Educate May 2017

Book Review: “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi

Written By: Sharon Brown (Prospect Strategy Analyst UF Office of Advancement)

Here’s the thing about Keith Ferrazzi’s book “Never Eat Alone” It’s somewhat dated. It’s a book on networking and relationship building written just before Facebook took off, and there’s no getting around the social network’s absence. But, here’s the other thing about this book: The core concepts and tips endure. And despite the timing on Facebook, Ferrazzi proves quite prescient with his appreciation and promotion of other then-new sites like LinkedIn. When it comes to connecting, he knows his stuff.

The author is a popular speaker, motivator and owner of a consulting company. But, he wasn’t always so successful. He grew up poor, caddied at the local country club and saw firsthand the power of connections. He came to the conclusion that it really is who you know and helping one another is what it’s all about. He also realized that even if you’re not born into a wealthy or connected family, you can still build a network of mutual support.

Relationships are everything, Ferrazzi says, and he approaches connecting in a spirit of service. He believes in reaching out to people and helping them however he can. Of course, his life benefits from the connection as well, but there is no quid pro quo or keeping score. “How can I help,” he asks, and then he takes action, offering assistance himself or calling on one of his many friends and contacts. It’s a big happy circle of giving and getting. There is a fine line, though, between sincere networking and ambitious fake connecting. The key is simply generosity and a focus on helping others.

“Never Eat Alone” is an easy read, and Ferrazzi writes enthusiastically and persuasively. If you’re serious about building your network, there are plenty of ideas here to try. Here are some that stuck with me:

He dislikes formal networking events that rarely get deeper than trading business cards. As an alternative, he invites you to treat your life as one big networking event. How many people do you come in contact with every day? Work on your small talk or strike up deeper conversations, but either way, be sincere and open.

Cultivate your personal board of advisors. You already have some — these are the people who can set you straight and aren’t afraid of challenging you. Who else could you turn to?

His chapter on strategically attending conferences was eye-opening. I was so impressed that I shared it with two colleagues who are headed to a conference soon.

Start cloning events. Say you want to have dinner with two colleagues but only have one time available. Clone the dinner — invite them both. They may not know each other, but they could benefit from an introduction, and you get your time in with each. Wins all around.

When you meet someone new, follow up quickly. This is another of Ferrazzi’s keys: He suggests following up 12 to 24 hours after meeting someone. Be it a text, voice mail or phone call, just do it soon.

A follow-up suggestion I can relate to is to send people clippings that would benefit them. Maybe it’s a cartoon that will make them laugh or an article on a subject they love. As a researcher with hundreds of news alerts at work, I know the power of a timely update. It’s a great connector and shows people that they are on your mind.

I ended up liking “Never Eat Alone” more than I thought I would when I began. It was almost off-putting to learn how much thought and intention Ferrazzi puts into relationship building. But as I continued, I realized that being intentional about creating a web of connections to benefit others, as well as ourselves, is a higher calling — not a self-serving one. Resilient communities are inhabited by people with strong webs, and this book has inspired me to work on mine.

SHARON BROWN is a Prospect Strategy Analyst with the University of Florida Office of Advancement. A graduate of UF’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, she is happy to have found a career that marries reading, writing and being curious. She and her husband, also a CLAS alum, live in Gainesville.

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