Steps to Networking – Step 26: Identify Your Purpose

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 5th, 2010

STEP 26: Identify your purpose

Before selecting targets, clarify in your mind exactly what you want. Be specific. Do you want to find someone who can help get your kid into Harvard, do you want to hire a wedding videographer who also takes still, black and white photographs or do you want to learn how to start an organic garden with drip irrigation? When you are not completely clear about your purpose, you can’t explain what you want to others.


In June 1974, when Bob Iger was a weatherman in Ithaca, New York, he went to New York City to look for a job. While there, he visited his uncle, who was recuperating in the hospital and was sharing a room with an ABC executive. Iger’s uncle asked The ABC exec if he could help his nephew get an interview and the executive set up an appointment for Iger to meet with a member of his staff. Iger was interviewed for an open position as a studio supervisor and got the job. He started on July 1, 1974, and 29 years later, after years of outstanding work, he is the President of the Walt Disney Company, ABC’s parent company.

One of the first shows Iger worked on was Frank Sinatra: the Main Event, a live concert telecast on ABC. It was produced by Roone Arledge, who was then the president of ABC Sports, and since it was broadcast live, Arledge used members of the ABC Sports’ staff to telecast the Sinatra show. Iger met and worked with the ABC Sports staff and a few months later they hired him. He spent 13 years at ABC Sports, rising to the position of Vice President of Programming. Igar says that he never would have gotten that job if he hadn’t been assigned to the Frank Sinatra concert and worked with the ABC Sports’ staff.

Don’t be like the person who stands before a counter jam packed with assorted pastries, wags his/her finger and says, “I want that.” Don’t make your contacts guess; don’t waste their time. Tell them exactly what you want; be specific! Even close friends, who truly want to help, will lose patience if you are not clear and specific – – – after all, they’re not mind readers.

When you fail to request precisely what you seek:

• You risk getting less than you want
• Lack of clarity opens the door for misunderstandings
• If your request is misunderstood, you will probably be disappointed with the results and
• You will still be obligated to return you contact’s favor.

To reduce the possibility of misunderstandings, explain what you want in easily understandable language. In order to help you, the people who you approach will often have to contact someone else. When you explain you needs in clear, unmistakable terms, your contacts will instantly know what you want, remember what you requested and be in a better position to accurately communicate it to others.

Never assume that network members, no mater how bright or accomplished they may seem or how many degrees they hold, understand buzzwords, technical language, words of art or occupational-specific terminology. Keep it clear and simple. Remember, your objective is to clearly communicate, not to confuse or try to impress.

(Excerpted from NETWORKING MAGIC: Making Connections That Will Change Your Life By Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin With Mark Steisel)

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