When many people hear the word “networking,” images of hotel conference rooms filled with strangers pressing flesh and handing out business cards while giving one-minute elevator pitches come to mind. It’s like a white collar purgatory. But according to my podcast guest, networking doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, it can actually be pleasant and even fun. In today’s show I talk to attorney, networking expert, and AoM contributor John Corcoran about how to network like a pro.
- How an op-ed piece John wrote in the New York Times (and a bit of networking) landed him a job at the White House
- The common myths about networking
- How to network without seeming like you’re “networking”
- How a box set of Western movies scored John a conversation with Bill Clinton
- The tools John uses to keep track and keep in touch with his contacts
- How simply being helpful is the key to networking successfully
- How college-aged guys can network
- How men in blue collar jobs should network
- And much more!
If you’d like to learn more about how to network more effectively, head on over to John’s website, Smart Business Revolution, and read through his articles. Be sure to sign up for his free email newsletter to get his free ebook on connecting with VIPs.
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Special thanks to Keelan O’Hara for editing the podcast!
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness Podcast. Now when people say you’ve got to network to be successful in life, right, successful in your career, people really don’t know what that means. When they do network, they usually do it in a way that’s not effective where they just take business cards and just hand them out to anyone and everyone who will take one. They’ll go to these networking events and just hand out their business card and just talk about themselves and say, “Here’s my idea. Let’s network and do lunch.” It never really goes anywhere and it seems a lot of people because they had such bad experiences with networking they just give up on it because they think it’s a waste of time.
Well our guest today has spent his career mastering, studying how to be a better networker. His name is John Corcoran. He’s an attorney but he also owns a website called Smart Business Revolution where he writes content and has a podcast about how to be an effective networker so you have more success not only in your career but also in your personal life. John is also a regular contributor on the Art of Manliness. You’ve probably seen some of his articles on our site about networking and social skills and things like that. They always do really well on the site.
Today we’re going to talk about how to be an effective networker and how to do it in a way that it’s not annoying. It doesn’t seem sleazy. It’s comfortable for all those who are involved and how to do it in a way that it will actually make a difference in your life and the life of the other person. We’re going to talk about how you can systemize your networking so you can keep track of all of your contacts.
We’ll discuss why even if you have a “blue” collar job you should also be networking because you often associate networking with office, white collar jobs and we’ll also discuss why college age men who are still in college, still in school should start networking now so they can have more opportunities presented to them when they get out into the workforce.
Just a podcast that’s just jam-packed with actionable information. I think you’re really going to enjoy this so let’s get on with the show. John Corcoran welcome to the show.
John Corcoran: Hey, happy to be here. Thanks for having me Brett.
Brett McKay: Hey, well it’s a pleasure. You’ve been a contributor for the Art of Manliness for a while now so we’ve always enjoyed your content there. It’s nice to get you on the podcast to actually talk about this stuff.
John Corcoran: Yeah. I’ve listened for a long time so I’m happy to be here.
Brett McKay: Before we get into talking about your expertise which is networking, you have a really interesting background because right now you’re an attorney and you also run your website Smart Business Revolution, but before that you worked in the Clinton administration and you were like the Office of Letters and Management, right like?
John Corcoran: Letters and Messages yeah, yeah.
Brett McKay: Letters and Messages. Can you describe what that job was and how old were you when you got that job and how did you land a job?
John Corcoran: I was twelve years old actually when, no I was twenty-three and yeah I was a writer in Presidential Letters and Messages. I describe it as I was a second tier speech writer or if one the speech writers pulled a hamstring then we’d have to step in basically. We wrote everything a that the speech writers didn’t want to write like letters, messages, video scripts, proclamations which are of a historic importance and people pay less attention to them now, letters to VIPs that kind of thing.
I had previously been in the speech writing office during college actually. During college I did an internship in the White House Speech Writing Office in the Fall of ’97 which was right before the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal hit. I went back graduated from college, kept in touch with people and I can get into the whole story of how I ended up getting a job there but ended up coming back and getting a job when I was twenty-three.
Brett McKay: Was it networking that landed you that job?
John Corcoran: Better believe it, yeah. It was basically keeping in touch with the other speech writers who were there, other people who worked at the White House, keeping in touch with people in Washington D.C. What happened was I graduated from college, I knew I’d like to get a job back there at the White House but not everyone who interns is able to get a job there. They take hundreds and hundreds of interns each year and there are not a lot of people who get those coveted jobs at the White House, so I was on the lookout for it.
You can’t just pester people regularly like send them emails or call them and say, “So is there a job, is there a job?” I just tried to be of use to the speech writers. I would clip out things and send things to them, speeches that I saw that I thought were helpful or quotes or articles, just keeping in touch with people and trying to be of use to them.
Then what happened was, it’s a funny story. I heard from one of the speech writers that there was this job opening for a writer and I’d been an English major in college and I had been a writer my entire life so I wanted to be a writer so I was very excited about it. I knew I might be getting a call one of these days from the person who was hiring for it.
One day I do get this call out of the blue from the woman who eventually ended up hiring me and she calls me up and says, “Yeah, I just wanted to see if I could get a resume and a writing sample and find some more information about you.” I said, “Sure that’s great. I’ll send you my resume and actually if you want to see a writing sample, you can open up today’s New York Times. I have a Letter to the Editor in today’s Op-Ed page of the New York Times.
It was a bit of a coincidence but I knew that they might be calling around then and I had sent that letter to the editor a couple of days earlier it just happened to hit on the very same day that I got that phone call. The reason I tell that story is because if you have an opportunity that’s coming along then you can position yourself. You can do things in order to create opportunities for yourself so that you look the best that you can. You put your best foot forward so to speak.
After that I ended up interviewing for the job, doing a writing test, all that kind of stuff and ended up getting the job.
Brett McKay: You started mastering networking at a pretty young age. Now you’re an attorney but you also have your website, Smart Business Revolution where you talk about networking. Why did you decide to devote an entire blog to networking and teaching people about it?
John Corcoran: I’d love to say that there’s this master plan behind it but it was more of an evolution. What happened was I’ve always written for the web. I’ve always enjoyed writing and so I started blogging years and years ago and it evolved. What happened was I would write related to my legal practice because I’m a lawyer, I’m still a practicing lawyer and my clients are mostly entrepreneurs and small business owners and I would write for that audience.
Eventually I realized that writing about legal topics was too disorganized. People would come and go. There was no way of creating a sense of community or anything like that so I pivoted. I re-branded. I changed it and I started writing more aimed towards entrepreneurs but I also found that at that point it was too broad also. I was talking about a lot of different topics that were of interest to entrepreneurs but not nearly focused enough.
At the same time, actually Antonio Centeno was one of the big influencers who also writes for Art of Manliness, he kept on saying to me, “You’re really good at using relationships and knowing how to develop relationships with people. You should do more on that. You should tell people more about that.”
A number of other friends had done the same thing. They were constantly asking me questions about networking, building relationships that sort of thing and so finally it’s one of those things you’ve got to listen to what other people say and sometimes I think we’re drawn to the thing that we struggle with more rather than the thing that we’re better at. Eventually I pivoted and I started focusing more on as I call it relationship building and that’s when things really started to pick up for me.
Brett McKay: Okay so let’s talk about that. You’re calling it relationship building. Most people call it networking. Yeah, I think most people when they hear the word networking they’re like, “That sounds … That sucks. That’s so lame.” Images of networking events in hotel lobbies where they’re handing out their business card and shaking hands and giving their elevator pitches. That’s what comes to mind.
What are the biggest myths about networking and what would you tell someone who’s like, “Yeah that’s stupid. I’m not going to network or relationship build.” It doesn’t matter if you re-brand it relationship building, I’m not going to do that.” What would you tell them to convince them that you need to start doing this?
John Corcoran: Yeah, so I think it does have a negative connotation. I think exactly because there’s so many people that do it wrong. There’s so many people that turn it into a sales pitch immediately. We’ve all been in that situation where we’re at some event and we meet some person and they’re immediately trying to sell us on something and that’s not the way to do it anywhere in any circumstances. In any circumstances when you meet someone, you’ve got to take some time to get to know them. It takes a while for these things to unfold. Whether we’re talking about building a relationship through someone through the media or online or offline or in person or whatever it takes a while.
The people who do networking bad and the reason that networking has a bad connotation is because of people who try and force it, try and make it happen too quickly. I advocate a slower approach. I mean they could even call it slow networking or something like that, maybe that’s a word I need to use. It’s because honestly you need to take some time to build a relationship with someone. How do you do that? You do that by being of use to them, being a friend, being useful, providing value to them.
We can get into what that means exactly but as far as what common networking myths are out there, well one I think is a big myth is that you don’t need to do it. The fact is we’re all building relationships. We’re adding people into our lives and we’re dropping people into our lives over the course of our lives, so over the next twelve months whether you like it or not you will add some people into your network and you’ll drop some people into your network. It just happens organically.
What I advocate is taking a more proactive approach, a more deliberate and intentional approach and actually thinking in advance much like you would choose a major in college, thinking advance about the types of people that you want to surround yourself with, the types of people that you want to develop a relationship with, rather than just letting it happen completely organically which is what a lot of people do. I’m not talking about friendship of course. When it comes to friends, it’s fine to let things evolve organically but when it comes to business, when it comes to your career I think you should be more intentional about it.
The other common networking myth that I think we hear really frequently is that either you’re born good at it or you’re not born good at it so you don’t do it. I actually think that you can get better at it and some introverts are very good at “networking,” very good at building relationships. It’s because they put effort into it and really building a network is not about being the most outspoken, most effusive, most social animal, social butterfly at a networking event. It’s really about building relationships with people in that initial meeting and then following up and continuing to follow up with that person and keeping them in your life.
One other example I give is oftentimes people they say I don’t like going out to networking events and that’s fine but this is what people end up doing. They go because people have to go because you have to build relationships. You can’t just live like a hermit in your home at all times, so they go to events but they don’t follow up with people. They just let it drop and what that does is it’s like dooming yourself to the hamster wheel of networking for the rest of your life because you don’t take the relationships that you do develop at events and you don’t do anything with them you end up having to go back again and again and again to all these different events so even though you don’t like it you’re dooming yourself to continue to do it.
I think being intentional on the front end, deciding in advance who you want to develop relationships with and then on the back end after you’ve met people continuing to be in touch with them and continuing to remains in touch with them with the people who are really of value to your career to your business are the two real big important points there.
Brett McKay: I thought that was really an interesting point. You said you don’t have to be an extrovert to network well because I think a lot of people stay away from networking because they’re like, “Oh.” It just it frightens them like, “I’ve got to go and talk to these strangers. I have a minute to make that first impression. It’s going to be like if I don’t get the deal there, if I don’t get the job offer there then it’s all done for.”
John Corcoran: Right.
Brett McKay: There’s so much pressure. They already have social anxiety and then just the scepter of having to make something happen in this one moment just makes it even more anxiety producing thing even more.
John Corcoran: Yeah, no I totally get that. People put too much pressure on themselves. The reality is that it’s a lot longer process than that. I don’t think you need to worry about getting everything smushed into the initial meeting, that can take a little bit of the pressure off. In fact one of the tools that I advocate people use is called a conversations list and conversations list is basically just taking the time to define in advance the fifty plus people you’d like to develop a relationship and deepen a relationship with over the course of the next twelve months.
There’s a couple of things I do intentionally there. I call it a conversations list because I want you to think about it as an ongoing conversation which you’re going to have with these fifty people over the course of the next twelve months. The reason I say over the next twelve months is because that way you don’t worry about trying to get everything accomplished in the first meeting or the first couple of weeks. You realize you can take your time with that.
If you do that over time, over the course of a couple of years, you can really radically revamp the circle of people that you have around you which is something that I’ve just done naturally throughout my career. I’m looking back on my career now and I realize that I did it over and over again. I did it in politics. I actually worked in the entertainment industry. I was an early employee for DreamWorks so I’ve worked for both Bill Clinton and Steven Spielberg at different times in my career. After that I went and worked in Silicon Valley for a couple of years and now of course I’m an attorney and I depend on relationships in order to get clients.
I’ve actually done it over and over again with these different types of circles but let’s say you’re listening to this and you’re not happy in the job that you have right now or not happy in the career that you have right now or you want to start a business or something like that, you can evolve your circle of connections around you by being deliberate and intentional using a tool like the conversations list and deciding who are the people that you want to develop relationships with and then going out and doing it proactively.
Brett McKay: You decide you want to be proactive and network and do all that stuff but how do you do it in a way that’s not annoying right and that it just doesn’t … I mean I get approached all the time with people who want something. They want to work with the Art of Manliness and they want to network but a lot of times it’s just very annoying. They just ask, ask, ask and it’s like I only have so much time and energy so I can’t give myself all to all of these people so how do you it in a way where it’s useful as you say?
John Corcoran: Yeah, well the first thing I’d recommend is checking out the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie which a lot of people have heard of but a lot of people haven’t read so I’d recommend reading that book. The book is almost a hundred years old and yet the reason it’s sold tens of millions of copies is because the advice in it is timeless and the advice is that if you’re meeting someone, if you’re developing a relationship with someone to be attuned to what they’re interested in and to be inquisitive and to learn about that person so that’s the first thing that I think that you should do and should be doing when you’re, should do and should do that makes a lot of sense, you should be doing when you’re developing a relationship with someone.
You should be learning what is going on in their life, learning about them, learning what their interests are, learning what’s going on with their family if they want to share that, learning what their goals are and only once you learn those things can you not be annoying.
The people who are annoying are the people who are just interested in themselves and in Dale Carnegie’s book there’s just classic, there’s a number of classic examples, but there’s an example of a guy who goes to a dinner party and he ends up having this conversation with I think it was a biologist or a marine biologist or something like that and he has this great conversation. The person was asking questions of the biologist all night, question after question because he had never met a biologist before and he was really interested in the topic. He was using the Dale Carnegie strategies which is to ask questions of people.
Then at the end of the night, the biologist goes to the host and says, “You know I had this great conversation with this guy. He was a great conversationalist.” What’s so funny about that is that the guy who was asking questions wasn’t really making conversation. He was actually just asking questions and taking interest in that person. Most people really enjoy talking about themselves and they really enjoy talking about things that are of interest to them.
The lesson in that is you don’t need to be the world’s greatest conversationalist, you just need to take an interest in that person and then to pick up on details about them, what’s going on in their life and then find ways in which you can add value to that person’s life.
What I try and do when I meet someone new is just try and find out what’s going on with them, what’s going with their business, what’s going on with their life, do they have a son or daughter who’s about to go off to college, maybe I can give them some advice on colleges that they’re considering. Do they have a favorite type of food, maybe there’s a restaurant that they haven’t heard of nearby that I can recommend to them. Maybe they’re going on vacation sometime next month to some place that I’ve been to before like Brett you and I have both been to Vermont on vacation, maybe they’re going to Vermont. We can do some recommendation of somewhere they can go to in Vermont, something like that. I think that’s a way that you ensure that you’re not annoying.
Brett McKay: Okay but even when you start, so the whole goal is to provide value, be useful in any way, but I guess there’s a point you shouldn’t provide value and then like, “Hey, follow up with can you help me out with this,” like the give and take. Should you be more like give stuff and wait? How do you know when you call in that favor? That sounds very Godfather, Mafioso but how do you know when it’s a good time to capitalize on this relationship that you’re developing?
John Corcoran: I think it varies with each person and with each relationship. If you develop a tighter bond with that person then they’re probably more likely quicker to come to you for whatever service it is you provide or think of you. I think that you need to weave into the conversation things that are helpful but that are also remind the person of what it is you do so if you’re a service provider like myself then one thing you can do is just provide helpful advice.
Let’s say that you’re a photography listening to this and you want to get photography clients. Well you could just weave in advice and tips like maybe you’re talking to someone who you met and they mention that they just had pictures taken, formal portrait or something, maybe you can give a little tip. You can say, “Oh by the way, it’s fall right now so the colors are browns and oranges and greens so before you have your photo session you should try and wear a sweater that matches that pallet if you do an outside photo shoot.”
That’s one way that you could be of use to that person. It’s not saying hire me to be your photographer. It’s actually opposite. It’s actually just being useful to them. If you prove that worth, if you prove that you’re so useful, then they’re going to immediately think of you, either they’re going to think, “Wow we should really hire this person. They gave me this great piece of advice which is a really good tip.,” or if they have a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, something like that, some friend who needs to hire a photographer even if they don’t hire, they might refer you out to that person.
Brett McKay: That sounds an awfully like what it’s from Miracle on 34th Street where Macy’s was recommending customers go to Gimbels if there was a cheaper price or something like that. Do you remember that scene?
John Corcoran: I’ve heard people reference that before. I haven’t seen that movie in so long but I should check it out.
Brett McKay: You should check it out. I think it’s very similar so yeah the Santa Claus at Macy’s starts telling parents where they can go buy presents that weren’t at Macy’s. At first the managers were like, “Oh, why are you doing that?” All the customers loved it. They were like, “Oh, thank you so much for doing that. I’m going to keep coming back to Macy’s because you guys are so useful.”
John Corcoran: Yeah, that’s the Nordstrom’s approach. Nordstrom’s is famous for providing amazing customer service and to the point where they will provide all kinds of recommendations. There’s Zappos a more modern contemporary reference. Zappos is famous for if they don’t have the shoes, their customer service people are trained to get on the web and start helping to find people where the shoes can be bought, but I think there’s truth to that.
I think that establishes credibility. That establishes trust. When you do something like that it shows that you have confidence in your own skills that you’re not worried about the competition. In fact for me as an attorney, I found that the clients that are most likely to become really attached to me are the ones that I’ve tried to talk out of hiring me in the first place. I’ve had conversations where I explain why they shouldn’t hire me for whatever reason, maybe because I don’t think they should pursue a certain path or maybe I think there’s another attorney can help them with something and then inevitably they turn around and they’re like, “Oh, we really want to hire you.” It’s like, “I guess you weren’t listening or else you’d rather hire me, that’s fine.”
Brett McKay: I guess the key to networking or as you call it relationship building is first pay attention to the needs of others, be attuned to that.
John Corcoran: Yes.
Brett McKay: Then second just find small ways to add value in any way you can even if that means referring them to someone else or competition or even if they don’t use your service immediately, be valuable but here’s the question I have how do you make time for that? Because you only have so much time in the day. You only have so much energy and if you’re spending all that time helping others who you might not be able to … You’re thinking about your business, you’re making an investment in your business and then they might not have any return on investment at all or for a long time. How do you manage that? How do you decide I’m going to spend my time helping this person as opposed to not helping that person?
John Corcoran: Yeah, this is a common objection that I hear from people that are worried about the amount of time that it takes. I don’t advocate taking a ton of time, spending hours and hours of your day devoting to this. Really it can be very not time consuming. One of the problems is and the reason I advocate using conversations list strategies is people are developing relationships with the wrong people.
Sometimes it’s because they’re pursuing someone who they see as successful and they’re trying to build a relationship with that person when there’s no conceivable value to them or they’re not aligned with their business goal or they’re not aligned with their career goals. They’re just pursuing the wrong person. I think taking the time to define who are the people that you want to build relationships with will help to prevent that from happening and then you’ll focus on building the relationships with the people who really matter to your goals.
I think you need to take the long game. You need to decide that I’m going to devote a little bit of time throughout my week to doing these sorts of relationship building activities, going to coffee with someone or going to lunch with someone or connecting with them, interviewing, I mean what we’re doing right now is a great tool for building relationships, interviewing someone whether it’s for a podcast or whether it’s for an article that you’re writing in the newspaper, it’s a lot better than asking someone for an informational interview which is actually asking them for a favor.
Doing an interview where you’re going to publish it to a podcast, to an article, to a blog or whatever is actually not asking them to do a favor, you’re actually doing something nice for them because you’re giving them a big of publicity. There are also tools that you can use and one that I advocate is called a CRM program. It stands for customer relationship management and typically historically sales people use them because they were building relationships with people.
Well as our economy has become more entrepreneur focused and jobs have become more temporary, people tend to jump from job to job, from company to company now whereas people used to stick with the same job, it’s more important that you put effort into building these relationships if you want to be serious about your career. You can use a CRM program which are a relatively modest investment. They can be anywhere from zero to a hundred dollars a month.
You think of like Salesforce, Zoho, podio. There’s a bunch of new ones out there, Insightly. I use one called Contactually which I’m a big fan of. They have a suite of basically different tools that are involved, but I’ll just mention one of them is introductions. I love doing introductions to people because anyone who’s listening to this right now I guarantee you there are two people in your network who would benefit from knowing each other and you are the one who can do it.
If you introduce two people and they get along, they hit it off. They do business together or whatever, they will always remember it and then that is a great way for you to get introduced to other people as well so Contactually and probably every CRM out there has a tool for doing introductions where you can in a couple of clicks, very quickly make an introduction is some of the best use of your time period because if you make an introduction and they hit it off people are just tremendously grateful so that’s just one tool that you can use that would be helpful.
There’s another one called intros.to which is another website which is actually free. I think it’s an open source platform for tracking introductions is another one you can use.
Brett McKay: Speaking of systems that you can use, I mean I guess you to be really effective with this you need to systemize and organize your networking. Besides organizing your introductions, what else should you be keeping track of with your relationship building?
John Corcoran: What else should you be keeping… Well one big one and this really is dependent on what it is you do, so if you are … This works best probably for a service provider, someone who’s providing a service and just trying to get clients, but I have a tool that I talk about, it’s in a free eBook on my site called, the eBook isn’t but the tool is called the Results and Revenue Worksheet.
It’s basically tracking all of the incoming business that comes in to you and where it came from. This is a tool that over time you can see patterns emerge. Let’s say we’ll use the photographer example again or let’s say you’re a plumber or something like that you and you get phone calls throughout the year from different people, new clients, well every time a new client comes in you just write down the name of the person who came and what their source was. It could be from a person who referred them. It could be from an organization that you belong to like a BNI or something like that or chamber of commerce or it could be an event that you attended like a conference or some kind of quarterly event or something like that or it could be from your kid’s preschool or whatever. You write it down.
Over time you’ll be able to see patterns emerge. You’ll be able to see that oh hey look this one person referred me three times back in March and they haven’t referred me since then. Well what has happened in the interim? Oh it turns out I haven’t communicated with that person in the last six months. What that tells you is you need to really reach out to that person again and make sure that you keep a strong connection with that person. This isn’t rocket science but if you implement a strategy like that it will help you to be efficient and to be smart about the relationships that are really important to your business or your career.
Brett McKay: Let’s go back to introductions because this is something you and I have talked about in emails back and forth before. What’s the etiquette of introduction making because I have lots of people who make introductions to me all of the time. I know they’re trying to be useful, but oftentimes what happens is that the person that they’re introducing me to I don’t see any value. There’s nothing there. I’m like this isn’t a good fit. It’s always awkward to like, “Nice to meet you but no thanks,” because I don’t want to seem like I’m a jerk, right?
John Corcoran: Yeah.
Brett McKay: Should you ask before you say, “Can I introduce you to someone,” or should you just make the introduction?
John Corcoran: Yeah, it’s funny because you and I have talked about this and my opinion on it has evolved a little bit. Initially I did feel like just go out there and make the introductions and if it’s not a good fit, it’s not a good fit. Then after talking to you about it and talking to other people about it and also honestly I get more introductions now than I did a couple of months ago than I did a year ago so I’ve been on the other end of those as well where you get an introduction and you’re like I’m not sure why this benefits. That’s on the other person. It’s the person who’s doing the introduction. They’re the one who’s a little not attuned to what it is you need.
There’s a couple of things you could do. You can email back or just say to the other person who’s done the introduction to you, “This is what I’m looking for right now. I’m looking for or this is what I’m working on. This is what I’m focused on,” so that they don’t make the same mistake again later. You can do it in a polite way.
Brett McKay: Sure.
John Corcoran: Another thing you can do is if you get an introduction to someone where you can’t really see what the benefit is or what the value is to you, you can just say, “Great to meet you and how can I help or if there’s any way I can help just let me know.” It might be something tiny, even if you can’t see any benefit from that person whatsoever at least initially just based on their vocation or whatever it is they do maybe they have some tiny little question, maybe they have some tiny little request that takes very little amount of your time.
Actually there’s a great strategist called the Five Minute Favor. There’s a guy named Adam Rifkin who was named by Fortune Magazine as their best networker of 2011 I think. He does what he calls the five minute favor which basically if anyone asks him for a favor he’ll do it as long as it takes less than five minutes.
Sometimes, I’m not saying you have to commit five minutes but it could be thirty seconds. I mean sometimes people will, it turns out they just have some tiny little question. With you Brett you have the advantage of you’ve been putting out advice for five, six years now and a lot of your advice is out there. Someone might ask you a question and you’ve probably answered it in two thousand words or more at some point in the last five years and so you can think off the top of your head I know exactly where the answer is to this and you can send an article to that person. That doesn’t take too much of your time but you never know what will come from that result.
That person might be so grateful from that personal touch, from getting that from you that then they go and refer their next twenty friends to read Art of Manliness every month so that’s how I would probably approach it but I do agree with you that I think you have to perceive, first you have to be attuned to what the other people need and any time you make an introduction it needs to be mutual. It needs to be there’s benefit to both sides. That’s what I always try and do.
I don’t know if it always works out but that’s what I always try and do. Then the other thing is I also try and judge how busy the other people are. The busier the person the more likely I’m going to send an email in advance that says, “Hey, I’d like to introduce you to so and so. Here’s why I think it could be a benefit to you. Would you like me to make that introduction, if not no harm, no foul.”
I’ve done that with you. I’ve done that with lots of other people before and it takes a little bit more of your effort but even if you don’t actually make the introduction the person that you’ve offered to make the introduction to is grateful that you offered to make the introduction even if they respond and say, “That’s okay I don’t think I need the introduction.” I think that they’re still grateful that you put out the gesture that you wanted to make the introduction.
Brett McKay: Here’s another question that I have, so you’re putting yourself out there, you’re trying to build relationships, add value. I mean how do you deal with rejection? Someone says, “No thank you I don’t want your help.” Because I’m sure that happens a lot, so what and for some people and for some guys that could be devastating because for whatever reason, right?
John Corcoran: Yeah.
Brett McKay: What’s your advice for handling rejection in the networking process?
John Corcoran: Yeah, that’s tough. It’s part of the process. You have to recognize that you’re going to experience some rejection and you’re going to have to be a bit resilient. There could be a number of reasons why you’re experiencing rejection or why someone doesn’t … Oftentimes the rejection doesn’t come in the form of, “No, sorry I’m not interested in meeting you.” It might come in the form of them not responding to your email.
You send an email and you don’t receive a response which there could be a lot of different reasons for that. It could be the person is just really busy. It could be their business is busy. It could be they have some personal thing going in their life. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life so the first thing I would say is don’t take it personally.
A lot of people receive a lot of email or they just are very busy or the timing isn’t right. Oftentimes, it’s just the timing is not right for you at that time or with that person. You can’t expect every connection to be dynamite, even if it’s someone who maybe you’re really excited about meeting or really excited about the potential of getting to know, maybe that person has lots and lots of people in their life of the category that you fall into so getting back to if you’re a photographer maybe that person has lots of photographers in their life and so they just don’t have a need for another photographer in their life.
You’ve got to take the approach of well it won’t always work out or maybe I’ve had lots of great relationships work out where the first time we connected for whatever reason on my side or their side the timing was not right something was going on in one of our lives where we didn’t make the connection and then something happens later, you circle back a month or two later, you email each other once again or you meet at another event and then a nice relationship blossoms so take long game like I mentioned earlier take the long game and realize that sometimes there’s going to be little minor setbacks and the timing might just not be right.
Brett McKay: A lot of our listeners are in college or in grad school. How can college-aged guys start networking now?
John Corcoran: Yeah, that’s a great question. I know because I get a lot of emails from college-aged guys after I write articles so I hear this a lot. I’ve got a great example. There’s a guy who’s in college who emailed me a couple of months ago. I think it was after reading one of my articles on the Art of Manliness and said, “I’m interested in developing a relationship with the president of my school. They have open office hours so I was just going to go in and introduce myself. What should I talk about?” It was funny. It was like okay.
First of all I was like, “Good for you for doing that. I guarantee you this president is probably sitting in the office hours and very few people take the initiative to come in and introduce themselves.” Then the second thing I said is, “Think about what perspective you can provide that can be of help to that president and you’d be surprised. There’s probably a lot that you can do.”
Then I said, “Think about maybe there’s some initiative that that president is really passionate about on that campus that they want to get going or maybe they just want some feedback from what the pulse of the students is. They want to know what the word is on the street so to speak in the college. They want to know what it’s like or maybe they’re interested in what if we were to do bands in the plaza at lunch on Fridays. Would that go over well? Is it worth the investment? Would that improve morale? Something like that.” I said, “Go in with an attitude of that and just offer to be a liaison to the students or to inform the president about things that are going on that the president might not know about.”
This guy ends up going and doing that and emails me a couple of months later and said, “It went fabulously.” They ended up having this great conversation and the president wanted a ton of feedback on these exact things that we had talked about. You might have more perspective than you think.
You can do the same thing out in the real world where you can provide perspectives to people basically on what you’re view of the world. The other thing I would offer is again the introductions, getting back to the introductions. No matter how much you think your network isn’t worth anything there probably is someone that you know already even if you’re in college who you can introduce to someone else.
You don’t need to start with your dad’s friend who’s a partner at a big law firm downtown. You can probably start smaller. You can start with a couple of people within your network, just start the practice of it turns out that my friend who goes to this other college, maybe you’ve got a friend who went to UCLA and another friend who went to UCLA and it turns out that they don’t know each other and you can introduce them. That’s it.
You could start by doing that and then you can build it as a practice throughout your life and just continue doing that. Eventually you work your way up the scale and eventually you find yourself introducing more and more people at higher and higher levels.
I’ve had amazing results from introducing people. I’ve had people start businesses together. I’ve received emails from people. I had an email from a guy a couple of months ago who I had introduced to someone else. He said, “I probably got ten thousand dollars out of that introduction because we did business together.”
I get that sort of thing and I am just so glad and then the second thing I say is, “Great next round of drinks is on you.”
Brett McKay: Yeah, I mean just find ways to be, I mean sure even though you’re in college you can probably find ways to be useful for people that you want to work for eventually or within the university administration. Do you know a Charlie Hoehn I think is his name?
John Corcoran: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, he’s really good at this too.
Brett McKay: Yeah, he’s the big advocate. This is what he did when he was in college, he basically worked for free for these big tech people. He ended up landing a job being Tim Ferriss body man basically. He did really well, made a lot of money from it, but it all started with just being useful. Just an email out of the blue here I wanted to help you with this. There you go. I’ll do it for free.
John Corcoran: Right. Yeah, I mean oftentimes it’s just being aware of what’s going on with them, so with Charlie Hoehn I think he might have connected with Tim around the time of one of his books launching, but if you know someone that has a book coming out there’s a lot of things that you can do. You can help to promote it. You can introduce them to other people who might buy it.
I just thought of another example of someone in college who contacted me probably through another Art of Manliness post. This was from a guy who was in a bad. He was in a band and he wanted his band to do more gigs in the local concert venues around the college town that he lived.
He said, “What do I have to offer these people who own these concert venues around town? What benefit can I provide to them.” I said, “Well you are a student at the college. They want to get more students into their venues so maybe what you could do is you could do a profile feature. You could interview the owner of one of these venues, interview them and write a profile and then publish it in a local newspaper. They’d probably love that. If you go and do that, then you’re building a relationship with that particular venue owner and they’re probably, the next question after that is probably going to be what’s going on with you?” You’re like, “Oh, by the way I have a band,” and pretty soon you’ve got a gig.
Thinking from their perspective, oftentimes we have more assets at our disposal than we think we do.
Brett McKay: What about guys who are in blue collar jobs? We often think of networking as this white middle manager thing that you do, but how can blue collar guys use networking to improve their career?
John Corcoran: I think it starts with what your goal is, so what you want to do with your career and blue collar runs the gamut. It can be a lot of different types of jobs but if you’re self-employed and you want to get more customers, it’s going to be one kind of goal or if you’re working in an organization, maybe you’re a mechanic and you want to work your way up to head mechanic then that’s going to be a different set goals.
I think it starts with the conversations strategy that I talked about. Another thing you can do is create a conversations list of the organizations that you could join that would be helpful to your vocation as well.
Let’s say you’re an apprentice learning to be an electrician or a plumber or something like that, well there are probably organizations in your local community where you could build relationships so it would helpful to that career to help you work your way up the ladder and get more income so you could identify, you could brainstorm a list of ten different organizations that you could join. It could be a local chamber of commerce. It could be a BNI group, Business Network International. It could be an electrician’s union that you get involved in and then how can you deepen your involvement with that organization?
I’m talking what I think a lot of people make the mistake of is they join twenty different groups and then they don’t attend or they go as one attendee amongst a hundred people or a thousand people to some event. I don’t think that’s a great strategy. What I think you should do is actually focus on a handful of organizations and then deepen your involvement with that organization, so maybe you join the board, or maybe you organize an event for them or maybe you organize a training or you speak or something like that.
Doing those sorts of things even if you’re in a blue collar job by first identifying what your goals are whether it’s getting more clients or customers or whether it’s working your way up the ladder it starts with that and then identifying the people, the events, and the organizations that you can involve yourself with and then starting to do that. You could also test it over time so that you could take twelve months and say, “I’m going to spend twelve months deepening my involvement in these two to three groups and then see if it works.” If it doesn’t work then you try something else at the end of the next year.
Brett McKay: Awesome. Do you any tips because you’ve written about this before, but what are your tips for connecting with VIPs. Let’s say on your conversations list you want to connect with I don’t know the president of some corporation, some high profile journalist, a politician, what are your tips for connecting with those types of people?
John Corcoran: One of the things that this has been a little controversial sometimes. I have this strategy that I talk about which is keep it personal stupid. You’ve heard of keep it simple stupid, so this is keep it personal stupid, so if you have the right opening, the right opportunity you should look for an opportunity to have a conversation with someone about something having to do with their personal life rather than their vocation.
Personally, I find it very boring when I meet someone and we immediately launch into talking just about vocation. It’s not a great way to get to know someone better, but you have to look for the opportunity so you have to wait for someone to open the door, maybe they mention something, maybe you’re at an event and you’re talking to someone and they mention, “Oh, I have to leave in a little bit because I’m going to my daughter’s volleyball game.” That’s an opening for you to say, “Oh, really your daughter plays volleyball. What level college, high school?” Take interest in it and then follow up with it and maybe you have some connection to volleyball that you can follow up with them as well.
I’ll give an example like I asked an example on social media a couple of months ago, I asked people what would you say to Oprah if you met Oprah, and it doesn’t need to be Oprah. It could be someone who is of equal accomplishment within your industry. I just used her as an example because she’s famous, but if you were to meet Oprah what would you say to someone who’s of that level, that caliber of success?
The types of questions that people responded were these deep, deep questions like how do I get started in starting my own TV network? How do you publish your own magazine? How do I break into the TV industry? Honestly, if I was talking to Oprah Winfrey I wouldn’t talk about any of those things. The handful of things that I know about Oprah Winfrey which admittedly are not that much would be that she likes yellow labs. I’ve read that somewhere. She has a house in Santa Barbara which is where I went to college and a few other things and I’d probably just end up talking about those little personal things because you’re so much more likely build a personal bond with them.
I’ll just tell one quick story about working at the White House. One of the perks I guess you can call it when I worked at the White House, I don’t know if they still do this but the President will record the historic radio address in the Oval Office on weekends on either Saturday or Sunday morning and they would invite some VIPs down and employees down if you get on the list. There wasn’t a lot of people down to listen to him record it and then they do a very quick photo line where you’d get a picture with the President.
I did this around the time I was leaving and my family came in from out of town in order to do it because when do you get a picture in the Oval Office? I’d been given a tip beforehand that if you want to get a little extra time with him bring him a gift and at that time President Clinton was actually collecting DVDs. He was building up his DVD collection and he liked old westerns, so we go and get a couple of old westerns. We put a bow on them. We bring them with us. We go down to the Oval Office. He comes in at the last minute, walks in records the radio address without a beat, without skipping a beat and then immediately does the photo line.
There are members of Congress and Hollywood directors and famous people and stuff and everyone is going by really quickly and they get up to us and we hand over this gift to him and he immediately looks at it and then we end up having like a five, ten minute conversation about old westerns about going to see movies as a kid in Arkansas. My dad actually was a TV film critic when I was a kid so he can talk about movies with anyone. We have this very normal human conversation with the leader of the Free World standing in the heart of power in the Oval Office with all these other VIPs behind us waiting in line.
The reason I tell that story is because if I can have a very personal conversation with the leader of the Free World in that circumstance then you can have a very personal conversation about “mundane” topic with someone who’s very successful in your industry be it a CEO, be it a president of your company, be it a very successful sales person whoever it is find that common alley, find that thing, old western movies, whatever it is find that thing that you can talk about and then just have a normal human conversation with them. That’s the way that you start to build the bonds of a relationship.
Brett McKay: Awesome so keep it personal.
John Corcoran: Yes.
Brett McKay: As our last question, this has been a lot of great information here but what can listeners start doing today? As soon as they get done listening to this podcast what can they start doing to be a better networker or relationship builder, excuse me?
John Corcoran: I’m not going to live that down am I?
Brett McKay: Yeah, no well it’s a really good way to re-frame it. I mean it’s nice I like it.
John Corcoran: I mean I think most people like building relationships. They don’t like networking and that’s fine. What I would start with is the conversations list strategy that I talked about. Taking twenty minutes to sit down and define the fifty people you’d like to either deepen an existing relationship or start a new relationship with because you haven’t met them yet over the course of the next twelve months, that twenty minutes and honestly you don’t need to take more than twenty minutes, it could take you fifteen could save you twenty years of wasted effort.
That’s not an exaggeration, so often people do not take the time to decide and to define who are the people who I want to surround myself with, who engage and inspire me, who are the people who I want to be my ideal circle, my ideal network of friends and confidants and people who I can just pick up the phone and talk to a couple of years from now who are those people?
Define who those people are and then start taking steps over the course of the next few months to start to build those relationships. If it’s someone that you know already then just be sure to remain in touch with them every once in a while, get together with them for lunch or a drink or coffee or go for a walk or go for a walk or play a pickup basketball game together or whatever it takes in order to deepen that relationship. I think that’s the best thing that you can do to be intentional about building the network that you would like to have in the future.
Brett McKay: Awesome, well John Corcoran thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
John Corcoran: Thank you Brett.
Brett McKay: Our guest today was John Corcoran. He is the owner of smartbusinessrevolution.com. Go check it out. It’s a great block with lots of great useful information about how to be a great networker. He also has a great podcast where he talks about how to be a networker. He has guests who are experts in that field. If you go there sign up for his free email newsletter. You’ll get a free eBook called Double Your Income by Building Relationships with Influencers which is jam-packed with information on how to connect with VIPs and influencers who can help you progress in your career so great eBook, smartbusinessrevolution.com go check it out.
Well that wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness Podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at the artofmanliness.com and if you enjoy the podcast, you’re getting something out of it I’d really appreciate it if you would go to iTunes, Stitcher whatever it is you use to listen to the podcast, give us a rating I don’t care what it is, just the more ratings the better and it will get the word out about the show.
Also just to let you know we have started transcribing our podcast so if you want to go back and you’re more of a reader you can go read through all of our past episodes just go to artofmanliness.com/categories/podcasts. You’ll have the archives of all of our podcasts and you’ll be able to access the transcripts of all of those shows so that’s something else to check out. Until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.
Last updated: October 1, 2015