Ever looked at that person who seems to know EVERYONE and wanted to know how they got so connected? Wonder no more—Molly Beck, the author of the newly-released Reach Out: The Simple Strategy You Need to Expand Your Network and Increase Your Influence, shares her strategy in this Q&A. Thanks, Molly!
In a December 2015 interview with Tim Ferriss, Jamie Foxx confessed his not-so-secret plot to infiltrate the music industry. After releasing his first R&B album to so-so reception, Foxx decided that he needed to create relationships with industry influencers, namely Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs. Combs was, at the time, one of the biggest names in the music business and notorious for throwing epic, exclusive parties whenever he was in Los Angeles.
Foxx started following Combs's entourage whenever he could, with a camera in hand. As it was, as Foxx says, "back in the day-day" when few people had access to portable cameras, Combs would let Foxx into the parties to record.
Foxx had identified the things that Combs wanted (exposure & validation) and then gave it to him. Or, he added value to Combs's life. And in return, he got the things he wanted (access & opportunity).
Let's take a look at the seven networking tricks that Foxx used—and how you can replicate them.
7 Steps to Growing Your Network Like a Rock Star Multi-Talented Entertainer
1. Identify your purpose for pursuing a relationship
In Foxx's case, he wanted to form a relationship to boost his music career. He had laid the groundwork by putting out an album; without solid relationships with people who could help him, his debut fell a little flat.
Similarly, the first step for you is to figure out why you want to create, build, and maintain a relationship with someone. Are you looking for a new peer? A mentor? Access? Inspiration? Opportunity?
Questions to ask yourself:
- What do I want to do?
- How does this fit into my Big Picture?
- What do I expect from forming a relationship with someone?
2. Identify the influencers (preferably the one with the most pull)
Foxx knew that Combs was the best person to whom to be connected for his overall purpose: Combs had status, and that status could be extended to Foxx by association.
Likewise, you have influencers in your circle, whether you're in business for yourself, employed at a mega-corporation, or the stay-at-home parent. Association with those influencers will give you access to resources and relationships that could benefit you in the long run.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Who is the top dog in my industry/area of interest?
3. Make yourself known to the influencer
Foxx had some celebrity that he used to leverage his entrance with Combs. As he says, "[Combs] knew me, the kid who was on In Living Color, whatever like that, but it wasn't elevated." Foxx was known, but not yet well known.
You probably don't need a hit TV show to get on the radar of your chosen influencer. You do, however, need to get on their radar. This can mean attending the same events, speaking up in meetings, or joining the same online groups (particularly if you're in the online business space). Whatever you choose to do, this is all about upping your visibility.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Where does the influencer hang out?
- How can I make myself known to the influencer?
4. Identify what the influencer needs
Careful observation revealed to Foxx that Combs wanted one thing: to demonstrate his status and celebrity. One of the ways that Combs did this was by throwing exclusive parties; the problem with that tactic is that no one knew what they were missing. The parties could have been terrible and every attendee paid a handsome sum to spread the word about how much fun they had for all anyone knew.
Foxx fixed that for Combs by recording the parties. Now, Combs had evidence that his parties were the place to be, which increased his status. By association, so did Foxx's.
The influencer in your circle needs something too, even if she doesn't know it yet. The PTA president may need someone to reassure her that she's doing a great job or someone to help her prep dinner that night. Your boss's boss may need someone to volunteer for an assignment that no one else will do.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What can I do to add value to the influencer's life?
- What am I willing to do to add value to the influencer's life?
- Would I be willing to do this thing without promise of return?
Very Important Caveat: Questions 2 and 3 are VERY important here, and I absolutely recommend answering them before choosing a course of action. Question 2 reveals what your personal boundaries and values are; question 3 reveals your expectations.
I do not recommend engaging in any action that is in conflict with your morals, ethics, or values—nothing is worth that price. And I do not recommend engaging in action in with full expectation of return—you'll only create resentment in both you and the other person.
5. Invest your resources (time, talent, and/or treasure)
Foxx invested all three resources in pursuing a relationship with Combs: he invested time by following Combs around LA; he invested his production and video talent; and he invested treasure in purchasing camera equipment that may or may not yield him a result.
You also have time, talent, and treasure to invest, some more than others. If you have time, you can volunteer to do grunt work that no one else has time for. If you have a specific talent, donating your skills to your chosen influencer will save them both time and treasure—which they will appreciate. And if you have treasure (i.e. money), you can invest it in something to be used to add value to the influencer's life.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What time do I have to invest?
- What talent do I have to invest?
- What treasure do I have to invest?
6. Be in the right place at the right time with the right preparation
At the critical moment, Foxx was at the club (in the right place) when Combs arrived (at the right time) with a video camera in tow (with the right preparation).
You, too, can be in the right place at the right time with the right preparation. You can have a gap-filling, branded resource available for the leader in your industry that you allow them to distribute to their community. You can have data sets ready to go for your boss when the company president swings by "for a quick presentation." You can pull out a file of fundraising ideas when the chairperson of your social organization asks for input.
Very Important Note: you will likely be in the wrong place at the wrong time with little preparation more often than not. That's okay—it's a learning experience for the next time.
7. Take the opportunity or make the ask
Foxx finally made the ask: "Yo, Puff, can I record?" In that moment, Combs saw a guy he recognized, who was prepared to add value, offering something that he didn't even know he needed until he saw it. Foxx was in.
The same goes for you: if you're ready, willing, and able, go ahead and offer your services. The worst they can say is no; the best they can say is an effort-affirming yes.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Am I ready to give of my time, talent, and/or treasure?
- Can I add value to the influencer in this moment?
Foxx's big networking secret is that he added value to the lives of the people with whom he wanted to network.
The other factors are important—having a goal, being known, being prepared, etc,; the most important factor is that Foxx was of service without expectation of return.
When you put this process into play, that's the most important question you can ask yourself: How can I be of service to the person with whom I want to network? Asking that question first and foremost will often lead to mutually beneficial personal and professional relationships.
Service is one of the big things that we promote in the Reach Out Initiative, my free, five-day mini-course for building better personal and professional relationships and growing your network. We focus on how to build relationships in an authentic way that benefit both parties, and we stay away from networking tactics with a high sleaze factor. (Because sleaze is gross.)
If this sounds revolutionary to you, then I invite you to join the Reach Out Initiative today. The mini-class runs April 25-29, 2016,and includes five days of lessons delivered to your inbox.
gInstantly grab the support you need to create a tribe of people who know, like, and trust you by entering your name and email address below.
Further Reading (& Listening):
- "Jamie Foxx on Workout Routines, Success Habits, and Untold Hollywood Stories," The Tim Ferriss Show
- "Jamie Foxx explains the networking tricks he used to launch his Grammy-winning music career," Business Insider
I stepped off the plane and greeted the professor of the class for which I was lecturing. We had about an hour and a half before my lecture was to begin. As she chauffeured me to the university, she asked if I needed anything for my presentation.
She gave me a quick refresher on what to expect: I had 50 minutes available for lecturing and questions. She invited multiple classes to attend my session. Her students were excited to have someone with such a range of experience coming to talk to them.
I was 25 years old, only about three years out of university myself.
To this day, this is one of my favorite professional accomplishments. Not only because it sounds cool (I was a university guest lecturer! At 25 years old!), but because the sequence of events that led to me addressing a room full of wide-eyed college kids is borderline ridiculous.
Here's how it happened.
How I Became a One-Time Guest Lecturer at the University of Nevada Las Vegas
Like many of my favorite professional accomplishments, my invitation to guest lecture at UNLV came about through a well-maintained, previously-existing relationship.
The professor was my friend Lauren*; she was my first supervisor in my first career as a Logistics Readiness Officer in the U.S. Air Force.
After a little over two years working together, I transitioned into a new career field and moved to Florida. She picked up an assignment as an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies at UNLV. Our careers had taken wildly different tracks—which ended up benefitting both of us in this particular case.
To be honest, my memory on how I came to guest lecture for her classes is a little fuzzy: either she was discussing traditional military career tracks with her students and invited me to share the story of my very non-traditional career path (which resulted in a lot of opportunities not normally available) or we were tossing around the idea of my coming to visit and added in a guest lecture because, hey, why not?
The how isn't important here. What's important is that we created a mutually-beneficial opportunity based on the strength of our personal relationship.
Lauren and I have maintained our friendship over 10+ years, multiple job and career changes, two marriages, five children, and so many countries, states, and cities that I've lost count. No matter where we are in the world, we know that we can reach out to each other, whether it's to grab a drink while passing through the other's airport or go on a girls' getaway trip nowhere close to where the other lives.
Maintaining and strengthening previously-existing relationships is one of the core lessons of the Reach Out Initiative, my free, five-day mini-course on building better personal and professional relationships.
Beginning April 25, 2016, the Reach Out Initiative encourages participants to make one new, authentic connection each day via a Reach Out, or a quick contact with a specific compliment, connection, or request.
Each day has a theme, like Coffee with a Colleague or Ballers and Big-Shots, and comes complete with suggestions for a Reach Out, scripts, and methods. (In truth and transparency, as my coach likes to say, I'm going to Reach Out to Lauren on Coffee with a Colleague Day and see if we can meet for a drink!)
The ROI has its own Facebook group to make new connections and get support.
And did I mention that it’s free?
Enter your name and email address below to get started immediately, or visit the ROI Portal to learn more.
*not her real name
The short answer? Yes.
Who you know has a great impact on your success. This sentiment is wrapped up in soundbites such as
- "It's not what you know, it's who you know."
- "You're the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time."
- "Personal relationships are the key to good business."
And so on and so forth.
So in short, yes, it matters who you know.
The long answer?
Your Success Depends on More Than Just Who You Know
To a degree, your success depends on who you know. Beyond a casual acquaintance, there are factors that have a greater impact on your overall success.
1. It's who knows you
It's not good enough to just know somebody. As Edward Tomilloso of The Rising Networker points out,
We have all heard of Donald Trump right? Well if you have, [y]ou know him! The whole business community knows him, and that’s one of the main reasons he has become the titan of his industry. (Source)
This doesn't mean that we can just phone Trump and ask him for business advice. That's silly.
On the other hand, let's say you do know Donald Trump. And he knows you. By all means, then, call him up and grab a drink!
The key here is to form a reciprocal relationship in which you and the other person know each other. Or, in the very least, are open to getting to know each other.
2. It's who who you know knows
This is easily my favorite nuance to the whole "who you know" concept.
In Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life, author Albert-László Barabási cites sociologist Mark Granovetter's The Strength of Weak Ties to make the case for—you guessed it—the importance of weak ties.
In [Granovetter's] view society is structured into highly connected clusters, or close-knit circles of friends, in which everybody knows everybody else. A few external links connecting these clusters keep them from being isolated ... To get new information, we have to activate our weak ties. Indeed, managerial workers are more likely to hear about a job opening through weak ties ... than through strong ties ...
Or, you can only network so much with the people you know. Who they know has a much greater impact on your success.
3. It's how you're perceived
If you become known as all-take-and-no-give, or needy, or desperate, or inauthentic, or ungrateful, or pushy, or some other less-than-desirable-quality kind of person, then the people who know you and the people who who you know knows aren't going to be inclined to help you.
Being a generally positive, generous, confident, value-creating, authentic, grateful, etc. person, on the other hand, makes you the kind of person that people want to know.
This doesn't mean you must be Merry Sunshine all the time, or a boot-licking sycophant, or even everyone's friend. You just have to be a generally likable person with positive qualities. (Which you are. Because you're reading this. Go you!)
So how do you build your network and achieve wild success in an authentic and value-based way?
Try the Reach Out Initiative.
The Reach Out Initiative is a free five-day challenge to make new connections and reinforce the ones you already have.
It was inspired by this Forbes article about Molly Ford Beck's strategy of one Reach Out at a time.Every day, Beck reaches out to someone to compliment them, connect them to someone else, or to converse with them, amongst others. She claims that after doing this every day for eight years, she's "met and/or strengthened connections with hundreds of people."
How The ROI Works
Starting on April 25, 2016, you'll receive the day's lesson in your inbox. Each day has a theme, such a Coffee with a Colleague or Ballers and Big-Shots, and comes with suggestions, scripts, and contact methods for each theme.
How to Get Started
To get started with the ROI, follow these simple steps:
1. Sign up to receive emails
Enter your name and email address in the fields below to receive daily ROI emails. (You'll also receive regular weekly emails from me, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. You'll still receive your lessons until you opt out of them.)
2. Confirm that you're in for a week of network-building
We fully believe in being fully committed—and if you say yes twice, we know you're serious. When you confirm, you'll also receive immediate access to our exclusive Reach Out guide "Nine DOs and DON'Ts for Reaching Out."
3. Reach out to someone who you think will like this challenge
If you have a friend or colleague that you think is up for the challenge, send them this post. I encourage you to use a personal touch, such as a phone call, email, or DM, to start stretching your reaching-out muscles.
4. Post to your networks
Put it on Facebook or tweet it out, the choice is yours. However you choose to share, harness the power of your strong ties to begin forming new weak ones for yourself.
Again, you can get started by entering your name and email address here:
Have you ever had something on your mind and heard random snippets of conversation related to your thoughts everywhere? It's not a coincidence.
Or maybe you've been soliciting feedback about your work or on a personal matter and keep hearing the same thing, no matter who you ask.
That's also not a coincidence.
That's the world trying to get your attention. Are you listening?
The World Sounds Like a Flock of Seagulls
I'm not talking about the kleptoparasitic bastards that steal your food and ruin your beach picnic, nor am I talking about the 80s synthpop band.
I'm talking about the random pieces of information that float into your consciousness and get your attention.
Author Ramit Sethi calles these seagulls, subtle clues that can help you adjust course and narrow in on your unique talents and gifts. On I Will Teach You to Be Rich, he writes
[When] someone says something once, you might not notice it. When you hear it again, that’s interesting. When you hear it three times, you lean in and start paying attention. From "The Seagull Theory"
When heeded, seagulls key you in to where you should be focusing your efforts.
Why Seagulls Help You Figure Out What to Do
Taking note of the bits and pieces of information that people offer gives you a "secret microscope" into what they think about you. Talents or skills that may have escaped your notice—usually because they come so naturally to you—are suddenly highlighted.
Recognizing seagulls can also give you valuable insight into what people want or need in their lives. One person saying, "I'd love to read a book about how to get published" is one thing; twenty people saying so is a clear sign of a hole in the market that you may be able to fill.
The fact that you observe a seagull in the first place also gives you crucial information: it alerts you to what you're already considering. If you didn't have a specific thought in your mind—either consciously or subconsciously—then you wouldn't notice any information related to it; your mind would filter out any unnecessary input.
The Seagull Theory in Action
The Seagull Theory is directly responsible for the Reach Out Initiative, our free, five-day challenge to help you build better relationships and grow your network.
Think back to Sethi's quote—the seagull squawks about three times before you start paying attention.
Squawk #1: One of my hula sisters off-handedly said, "You know someone for everything." (I didn't notice—at first.)
Squawk #2: I read an article in Forbes Magazine about the value and impact of reaching out daily. (Oh, that's interesting.)
Squawk #3: Over a casual conversation about our unique superpowers (referenced in The Big Leapby Gay Hendricks), my husband said, "You have a unique ability to connect people to resources, systems, or other people to help them achieve what they want to achieve." (I leaned in and paid attention.)
Boom. The Reach Out Initiative was born.
A Little More About the Reach Out Initiative
As previously mentioned, the Reach Out Initiative is a free, five-day challenge to help you build better relationships and grow your network.
Beginning April 25, 2016, the ROI encourages participants to make one new, authentic connection each day via a Reach Out, or a quick contact with a specific compliment, connection, or request.
Each of the five days day has a theme, like Coffee with a Colleague or Ballers and Big-Shots, and comes complete with suggestions for a Reach Out, scripts, and method.
For those who love structure, there are bonus trackers and worksheets to assess your progress.
The ROI has its own Facebook group to make new connections and get support.
Visit the ROI Portal to learn more, or enter your name and email address to get started with your first infosheet, "Nine DOs and DON'Ts for Reaching Out."