When I first came across Never Eat Alone, I readied myself for the same mundane advice that fills similar career and networking books. Its title makes the premise clear--every meal is an opportunity to build a new relationship--and due to its simplicity I could not help but wonder whether Keith Ferrazzi really needed 298 pages to expand upon it. I was pleasantly surprised that this book contains such a wealth of innovation information—so much so that I can hardly wait for the inevitable sequel to take advantage of the generosity with which Ferrazzi divulges his expertise.
Each of the thirty-one chapters of this book stands on its own, presenting guidance on the building of your personal network and social circle. There are general parameters about the building of relationships such as not keeping score and making a consistent commitment to building and nurturing your relationships even (and especially) when you do not need them. The overriding goal is to have solid relationships in place well in advance of the time you have a need for them. Ferrazzi also provides a primer on the appropriate etiquette for gaining access to the people you want to bring into your network, and he explores ways you can position yourself to be on the receiving end of phone calls seeking advice and insight. This dynamic will better position yourself for the time when you develop a need for some professional or personal guidance of your own.
One (of the many) points I will take from Ferrazzi’s book is view of a relationship as a muscle that needs to be exercised and used. I can recall many times when I decided not to call someone and ask for a favor thinking I would “use up” that favor bank when in fact, placing that call might have actually strengthened that relationship. This is so, according to Ferrazzi, because by reaching out to someone you increase the likelihood that the person on the other side of the telephone will contact you when they are need of assistance. It is this give-and-take that sets the stage for the formation of a relationship that benefits both parties to it.
Ferrazzi also presents a well-reasoned theory that recognizing a networking opportunity is just as important, if not more so, than knowing what to do when one comes before you. He provides examples of people taking advantage of an obvious networking opportunity that is unlikely to produce a tangible result over a more indirect opportunity with a greater likelihood to provide a benefit. For example, he recalls a colleague waiting in a lengthy line to shake the hand of a top executive alongside hundreds of other avid fans. While acknowledging the excitement of this lightning-speed meet and greet, Ferrazzi suggests that by using this opportunity to have a more intimate conversation with some of the top executives’ advisors who were probably in attendance, his colleague may have left the event having formed a new relationship rather than with merely the memory of a photographic moment.
Never Eat Alone is welcome addition to the networking books available since it presents concrete advice on the building of mutually beneficial relationships to assist you in all aspects of your life. The book is clear, concise, user-friendly guide, and the professional and personal landscape of our communities would be a much better place if we all read (and followed) the advice contained within it.