The “Twelve Steps For The Rest Of Us”: Networking, Job Search, And Connecting On A Human Level

We’re listening to Keith Ferrazzi now at the Circus, author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back (which had the alternate, jokey title “12 Steps For The Rest Of Us”). His new book is about the importance of peer-to-peer support, in our isolated society and “virtualized workplace.” This is important stuff for anyone looking to get ahead but as any out-of-work media pro knows, working your network is even more important when you’re out of a job.

“Who’s got your back? In today’s society, not many people,” Ferrazzi said. “50% of people say no one has their back. Of that 50%, 70% are married. It’s the most isolated, lonely time we’ve ever been in.”

Without connections, it’s harder to make progress. “Even the most disciplined of us in this room let ourselves down. But it’s more difficult to let other people down.” He cites Jean Niditch, who founded weight watchers. The number 1 weight loss program in the world happens because of p-2-p support. They held each other accountable.

Another example: AA. “You know how difficult it is from being literally in the gutter to show up to those rooms?”

And what about getting ahead in your career? “You used to stand around the water cooler–literally, the water cooler–and learn and grow,” he said. “IBM used to be ‘I’ve Been Moved.’ Now they call it ‘I’m By Myself.’ How do you learn something from no-one? “

Gallup studies, he said, show that workers with just one friend at work have 30% more engagement.

“Being the kind of person that connects with other people is a choice. We need to be more vulnerable and we need to be more generous.” Ferazzi’s getting pretty squishy—something New Yorkers aren’t necessarily comfortable with—but he’s talking about caring about the complete strangers sitting next to each other in the theater. “These are beautiful people here.

“You journalists, you’re smart, you’re engaging, and you’re fun, but you’re cynical. And you don’t have to be that.”

On delivering feedback: Don’t give it in a way that expects the other person to change, just give it as information.

On mentorships: He called 10 people to get advice and “only four were emotionally available.” That’s okay. “Make sure we keep at it.”

On connecting: “When I was writing this book, I called my mom. My mom’s card club has been meeting every month for 45 years. I said ‘mom, what do you guys talk about?’ She said ‘we believe that the toilet paper companies are making those inside rolls bigger to give us less paper.’ I said ‘What other things do you talk about?’ She said ‘I couldn’t have gotten through the death of your father without them. After three weeks everyone else who was bringing food and calling every day just stopped.'” It’s not just about Big, Serious stuff; you need the levity too.