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Prescription for networking with BCG

Edward, profiled and interviewed on a podcast on the Podcasts homepage, discusses the striking similarities between networking and building relationships. The podcast is a more detailed discussion, in Edward’s words, on the points below. Edwards developed the most successful approach we have ever seen with clients. He was successful because he spent 3 months learning how to develop and communicate sincere interest in his interactions. Our approach to networking is the opposite of that recommended elsewhere and, as you will see with Edward, is entirely appropriate for management consulting.

What is your philosophy for networking?

There is a joke about how to succeed at dating in two steps:

• Be attractive.

• Don’t be unattractive.

This is true for professional networking, but you have control over the factors that make you attractive or unattractive. Learn what they are. Learn how your actions affect them. Project an honest, accurate, positive image.

What were your objectives when you planned a networking call or meeting?

To build relationships with specific people in specific offices, so that when I applied, my resume stood out because it had a post-it on it from someone the recruiter knows.

To seduce the target firm into asking me out on a first date, also known as interviews – networking is like flirting!

To increase my chances of getting an offer after interviews:

• I built my confidence going in, with positive encounters.

• I learned to communicate like a management consultant.


You also need to evaluate a firm, which will see more of you than your life partner:

• Do you want to work with the people you meet?

• Do their actions show the values you are looking for?

• Are they smart enough and interesting enough for you?

• Are their professional stories genuinely interesting?


How did you use your training to improve your networking success?

The coaching is successful when you don’t need it any more. That said,

• Own your development.

• Think about what you are doing, why, and how.

• Think about what your coach is telling you, why, and how.

• Model your communication after your coach. He is an experienced management consultant, so you have a chance to practice communication in a safe environment. Make the most of it.

I listened to all the networking podcasts, took notes and reviewed them later.


You also need to keep your coach updated:

• Pass emails through your coach before sending them, especially when one is the first of its kind:

o First time responding to a new connection.

o First time setting up a phone chat.

o First time speaking with a senior partner.

• Updates must always be in real-time.

• Yet I tried to develop independence, but did it slowly.


Finally, do what your coach says and think about why he is asking for it and why you are doing it.


What do you consider to be the phases of the networking process?

First, build the best resume that is honestly and uniquely yours.

Second, build a LinkedIn profile from your resume.

Third, start networking:

• Send out connection requests.

• Thank people who accept and ask for a chat.

• Escalate communication based on mutual interest: email to phone to coffee.

• Give people who like you the chance to help. They may or may not decide to help you but that should not impact your views on them. You don’t care, because caring about the outcome makes you desperate. You must sincerely want to learn irrespective of the outcome.


How useful did you find the resume rewriting process?

Everything depends on your resume, so take the time to do it right.

• A strong resume leads to a strong LinkedIn profile.

• …leads to a greater connection acceptance rate,

• …leads to more contacts,

• …leads to more phone calls,

• …leads to more chances for mutual professional attraction.

The process is brutal – expect blood, sweat, and tears. Follow your coaching and listen to the podcasts.


How did you use LinkedIn? Talk me through an evening in front of your laptop.

First, I searched broadly:

• Sometimes you can hack the results to send a connection request to someone when it looks like you can’t. Try putting their name into Google—sometimes clicking on the search result lets you send a connection request when a LinkedIn search doesn’t. I don’t understand this but it works.

• Search for single vowels like “a” and “e”, then narrow the results to your target firm(s) and office(s).


Second, organize the profiles when you are searching:

• Tag people by office and firm.

• Tag people you want to connect with but cannot yet.

• Tag people when you send them invites.

• Use notes to keep track of your progress with each person.


Third, never send more than a single invitation:

• Don’t assume they check their email.

• Don’t assume they will connect.

• Never push against a dead end. You coach can help you identify when this happens, and pushing for progress in a dead end is very unattractive. Just because someone is a dead-end now doesn’t mean you won’t speak to him or her again. Therefore do not become dismissive of people who may not want to immediately talk to you. There could be many reasons for this and you need to always be diplomatic.


How did you move from these random connections into building a concentrated network of consultants in one office, who spoke to each other and brought more consultants into this supportive network?

First, connect with people liberally:

• On one hand, don’t become invested in any potential relationship:

o Some people don’t accept requests from strangers.

o Some people don’t check their email.

o Some people take time to initially get back to you.

• On the other, always have a reason why you want to talk:

o Do you have shared background?

o Do you have shared professional interests?

o Are you curious about their work or office?

• Don’t get defensive if they challenge your connection. One of the friendliest phone calls I had lasted 90 minutes, and was with a consultant who challenged my initial connection request.


Second, get people to like you by focusing on:

• Demeanor – be friendly, polite, and inquisitive.

• Scheduling – be flexible, accommodating, and understanding.

• Attitude – always stay positive / never go negative / don’t even joke about it

• Purpose – ask about their perspective, thoughtfully.

• “Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.” Dale Carnegie.


Third, create openings for people to help:

• If you were leading the conversation, close by asking for questions.

• Never ask for help. If they like you they will offer. Even if an opening appears for you to ask for help, do not do it. It must be offered to you.

• You do not deserve anything, no matter who you are, no matter whom you are speaking with. This attitude is poisonous, and makes you very unattractive.


Fourth, don’t worry if there is no progress

• Someone may be having a bad day.

• Some people will click, while others won’t enjoy speaking with you.

• Remember why you are networking—it’s not just about an interview. It is about learning more about a firm/office and deciding if there is a fit.


Once you created this supportive structure, talk me through how you managed a single networking call?

I prepared well:

• I had a pen and paper and took notes.

• I had my opening questions and a few follow-on’s prepared.

• I had an exit strategy to wrap up the conversation neatly.

• I removed distractions, and paid 100% attention.

• I had at least 5 minutes to get ready. I took 2 minutes for a power-posture or positive meditation (see Amy Cuddy’s TED talk)


While on the phone:

• I stood up and walked around while talking.

• I didn’t let anything distract me.

• I listened to the other person and asked them questions to draw out their best experiences and lessons.

• I did not dominate the conversation.

• I treated the person as a peer.


Afterwards, ensure you:

• Follow up with a short thank-you note.

• Write up the call immediately. This is for your coach, but it’s also for you.


How did you project confidence when speaking to senior partners?

I have a few ground rules for achieving this:

• Be concise. Too many words waste time. It undermines your image.

• Do not undermine yourself with self-deprecating language.

• Do not apologize—first check with your coach to make sure it’s appropriate.

• Do not become defensive when challenged.

• Do not disagree—“Hmm, I’ve never thought about it like that”.

• Do not project arrogance by thinking you deserve someone’s help.

• Always be sincere.

• Read Dale Carnegie, “How to win friends and influence people.”

We have published the most useful client feedback. Our commitment to confidentiality prevents us from disclosing the identity of our clients and other confidential information, and we may alter details to prevent such disclosure. Some client feedback may be lightly edited for grammar, spelling or prose, though we never alter or remove any information. Clients in our consultants coaching program are forbidden from sharing sensitive client data with us.

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