didn't even know how to contact him (this was pre-Google, after all).
But working his network, and shipping bratwurst and Secret Stadium Sauce from Milwaukee's County Stadium to Costas, a ballpark food aficionado, scored big points for Joe. As Joe says, "If my experience with Bob Costas proved anything, it's that networking is a contact sport. Sometimes you get pushed aside or knocked down, but if you persevere, remain focused, and look for ways to engage people -- ways that are fresh, clever, and persistent -- networking will make things happen and take you where you want to go in life."
The book is chock-full of personal stories and great examples of situations that anyone can relate to. Even more helpful, I think, is the "recap" at the end of each chapter that reminds readers of the most significant lessons.
Joe encourages readers from the beginning to take this approach to networking: "When you truly give to others without any expectations or strings attached, you will receive much more than you ever could have expected."
He stresses ten points for effective networking:
Joe also has advice for networking to find a job, especially timely advice in this economic climate. (Another area I can highly recommend, having spent the last two years writing a book about job searches.)
- Be clear about your objectives and outcomes.
- Do your research.
- Don't be afraid to ask.
- Get comfortable with traveling outside your comfort zone.
- Try, try, try -- and then try again in a creative way.
- Do your best to connect the dots.
- Seek out in-person contact -- there's no substitute for the personal touch.
- Take 100 percent responsibility for your networking.
- Treat others as you would want to be treated.
- Present an offer to help others before you ask for anything.
He shares insights on networking personality styles, identifying traits on both sides of a networking relationship. He shows you how to choose the best approach to connect productively with many kinds of people. "Business is not about managing money," Joe says. "It's about managing relationships and personalities."
Mackay's Moral: If networking is a contact sport, make sure you get in the game.
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