Networking Secret #3: Find Your Blue Flame to Heat Up Your Career
By Keith Ferrazzi
Every successful person I’ve met got where they are today by taking the same first step: Deciding what they want in life. I learned early on that the bigger my dreams, the more concrete my goals and the more targeted my efforts to build relationships, the greater success I could achieve.
As a Yale undergrad, I decided that I wanted to become a politician, specifically a future governor of Pennsylvania. (I really was that specific and that naive.) In my sophomore year, I became chairman of Yale’s political union, where so many alumni had cut their teeth before going on to careers in politics. When I became interested in joining a fraternity, I didn’t simply join the first organization available to me. I researched which fraternity had the most active politicians as alumni. Sigma Chi had a rich tradition and an alumni roster of impressive leaders. But the fraternity wasn’t chartered at Yale at that time. So we founded a chapter.
Eventually I ran for New Haven city council. I lost, but in the process met everyone from William F. Buckley and governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburg to the president of Yale, Bart Giamatti. I made regular visits to see Bart up until he died; he was a virtual oracle of advice and contacts for me. Even then, I recognized how something as simple as a clearly defined goal distinguished me from all those who simply floated through school waiting for things to happen.
The better you articulate what you want to do, the easier it becomes to develop a strategy to accomplish it. Part of that strategy, of course, is establishing relationships with the right people who can help you get where you’re going. But you must know where you’re headed first, so do the following in this order:
Find Your Blue Flame
Devote time to thinking about what you’re good at, what you really love to do and what you feel your purpose is in this world. That intersection of desire and talent, or passion and ability, is what I call your Blue Flame. Write, pray, exercise or do whatever you need to do to clear your head and figure this stuff out. I enjoy great results with Vipassana meditation. The important thing is to think and talk through this without the constraints, doubts, fears and expectations of what you “should” be doing. Set aside the obstacles of time, money and obligation, and find your Blue Flame.
And don’t feel intimidated by the thought of your current Blue Flame being your one and only. It probably won’t be your last. In fact, it might change several times in your lifetime. However, to more effectively build relationships for career growth, it’s best if you put a stake in the ground wherever you’re at and get moving from there.
- Networking Secret #1: You Can't Get There Alone
- Networking Secret #2: Make Business Relationships Personal
- Networking Secret #3: Find Your Blue Flame to Heat Up Your Career
- Networking Secret #4: Build It Before You Need It
- Networking Secret #5: Don't Be a Networking Jerk
- Networking Secret #6: Become an Expert at Something
- Networking Secret #7: Never Eat Alone
- Networking Secret #8: Buddy Up for Success
- Networking Secret #9: Be a Conference Commando
- Networking Secret #10: Go Ahead and Write Something
Have a Good RAP
Once you have a Blue Flame, you have to set goals that will help you fulfill your mission, connect those goals to the people, places and things that will help you succeed, and determine the best way to reach out to your target contacts. You need a Relationship Action Plan (RAP).
For 10 years, three years, one year, and 60 days into the future, do the following:
- Write down your goals.
- Beside each goal, write the names and types of people who can help you achieve them.
- Note how you can best reach those people.
- Last but not least, think of and write down all the ways you can also contribute to their success.
Do this, and you will have planned all the way from your greatest dreams down to the names of flesh-and-blood people you need to meet and how you’re going to meet them. This is the process — the system, if you will — involved in building a powerful network. It’s not magical; it’s not reserved for a select few born with an inherent gift for being social. Connecting with others for mutual success really just involves making a predetermined plan and carrying it out, whether you want to be a ninth-grade history teacher or start your own business.