By Lance Thompson
We all know we’re supposed to network. It expands our opportunities, it benefits our careers, it magically opens previously locked and heavily guarded doors to our most cherished dreams. But there are so many contradictory definitions, explanations and how-to hints, it’s impossible to arrive at a simple explanation. Yet there is one.
The key to networking is provided by Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather. Everything an aspiring networker needs to know is fully explained in the first scene of this justifiably acclaimed film.
Networking is not having the most names in one’s contact list, nor the most Facebook friends, nor how many business cards one distributes at an industry convention. It is simply an approach that guarantees access to the widest possible support group when one needs assistance. That approach is to meet people, find out what they want, and discover a way to help them get it.
The first scene in The Godfather is of Bonasera seeking a favor from Don Corleone. Bonasera’s daughter has been brutalized, the law won’t help, and he wants revenge on the guilty. This would seem a legitimate request for a powerful mafioso to grant. But Don Corleone, in his answer, explains the fundamental principle of networking.
He tells Bonasera that in the many years they’ve known each other, he has never asked Don Corelone’s advice, never invited him to his home, never sought his friendship. Now he interrupts a Corleone family wedding to ask a favor. But Bonasera has not built the vital relationship which would make granting the favor possible.
Then Don Corleone gives Bonasera the advanced course. He demonstrates how to network like a pro. Don Corleone grants this favor which is so important to Bonasera. He has learned what Bonasera wants, and devises a way to help him get it. Bonasera is deeply grateful, and Don Corleone explains the essence of networking in one line: “Someday, and that day may never come, I may call upon you to do a service for me.”
Obviously, we can’t take the Godfather analogy too far. We may not want to help everyone we meet. And even if we do want to help a friend or acquaintance, we certainly don’t want to do so by committing an unethical or illegal act. But the principle remains the same, whether it’s Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount advising, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” or motivational speaker Zig Ziglar’s version, “You can get anything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Your network is a bank account of good deeds. You make deposits into that bank account throughout your life by doing good deeds for others. It’s not a quid pro quo situation–you don’t put in a good deed so you can take one out right away. You build your account over time for that rainy day. Make deposits habitually, withdraw sparingly, and it will always be there when you need it.
This month, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson has shared this space with her husband, Lance Thompson. Lance is a screen writer and script doctor whose favorite Coppola work is the screenplay for Patton. (General Patton was also a master networker.) Lance can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .