If you want to find a new job, make more money or start a side gig to pay off those high credit card bills, knowing how to network matters. Author and social scientist David Burkus talks about the most effective way to tap into your network.
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JennyHoff: Thank you so much for joining us today.
DavidBurkus: Oh, no, thank you so much for having me.
Hoff: So first tell us about your background and how you got into the space of researching how networking and networks really work?
Burkus: Yeah, I mean, I think so many people have that sort of intrepid wanderer story, right? Or the not all who wander are lost stories? So I’ll cut off the first like 20 years or so. Suffice it to say I sort of always wanted to be a writer and then while I was in university studying for that, I found these sort of social science books: Chip and Dan, Heath and Gladwell, and all that. I was like, “This is fascinating. This is what I want to do.”
So I went to graduate school for psychology and started sort of down that path. And one very unique thing to me is that for a bunch of different reasons the predominant one being, who I met in college and decided to marry and what she wanted to do with her life. She wanted to go to medical school and then residency, etcetera. And so for the entirety of my adult life, it’s sort of been, “You know what? Where your career takes you location wise is far more important than mine.”
And so, I’ve lived for more than a decade now in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which makes the list of the top 25 most populated cities in America possible. But, over time even this still was the goal, that goal was always there. And so one of the things that I had to do kind of very early on was take a very deliberate approach to who do I need to be connected to, what kind of platform do I need to build, etcetera, in order to do what I want to do with my career, right?
And over time, I mean, it’s been about eight years including starting a podcast, writing for other sites, connecting with that community, I’ve been able to do it despite the fact that I don’t live in New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco or Austin, or any of the sort of bigger hubs where a lot of times that can fall to serendipity. I’ve had to sort of be deliberative about it. And one of the ways that I’ve been been deliberate about it over time is by learning not just kind of the networking advice books, those are great. I love “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and I love “Never Eat Alone.” But, I wanted to study how networks actually operate, because I found that the advice that comes out of that is far more applicable to my situation than networking secrets from the guy who’s already in Hollywood type of books.
Hoff: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s probably applies to a lot of people too, right? A lot of people live in Middle America or they don’t live in one of the hub cities where there are constantly networking events going on, and it’s expected that you’ll sit down at a restaurant and the person next to you will probably be able to get you your next big break. Most people are either working from home or they’re in a smaller town where they’re just trying to figure out, “OK, who do I need to know to get to that next level?”
Burkus: Right, totally. Or they live in those cities and they’re introverts, right? And so they don’t want to go to that dinner because they would rather have pins shoved up their fingernails and stuff like that. So I get that. And again that’s kind of where it all came from is you have to be a bit more deliberate. And truth be told I think even those people if you live in that hub, you benefit from being much more deliberate about it, just you don’t have to as much because that serendipity thing is always there.
Hoff: Absolutely, and you say in the introduction of your book that your connections matter, but so does why you know them, where you met them, and who else they know. All of these elements are explained by the network around you, all your friends of friends. We’re going to obviously get into this; this is the crux of your book on how we can effectively expand our network by doing things that we didn’t think of necessarily.
But do you think in essence we’ve been networking or considering networking the wrong way?
Burkus: I do. I think we use the wrong mental model, I think most of us if I use the term networking we think of that as the verb, and we specifically think of it to mean going to that mixer, that cocktail party, that dinner, that whatever thing where you have to be sort of your super extroverted self and go on what essentially amounts to professional speed-dating, right? And there’s more to it than that.
But the other thing is when I say like your network I think most people have this mental model that that means the list of contacts on your phone. And it’s deeper than that, right? The first lesson I think to adopt is that a network is not something you have; it’s not a collection of contacts. A network already exists, it’s something that you are a part of, and the best thing that you can do is figure out where you are in that network or community and who else is there that you need to be connected to, and also who you already know and who they’re connected to and all of those sort of things.
So while we tend to think of the mental model as sort of a list of contacts on your phone, the better one is that sort of spider web drawing that we all think about when we think about network from a science perspective, because that’s the truth. You don’t have a network, you exist inside of one and you’ve got to act accordingly.
Hoff: Absolutely, and you based your advice on research and data which you said you wanted to see how the operations of a network are. Can you go into that a little bit about how you used that in your book and the solutions that you came up with?
Burkus: Yeah, so I’m a total nerd. I mean, that’s the beginning. But the truth is we’ve been or they’ve been, because I guess I haven’t been around long enough to be involved in this, but they’ve been studying networks from whether it’s human networks, computer networks, in ecology, sort of food chain networks. Networks exist in a variety of different contexts, and network science has been around for 50-plus years. And it’s yielded some insights that I think a lot of people know about when they think about networking, they might know a little bit about weak ties, they might know that sort of small world, six degrees of Kevin Bacon type stuff.
But the truth is there’s actually about 10 or 12 different really interesting insights, discoveries if you will, from the world of network science about how networks operate in principle. That applies to human networks that I think if we knew about it we would go about it a little bit differently, and there’s six degrees of separation is actually a great example of one. The real lesson of that isn’t that like, “Oh, isn’t this funny? You can connect anyone in Hollywood through Kevin Bacon.”
The real lesson is that within one or two introductions you can be connected to almost anyone you need to be connected to in your professional life. It just takes sort of knowing who to ask. And that actually doesn’t mean that we get deliberate about it – can you introduce me to this person? What it means is that we need to be kind of constantly feeling out who do our current friends know in certain industries so we can kind of build a little mental map of what the network looks like one degree of separation out so that when the time comes to use it it’s there.
Hoff: OK, so going on that a little bit how do you do that? How do you start feeling out who is in your network?
Burkus: Yeah, so the question that I love to ask in a lot of conversations with people, not when I’m just getting to know them but like when I’m reconnecting with friends is I literally asked that question – who do you know in blank? And I won’t ask it with something to gain from it, like it needs to be obvious that I’m not asking you because I’m going to beg you for an introduction because I need a new job. It needs to, over time, be seen is this is a regular kind of thing that you do just because kind of you find it interesting. “Do you know anybody in blank?”
So I mean, literally just the other day I asked someone, this was a weird example of it. I asked, “Who do you know that works in television?” And I found out that he’s like, “Oh, I know this person, this, and this.” And he listed like four different people, and I found out the reason was that he used to work in Sesame Street, which I did not know about him before the conversation.
Hoff: Oh, wow.
Burkus: But the idea is again you’re doing it not because you’re going to ask for an introduction, you’re doing it because you’re trying to get a sense of it. And the way that you ask that question – who do you know in blank? It lets them think about their mental rolodex and then figure out who would be the best connections for you if you ever kind of did need that. And so I try and make that a case to regularly be asking that question in conversations, again just because I’m kind of interested, I’m interested in people’s backgrounds, etcetera, not because I have something to gain from it right off the bat.
Hoff: Yeah, absolutely. And that way it doesn’t feel as kind of sleazy to you when you’re doing it like, “OK, I’m hoping that they’re going to give me an answer. And how am I now going to approach the subject of asking for a request,” but rather you are just making conversation and you’re learning something ahead of time in case you need that in the future.
Burkus: Right, exactly. The trick to not seeming like you have something to get out of the conversation is to not have something to get out of the conversation.
Hoff: Absolutely. You talked about in your book that it’s not your closest friends who are actually the most valuable part of your network; they’re valuable in many other ways, obviously, if you have problems or you need someone to talk to you. But when it comes to building out your career or switching careers or whatever you want to do, it’s the friend of the friend. Go into that a little bit.
Burkus: Yeah, so I mean, most of us when we have an opportunity, like we need to get a new job like you said or really just we’re looking for new information, we’re trying to learn something about a new field, we tend to kind of cluster to our tight-knit and friends. And I get it, because we trust them, we know we’ve had deep conversations with them in the past. But the truth is that the most beneficial connections we have are what, in sociology terms, we call weak ties or dormant ties. And those are two different types of people.
So our weak ties are those sort of loose acquaintances, right? I like to think of these as like at most mornings at 11:00AM after my kids are off at school and I’ve done my sort of writing time I go to my gym where I train in Brazilian Jujitsu, which is a super esoteric sport, but it’s a great one. And there are other guys and girls there that train, and some of them I know really well because we’ve been doing it together for a decade and others are kind of like, “All right, I know their name and I know what they do like for work, and that’s all I know about them.” Those are weak ties, people you know and there is a connection to, but you don’t know that well.
Now different from weak ties are dormant ties. Dormant ties are people that you had a close connection with but for some reason or another it fell by the wayside. So maybe they got a new job, maybe they moved, etcetera, but you don’t talk to them as often.
Now both of those categories of friends turn out to be far more valuable in looking for new information, for new opportunities, new perspectives for the same reason. And that’s that they’re in a different place in the network than you are. Sometimes they’re in a different geographical location, but other times it’s just their close-knit circle of friends is different from yours and they think differently and they know different things and they see different things. So those are far more beneficial to you than the people that you hang out with all of the time, because the truth is you already kind of think like the people you hang out with all the time, so they’re kind of redundant, right?
But the weak ties, the dormant ties are far less redundant because they’re out in a different space, they’re in a different world, they have different perspectives and new information. Dormant ties even more so than weak ties tend to be really beneficial for all of those opportunistic reasons that we talked about, because you already had a tight-knit relationship. Dormant ties are those people that you might only talk to them once a year but it feels like no time has passed when you get on the phone with them. And that’s why they’re so beneficial because it doesn’t take any effort to rebuild rapport, you can just pick up the conversation where you left off.
Hoff: OK, and if you don’t happen to be in the same city or be running into each other at a party or some sort of an event, how do you casually kind of reconnect with these people? Is this where social media comes in? How should we be using it to reconnect with people who might be working in industries or living in areas that could be very beneficial to us?
Burkus: Yeah, so yes and no on the social media side. I mean, the simplest thing to do is actually a social media hack and that is if you go over, and this is hopefully the case in the foreseeable future, but they could change anything, to go over to sites like a Facebook or LinkedIn, when you list your contacts those usually default to listing the most frequently interacted ones first, so scroll all the way down, right? Because those are your dormant ties, the people that it’s serving you last, right?
You can get a little more systematic approach and you can make a list and sort of say, “Once a week I’m going to reach out to one person off this list of 15 people that I thought of.” What I actually like to do is my newsfeed on Facebook and LinkedIn both are a bit of a blur because I have not snoozed or un-followed anybody, because what I tend to do is when I see that thing from the guy I went to college who just announced that he got promoted or that thing from the girl I know from church whose family is moving, whatever, that stuff that we normally like click like and then that’s the end of it, we don’t think about it. Like nobody cares that you clicked like, once you get like ten people you don’t even notice the names of who’s liking something.
So what I’ll do is I make it a game to like once a day as I’m scrolling through all of that to then send a text message or an email or a phone call or whatever or a private message, just whatever the medium for that relationship is, but something deeper than just a like or a comment. That’s where I think it’s really useful to make it a regular occurrence to be keeping in touch with these weak ties and dormant ties so that when a time comes, again just like the who do you know in blank, when the time comes it’s already there because you have been building it without actually expecting to take anything out of it.
Hoff: OK, what if the time has come for somebody listening to this and they haven’t prepped ahead of time like to make all of these things, are there some strategies that they can do kind of last-minute to make these connections that they need to make to make a change in their lives?
Burkus: Yeah, so the beautiful thing about who-do-you-know-in-blank is it actually works either way. It just works better if you’re waiting, right? So if you need an introduction it’s still a better way to ask for an introduction because you’re letting them opt into which name they’re going to give you and then you give them sort of that space to even offer it themselves, and if they don’t then you can ask if they would feel comfortable introducing to you them. On the weak ties front, I think the thing that changes is the frequency, right? So I make it a game to do it like once a day. I would, if I’m desperate for this, I would scroll down and I would make a much wider list and I’d change the frequency to five or six people a day. But I’d still be sort of working, just working the frequency a bit faster.
And again, I think the key is to come without an agenda even if you really have one and then let other people sort of opt into whether or not they want to help you. Because, I mean, the thing that I think makes a lot of people feel sleazy is running around asking everyone for help when either (a) they haven’t put enough into the relationship or (b) that person can’t help them anyway. So the best way to do it I think humans are nice people, generally, most of them, and they like to help, so the best way is to sort of put out with no agenda that you want to reengage a relationship and let other people opt into helping you, which most of them are going to want to do because most humans are good people.
Hoff: Yeah, and that’s true even when I think about it from a personal experience, when I get an email from somebody that hasn’t reached out to me at all in years, not for my birthday, not for moving, not for a job promotion, nothing like that, and then they want to be introduced to somebody who I kind of barely know. Sometimes I’ll do that but sometimes it’s like, “I don’t even know that person. It’s a little uncomfortable. I don’t think it would do you any good.” But you do notice it when that person hasn’t bothered to connect with you in any way at all before that, then it does feel very utilitarian. So I like your approach where you say, “OK, start building that connection, even remembering a birthday or congratulating them on an event, on a birth of a child.” That can already kind of rebuild that rapport so it doesn’t feel so forced when you do need something.
Burkus: Exactly. And then even when you do let other people sort of offer into it, right? So I mean, I hate those, even from close friends, I hate those things like, “I hope this email finds you well. Now here’s what I need from you.” I hate those. But if I were to say like, “Hey, I hope this email finds you well. I just wanted to catch up with you a bit. Is there a time to have a phone call?” You do like 10 or 15 minutes on the phone, and in that conversation where you’re learning about them you just sort of mentioned that like, “Yeah, well, I got laid off last month and I’ve been looking for …” You’re giving them just enough that they need to offer help if they have help to offer, and most of them will, right?
And the ones who don’t won’t because they don’t like you, maybe they don’t feel comfortable yet with it, so it wouldn’t be a good connection anyway, right? So it’s really just a matter of letting other people sort of opt into that help thing and doing the caretaking of your network for its own sake and letting people opt in to when they want to help you.
Hoff: Yeah, absolutely. You also say that research shows the most valuable networkers are not people who have a tight-knit group within their industry only, but rather those who span gaps between groups and broker information back and forth. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Burkus: Yeah, I don’t know how to do it without being really nerdy, so give me like a 30 second nerd pass, right? So when we think about networks ,we tend to think about the links connecting to different people, and we often have this tendency to sort of think about it that everybody’s sort of equidistant, and now we know that’s not true because of strong and the weak ties. But the other thing is that people tend to naturally gravitate to people that work in the same industries, to people that think like them, to people that vote like them which that’s a really weird one, it probably explains a lot of where we are as a country. But we tend to gravitate toward people who sort of think and act like us.
And over time, what that means is a network doesn’t look perfect like a sheet of graph paper, it looks more like if you slice an English muffin in half – it’s full of nooks and crannies and spaces. And as people cluster they all gravitate toward each other and that pushes them away from some other cluster. And it turns out that like being connected in that cluster – it’s great if you’re only ever going to hang out in that cluster and sort of climb the corporate ladder – but the truth is most people’s careers don’t look like that.
And the true value comes from if two different clusters are attracted to each other because they think alike, act like, do alike, etcetera. The true value comes in introducing people that are different, and that only happens when you start spanning what the nerdy term is a \u2018structural hole,’ a hole between, a gap between two different clusters of people. Those brokers, those people that build the bridge over it create a ton of value for both clusters, and the good news is some of that value spills over into their own career.
So often it’s like if we’re trying to make inroads, when we’re trying to sort of grow and build our network, again, if you would use the mental model of, “Oh, a network is a list of contacts in our phone,” then we’re just randomly trying to meet new people. We’re being deliberate about it and we’re being specific about, “I need to meet a new person in this industry because I want a connection to that industry.” Or even just, “I want to better understand it.” Then we end up bridging a gap that creates value for the very people that we’re trying to meet.
Hoff: OK, so would you suggest in a circumstance like either I guess asking those dormant connections or going to a networking event for that industry or going to a meet-up group for that industry, how would you best go about doing this?
Burkus: So all of the above. Your dormant and weak ties are going to be more likely to be in those other clusters anyway, so that’s a great way to start. If you don’t have anybody in any of those – then meetings, and my friend Pamela Slim calls them watering holes, just what is the watering hole for that community? It might be an in-person group, might be an online group, might be a certain conference, or wherever it is, every sort of cluster has its own kind of watering hole that everybody gathers at. And being proactive about going to that to meet those new people is hugely beneficial.
Hoff: And what about though being within our own industry? And you talk about seeking out silos, that we need to have a cluster within our own field to develop and grow but we can’t stay there. Is this similar to what you were just describing or is there kind of another strategy behind that?
Burkus: Yeah, no, exactly right. I mean, we cluster because there are benefits to being in a community or being in a tribe, etcetera. And so you need that, no one is an island as the old saying goes. But the truth is even inside of one company you get into like silos, politics, turf wars, etcetera. The people that create the most value long term for an organization and in effect get promoted faster and all of those sort of things are actually not the people that are the tightest in the cluster. The best term for this comes from one academic paper I saw, they’re the organizational misfits.
They’re the people that kind of bounced around, like they started out in finance and then for some reason they ended up volunteering on a marketing project and now they’re in marketing. But they have an understanding of what finances a department needs and they have the ability to sort of bridge those silos. And those are really the best place to operate because you are a member of the community and you get the benefits of being in that cluster, but you’re also creating more value than most people in that cluster because you’re connecting it to another one that it needs to stay connected to.
Hoff: So would you suggest people kind of take this strategy at work? It’s not just about meeting people but going into another department, working on a project there, trying to find ways to kind of cross the paths of other people in the other departments to enhance your own skill set?
Burkus: Exactly, absolutely. One of the best organizations I’ve seen that does this, and it prevents those sort of silos and turf wars from happening is the company IDEO, they’re an industrial design firm. And they encourage every employee to spend about 5% of his or her work time helping on a project that’s unrelated to what they’re doing, right? And the best thing about this is you don’t actually need permission in most organizations, so like, “Hey, boss. I want to spend 5%,” especially if it’s additive, right? “All right, so work 41 hours this week, but make that one hour jumping in on that meeting of a project that you have nothing to do with and weren’t assigned to but you figured out you could be helpful if you joined in.” That’s the best way to sort of begin to enter into that other department.
Hoff: And the purpose of doing these things is to really enhance your ability to be promoted or to switch careers, why would you want to do this?
Burkus: So I mean, to me the purpose is that you’re building what sociologists would call social capital. There’s true value to a network just like there’s value to real capital, just like there’s value to human capital, skill. It’s another form of value that’s created. How you choose to extract that is up to you. You could extract that by getting promoted and there’s a lot of research that supports that people who take these steps get promoted faster. You could do it because you want to go out on your own and start your own business, and there’s a lot of research that shows that the people that are paying attention to social capital have a more successful time launching their startup.
How you choose to capture that value is up on you. But the biggest thing is understanding that network around you and how to add value to it builds up that social capital so that when you need it it’s there.
Hoff: And what about managing the time that you spend on building this network? So if you’re trying to scroll through and reconnect with people and doing stuff at work, how do you really quickly build your network without making it like a full-time job?
Burkus: So I don’t know that you can build it super wide super quickly without seeming like that like we were talking about earlier, that kind of person that’s always trying to get it. The truth is it’s a slow build but it gains momentum over time. So a lot of what we’re talking about is it sounds like a lot, it’s really not. If we’re talking about reconnecting with one weak tie a day, that’s about five minutes to shoot off a text message or an email, right? And one catch-up conversation a week, that’s maybe 30 minutes.
So all told we’re talking about maybe 30 minutes to an hour a week, but it compounds over time. This is actually one of the weirdest principles from network science is what we call this principle of preferential attachment. The more connections that you have and the more broad and diverse connections you have the more that they begin to come to you. So it is a hard and deliberate path at first, but over time the snowball sort of starts to gather and gather more snow and go downhill faster, more connections get added to you faster, and you’ll find that eventually it kind of runs on autopilot for you.
Hoff: So how do you get started? What if you’re uncomfortable shooting out a text or a message to somebody that you haven’t talked to frankly in months or even a year? How do you get started in a casual way of reintroducing yourself and checking in on them without it being kind of just totally out of the blue where they’re asking in their head, “OK, what do you want?”
Burkus: So in that situation again the easiest way to get started is to get started. I totally get the social sort of discomfort of like, “Well, I haven’t talked to them since college. I can’t just send them a text.” So maybe start with the medium ties, right? They’re not your strong ties but you’re going to make it a practice. Whoever is on that list, I made this joke earlier of scrolling down all the way to the bottom of your Facebook feed and see the people you don’t interact with the most, if the middle of that list is the extent of where your comfort zone is for now then let’s start there and gradually over time as you get more comfortable asking and as other people sort of get the message that this is just something you do because you care about people and you’re intentional about your relationships, it’ll be a sort of a more comfortable thing.
Hoff: And what would you say? Just, “How are you doing? I’ve been thinking about you.” Or, “I saw you’ve got a promotion.” Or, “I saw you had a child.” Just general things like that?
Burkus: Yeah, so again, I love to use sort of their life events that they’re talking about as an excuse to give them a deeper congratulation. So, “Hey, I just saw the photo on Facebook that you got promoted and your new office looks awesome. It’s been so long since we talked. I’d love to catch up. And I know you’re super busy, so can we just chat for 15 minutes on the phone or 30 minutes on Zoom or Skype or something like that?” I usually tell people not to ask for coffee because, let’s be honest, it sounds like it’s not a big deal but the truth is it is, you get to drive to the place and then you got to figure out who buys what. And you’re in it for a good two hours.
But just saying, “Hey, let’s catch up. Do you have like 15, 20 minutes to chat on the phone sometime?” Just say you’d love to hear more about whatever, you’re just giving them the congratulations in a more personal way. It’s a really sort of low-risk way to do it, and again you’re anchoring it into that other event but you’re taking it deeper than most of their friends who just clicked like or made a comment.
Hoff: What are some other ways you can use social media really to expand your network? I see on LinkedIn, it’s a trend right now, because it seems like every single person in my network on LinkedIn is doing these posts where they have one sentence, a couple spaces, and other sentence, they’re telling a story, right? And they’re trying to gather likes and make it go viral. And I’m not sure the total purpose of it but everyone seems to be doing it. Is that the kind of stuff that we need to be doing too, like pay more attention to LinkedIn?
Burkus: I mean, I’m not a big fan of it. I will say the thing that I’m the most a fan of Facebook and LinkedIn is a feature that LinkedIn used to actually do better and now Facebook does it better, but to our point earlier about clusters and where the watering holes are, is groups. The groups functions in both Facebook and LinkedIn are incredibly useful, because they are the online gathering of those like-minded people who share the same hobby or work in the same industry, etcetera, and they’re a wonderful opportunity to join, begin to get to know people, begin to add value to other people without even having to leave your home, right?
So those tend to me to be the biggest if you’re looking for like what’s the best use of social media, unquestionably it’s interacting with the groups. And in fact Facebook actually does it so well that other than seeing the newsfeed to know what people are up to to be able to give a congratulatory email and the groups function, if it weren’t for those two things I would have canceled my account years ago. But those two things are incredibly valuable.
Hoff: All right, so use them for what they’re valuable for. What are three things somebody could do right now to expand their network in a strategic way that will actually benefit them and their career and their goals?
Burkus: Yeah, so we’ve already hinted at two, right? So reaching back out to those weak ties and dormant ties is a really big one. The second would be beginning to map out your network by asking “Who do you know in blank” or just getting a feel of it, or even if you’re not comfortable asking that question just paying attention to other names that get mentioned in conversations with your contacts to just kind of keep a mental map of who is one degree of separation out.
And the third one is one we haven’t talked about yet, which is the easiest way to call it as find ways to take work friends and make them into real friends. There’s this principle from network science called multiplexity, the short version of it is the more context that we know someone in, the more connections we have to them – so we work with them but we also went to college or our kids go to the same daycare and we also work out at the same gym. The more connections, the more reasons for connections we have to someone the deeper relationship and the stronger relationship we build with them faster.
But unfortunately most of us tend to like categorize people – that’s our work friend, that’s our gym friend, that’s our whatever-friend. And those categories don’t help us, so I like to encourage people find ways to make work friends into real friends or real friends into work friends by asking them questions outside of that normal context that we all have, the conversation in.
Hoff: OK, so try to ask them about their personal lives, meet up for coffee outside of work, do something along that front to strengthen that relationship.
Burkus: Yeah, and I really just pay attention to the other hints that they give you about what they do and their hobbies, etcetera, like I mean there’s a couple easy ones like I mentioned the gym thing. If they do CrossFit they probably already told you 17 times, right? But everybody kind of drops little hints about their real life, the problem is we all sort of have these buckets, these filters. So we tend to filter that information out because it’s not relevant to the context we’re talking in. So just opening up and paying a bit more attention, asking a follow-up question when they mentioned their thing.
I mean, you and I did it actually before we started recording because we started talking about kids, and we found another context in which we connect as we both have two boys and so we have these connections. They exist in every relationship, and if you can find them faster you can build a deeper relationship faster with someone.
Hoff: Absolutely. How would you say using these kinds of networking strategies has improved your own life, expanded your own network, perhaps assisted you even on promoting your book?
Burkus: So I mean, the biggest thing is that they’re far more relevant than the networking advice books, because when your sample size is one, one person who wrote an advice book, that’s one thing. When it’s the tens of thousands of people that have been a part of these studies, generally you’re going to get more useful advice. So in my case it’s been kind of the exact same.
So I hate to say that I’ve been this intentional with it but I know who among my friends are podcasters, who writes for what sites, etcetera, and I’m taking care long before I ever made an ask to sort of either re-warm that relationship or keep it warm this entire time and between times, and then we go from there to reaching out to friends of our friends, etcetera. I’m probably going to ask you this question offline when we get done with a podcast interview for example, “Hey, who else do you think would be a really good content fit for this show, right? Who else could we provide value to?” So that’s sort of referral idea.
So it’s been hugely beneficial to me and my work and my career as an author and a speaker to pay attention to the network that I’m already in and figure out again, “How can I provide value for it and where can I extract that value when I need it?”
Hoff: Right, and doing it in a sincere enough way where it doesn’t feel like you’re just being used for that potential connection in the future, but you’re actually generally building some sort of relationship with this person.
Burkus: Exactly. I mean, the best way to not feel like a sleaze when you’re networking is not be a sleaze when you’re networking.
Hoff: Right, and be willing to offer help in return as well.
Burkus: Yeah, exactly.
Hoff: Absolutely. Finally our show is called Charged Up! What gets you charged up about networks and how they can be used?
Burkus: So the biggest thing that gets me charged up is thus far seeing the sort of reaction. So I had this grand theory that I needed to help my great ideas from network science into like the practical networking career world. And to see that that’s resonated with so many people that are like, “Yeah, I love \u2018Never Eat Alone,’ but I hate the idea because sometimes I just want to eat alone.”
Burkus: Seeing that reaction has been getting me really, really charged up. I have this grand theory for my whole career which is that the things that we’re learning from studying humans, from social science are hugely beneficial to those humans, but often they’re wrapped up in vague academic language that’s hard to understand. So bridging that gap, being that broker between those two structural holes has gotten me and keeps me charged up.
Hoff: Fantastic. David, fascinating discussion, your book is great; you’ve got a lot of activities in there for people to go through so they can figure it out where their connections are and where they can go with that. And I think it’s a very useful tool because we all know that once you’ve gotten into your entry-level job if you want to move forward, especially switch careers or switch companies; it’s really about who’s in that network and who can you reach out to and who can put you in touch with the right person. So thank you so much for this very useful information and a great conversation.
Burkus: Oh, thank you so much for having me.