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Why Your Network Sucks (& What to Do About It) with David J.P. Fisher [VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Interview with David JP Fisher Coach Darcy Eikenberg

If you’ve ever said, “I know I need to network, but I really hate it!!”, then you need to meet my friend David J.P. Fisher. David, or DFish as he’s known, is a master of networking in ways that are simple, effective, and consistent with who you are.

He’s recently updated his two popular networking books:

We sat down to talk about networking, books, and staying connected even when we’re apart. Enjoy!

Download the audio-only here.

Support these ideas & the author by buying David’s books here and here.

(Note: Amazon links are affiliate links, which means if you buy here, Amazon puts a few cents in my account return. But please buy the book wherever you prefer.)

Connect with David & get his free ebook, 19 Ways to Immediately Skyrocket Your Sales Network here.


Here’s a transcript of our chat

It’s slightly edited for readability, but since we humans speak differently than we write, I’ll ask you to forgive errors of grammar or repetition.

Darcy:
Hey! I’m excited to have David Fisher here with us at Red Cape Revolution. David has been a friend of Red Cape Revolution, and me personally, for a while. He has two great new updated books that are coming out, called “Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What To Do About It.” I love that subtitle. And “Networking in the 21st Century… on LinkedIn”; both are incredibly important today for doing the kind of networking we need to do. So, welcome D Fish! Thanks for being here.

David:
Oh, thanks for having me. Super excited.

Darcy:
So tell me a little bit about how you tackled updating these two books at a time when there were a few things going on in the world? And I think a few things going on in your life, too.

David:
You know, I’ve got a young son, a two-year-old, and there was this global pandemic going on. I just had all this free time, and I was like, “You know what? I could update one of my books, but why not just do two?”

Darcy:
You know, we love overachievers here at Red Cape Revolution.

David:
Right, right. But a lot of it was driven from a place that was kind of selfish in some ways because a lot of my work and my business is driven by networking. It’s not only stuff that I do to help other professionals and teach and coach and train, but it was for me. I was kind of looking at how things were changing for me, because of the pandemic and what was happening. When I was wanting to update the networking book, I started in on that. I realized that in a time where digital is so important, I was like, “Okay, let’s do another update of the LinkedIn book.”I had two books coming out at the same time. It’s nutty! I wouldn’t suggest it to anybody. But I’m glad I did it now that we’re almost done.

Darcy:
I’m having enough to do with one book coming out. I think I’ve already mentioned this, but I’ve always loved this subtitle, “why your network sucks and what to do about it.” Tell me, why do most of our networks suck?

David:
The very short answer is that there are two reasons why. One is that we’re not wired to network in the way that we think we’re supposed to. I guess the second point, which is our conception of networking is wrong. Too many of us think that networking is about developing a lot of connections, a lot of contacts, with people that we don’t know becoming everybody’s best friend, becoming the life of the party, going to every networking event, going to every conference. There’s a lot of effort in that conception.

Also, our brains are not good at that. They’re not wired to maintain a lot of relationships. One thing I really noticed is that the people who were successful at networking were the ones who looked at it as relationships. Those who looked at it as a process of creating what in the literature is called “weak connections,” where people that you just kind of know, and there’s actually a lot of value in that if it’s done correctly, and intentionally. I think one of the biggest struggles is that we just have the wrong conception. Because of that, we struggle a little bit, and we find it hard, and it’s awkward. Then we just say to ourselves, “I’m a crappy networker, so why even bother?”

Darcy:
A weak connection, tell me what a weak connection looks like, as opposed to what a strong connection looks like. Who are weak connections? And why are they weak? And why is that a good thing?

David:
This is driven by some of the research done where the technical term is a weak connection. Mark Granovetter, who is a pretty prominent sociologist, wrote a paper on this called the strength of weak ties. What he had found, and it’s been corroborated since then a lot of the network science research, is that we think that we’re going to get the best opportunities through people we know the strong connections. You say, our best friends or family, people we’re closely tied to, and see often.

What has been shown is that we actually get opportunities, not because of the closeness of the relationship, but because of the access that we have to other spheres of influence and information through people. The idea of a weak connection is something that you see between once a week and once a year. You and I talking, we’re weak connections of each other. We definitely see each other on LinkedIn, which I’ll bring up in a moment. But we have maybe a conversation or two a year. We see each other through emails. We were connected through our alma mater, but we have that foundation. Then if there’s a way that I see I can help you or vice versa, we can kind of build from there. That’s why finding ways to create these weak connections intentionally, is such a powerful networking process. I found that the people that are successful with networking are again, being very intentional about creating these weak connections and cultivating them over time.

Darcy:
That’s interesting because I think that when people get hung up with networking, they feel a lot of pressure to make a lot of friends. That everybody has to know things, or we have to know a lot of things about everybody. I know I get caught up in this sometimes, partly because I’m interested in people. I only have so many hours in the day to know you beyond the kind of initial way that I got to know you. They are the kind of things you share on LinkedIn, or you’re a friend of somebody else that I know.

David:
Right.

Darcy:
How has some of that changed then? Not just through COVID. Sort of our reliance on more screen time, but also just in, the past few years, with job changes, with the way that the world is changing? How has that been shifting? How has it’s made you want to update the book?

David:
I think that COVID and the pandemic, social distancing, the upheaval of the normal employee-employer contract, as far as where we’re going to work, whether it’s remote or an office. I think that this did not create the shifts that we’re going through. I think it accelerated it quite a bit. I tell people, I think we’re seeing about 10 years of digital transformation in 10 months, right? In 2020, some people had to do it in 10 weeks, or even 10 days. But what I think technology really did is, and this was something that I first talked about in “Networking in the 21st Century,” and then really leaned into in “Networking in the 21st Century on LinkedIn,” is that the digital tools give us a way to outsource some of that relationship building in a light way.

I think we had previously seen kind of the gold standard of networking, and whether this was realistic or not be these people who are, “I know everybody in my Rolodex. I know who their spouse is, their kids’ names and, birthdays.” There is definitely some value to knowing those things about people, but it’s exhausting. It’s very hard. I still remember hearing a trainer in the real estate space, who was trying to teach real estate agents how to be good networkers and build a business, and the prescription was “Okay, you need to stop by to see at least three people a day at their place of work. You have to send five handwritten notes every day.” It was just all these things. That’s exhausting.

What technology was doing, and I think, before the pandemic, accelerated because of the pandemic, it’s given us these ways of touching our relationships lately, like this zoom call. All zoom calls we have (sometimes we get a little over fatigued by zoom calls), but the ability to just say, “Hey, I want to have a 30-minute call with you.” There’s no investment in my time to travel somewhere that whether that’s to lunch, or to grab a cup of coffee. It’s “Oh, I can go from one call to the next, building that relationship. Maybe we’ll just talk again in six months.” It’s easy. It’s a low investment.

LinkedIn, the people who are using it well right now, are the ones that are like, “Hey, I can not only share some content about what I’m doing easily and in a couple of minutes, but I can spend 10 minutes there and see what’s happening with Darcy, find out how the book’s coming along. What she’s doing.” Those light touches are a great way to keep relationships at what I call a simmer. They’re just there in the background, a light touch here and there, “Hey, how’re you doing?” Again, if when I need help with something, or if I go, “Hey, there’s a connection I can make.” It’s not coming out of the blue. We’re just kind of turning up the heat a little bit on that relationship. We’ve invested social capital in a light way. We’ve made deposits over time. I think that’s the biggest way that technology has made networking if you’re strategic if you’re intentional, a lot easier, and a lot more impactful.

Networking in the 21st Century on LinkedIn

Darcy:
One of the things that I catch myself saying from time to time is visibility equals viability. There are people who will resist showing up on LinkedIn. “Oh, I don’t have anything to say. Or I don’t want to be seen as bragging. I don’t want to be seen as full of myself.” What do you say to that? How someone wants to build their network, but there’s kind of that internal resistance to? I don’t like social media. Some people are sharing stuff I don’t agree with. Even on LinkedIn, which has been a professional platform, there’s still some of that bleed over. What’s your advice for folks about specifically using a tool like LinkedIn to be able to grow those weak ties and to be able to keep that network on a simmer?

David:
It’s a great question. It’s incredibly resonant right now. I work with a lot of organizations on helping their sales teams and their entire teams on LinkedIn messaging. I talked to a lot of executives, more than almost anybody else are the ones who say exactly what you just told me: “I don’t know what to say, I don’t want to be bragging. I don’t want to put myself out there in a negative way.” What’s interesting is, and I like that visibility is viability, I often say that personal brand is visibility, plus reputation is our brand. What I tell these executives is, and I’ll tell anybody else is, it’s not about bragging. It’s about actually letting people know what you’re doing. Until you tell them, and this is actually why I love LinkedIn until you tell somebody, they can’t know because they’re not psychic, right? I

‘ll put myself out there as an example. If I have a great client story. Or if I’ve got a book coming out, I don’t want to be an ultimate self-promoter. I’m the same way. I don’t want to be seen as bragging or self-promoting. If I don’t promote myself, nobody else will. If I don’t say “Hey, I’ve got a book coming out,” nobody can know. What’s funny is that when you do that, people don’t respond as “Oh, he’s being self-promotional.” They’re like, “Oh, that’s super exciting. Looking forward to it. How can I help?” What I tell people is, it’s not about bragging. It’s about allowing people to see your perspective. Especially if you’re somebody who’s been in your industry for any length of time. Your perspective is valuable. It doesn’t have to be unique. It doesn’t have to be, “I’m a thought leader that is going to shake the foundations of our field.” No, it’s your personal perspective. Your insights have value because they’re yours. That’s what people do want to connect with.

Darcy:
I have a workshop that I teach called “Mastering the Art of Bragging.” The subtitle on that is “What Today’s Humble Leaders and Other Professionals Need to Know.” Part of that message is not around the humble brag of putting yourself one over somebody. It really is coming from that place of service, which is what I hear you saying. It’s like if I have something that I believe in, that I believe can help somebody else, I would be remiss if I didn’t put it into the world. If I had the one chemical that mixed with some other chemical out there was going to wipe COVID off the map. I wasn’t telling anybody I have this one chemical, then bad on me. I think sometimes we don’t realize we might have something to share, a point of view, or a story about what we’re doing, or even a pat on the back for somebody else. That’s one of the other things strategically that I know you’re doing with LinkedIn.

David:
If all you do is show up every day and say, I’m awesome. I’m awesome. I’m awesome. Of course, that’s gonna get old real quick. Almost to anybody who has this concern, they’re not going to do that anyway.

Darcy:
That’s a great point.

David:
I first came up with this concept when I was teaching sales professionals. I was like, if you’re worried about being pushy, you’re not going to be pushy, right? If that’s something that’s a concern, you’re not going to be a jerk. If you don’t want to be a braggadocious jerk, you’re not going to be. That doesn’t mean you can’t say, “Hey, I just got this promotion,” or “Hey, our company just hit this really big milestone,” or “This is a really cool career, credential, or certification I got.” If you’re worried about being braggadocious, but you still put that out there, you’re gonna put it out from a place of humility. Honestly, humility is not always what you want to go for. There’s nothing wrong with telling me what you’re good at. I want to know because again, you might be able to help me when I need it. If I know that you’re the expert, and I got a problem, cool. I know I can call Darcy and she’s gonna be able to help me out.

Darcy:
I do think people like to cheer each other on. Sometimes we get caught up in everybody dragging people down. I think that as you’re building your community, it’s also how can you lift other people up? How can you amplify what other people are saying? Give them a comment that reinforces the thing that they just did? For those of us who are wanting to work on our networking game a little bit who know that as we go into the end of this year, get ready for a new year, whatever that’s going to bring, whether that’s growing where we are, or thinking about other things that are next, what are the one or two things that you would recommend that everybody do now to make sure that their networks don’t suck?

David:
Just one or two things? Which is good, because, there are only a couple hundred pages of stuff to do? It’s such a valid question. This is what I get asked a lot because there is this idea that “Okay, is there just one, or two things that I got to do? And if I do those, everything else will be okay?” I kind of think networking is a lifestyle choice. You have to kind of start embodying it.

There are a couple of very specific things I think that you can do right now, even if you’re like, “I don’t know what I want to do with my career. I don’t know what the future holds.” There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world. We don’t know where our career journey is going to take us. One thought I have is that you need to start networking now, whatever that means to you, now.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they network when they need something. That’s a very hard place to network from because you’re coming from a place of desperation. Often like, “Oh, I need to get a new job, I better start working my network.” Now, that never works. There’s a great Irish saying “the best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining,” I have a friend who recently got a new job, I was like,” Great–start networking.”

You’re going to need a new job. It might be in two years; it might be in 20, you never know. But start to make those deposits, whatever way that looks like. The second thing I would suggest to everybody, and this is hard for people who are not in sales, or not running a business who don’t talk about themselves, commonly come up with your elevator pitch. Not because you have to give it at an event, but how would you explain what you do, and what you add, to somebody else. That will come up. You cannot expect to get other people to talk about you any better than you can talk about yourself. If you go, “I’m going to invest in my network, and then I’m going to have a clearer perspective and point of view that I’m coming from when I do that networking, that goes a long way.” Then those are the strategies and it’s the tactics of whether it’s LinkedIn, going to events, doing some zoom calls, whatever it might be, that will naturally flow from those first two.

Darcy:
I think it’s great advice that it is a long game, right? It is doing things over time; it’s a lifestyle. It’s recognizing not just, “oh, I need to do this, because someday I might need a new job,” but you know that one of my mantras is somebody out there needs me. It’s the thought that, if we’re not connecting and sharing and checking in with people, and not to micromanage them, but just to stay in that weak tie, like just be top of mind, that there’s a difference that I might make for somebody that I have no idea what that’s gonna be. It just may hit at the right time and the right place to make a difference. That’s part of why I do what I do. I know why you do what you do.

David:
Exactly, I told a client once that good networking is solving a problem you’re gonna have in two years.

Darcy:
Oh, that’s great. Good networking is solving a problem you’re gonna have…

David:
Yeah, in two years and be like, I need a new employee, I need a new partner, I need a new supplier, I need a new vendor, I need a new job; whatever it is, you have a problem in two years. Right now, the stuff you’re doing now, it is a long game. Sometimes it’s great, there’s a much faster payoff, sometimes it’s just that investment or it’s just not the right time, the right place, not the right opportunity.

It’s kind of like that story of a married couple that met 20 years ago. They were not in the right time or place. Maybe one was married or the other was married or that they’re just friends and they came back together. Now they’re “Oh, hey, there’s something here.” It’s amazing how many times I’ve met people that are like, “yeah, I met somebody at an event five years ago.” Then, five years later, their company had a position and I could call them up. They could help at that point or vice versa. I was able to help somebody who I met years ago. You kind of have to have that long-term perspective, for sure.

Darcy:
I do think people want to help and people want to network with you or connect with you. Be part of your circle and make sure that your network doesn’t suck anymore.

David:
Exactly.

Darcy:
Great. DFish, where can people find you?

David:
DavidJPFisher.com is probably the easiest place; that’s our online home. I’m also on LinkedIn, which we mentioned a bit today. Linkedin.com/IMDFish. Just even search me on LinkedIn, happy to connect. Just say you heard our conversation here. And then all the books are on Amazon.

Darcy:
Great. Links to the books, all freshly updated for the world that we’re living in today. Probably will be updated in another few years for the web, the way the world would change. So much has stayed the same, people are still the same. People still need to connect and we need each other.

David:
Exactly. We all need each other. The way we’re going to get through any challenges we have today is with each other. So absolutely.

Darcy:
It was great. Thank you so much for being here with me on Red Cape Revolution. I really appreciate it. We’ll talk soon.

David:
See ya!

Find out more about D Fish here.

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