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By now you know the adage is true: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” And regardless of your industry or title, having the right network of people around you can mean the difference between a failed entrepreneurial venture and startup success, or a languishing career trajectory and an office in the C-suite.

But the burning question remains, how do you navigate chamber of commerce meet-and-greets and LinkedIn groups to successfully build an overflowing Rolodex? And how do you ensure that those contacts are actually the right ones – people that can and will propel you forward in business and life?

These questions and more are answered in Networking is Dead: Making Connections That Matter (November 2012, BenBella Books), by Melissa G. Wilson and Larry Mohl.

Networking is Dead is written in fable form and tells the story of two colleagues (Meredith and Lance) who enlist the services of a “networking sensei” (Dan) to help whip their circles of contacts into proper shape.

As Meredith and Lance meet weekly with Dan, learning how to effectively build a bigger, better, stronger network, the reader is like a fly on the wall, privy to all of Dan’s insider tips for thoughtful and masterful connecting. Every question asked by Meredith or Lance is one that readers have probably wondered themselves, and each of Dan’s answers can be immediately plugged into the reader’s own playbook for future use.

Meanwhile, readers will likely identify more closely with one of the characters: Meredith is an outgoing social media pro who has tons of connections but feels that few are actually meaningful, while Lance is a shy accounting executive who just wants more connections, period.

The close of each chapter features a copy of Meredith and Lance’s weekly homework assignment, provided so the reader can follow the same path as the students. Tasks from week/chapter five, “Give First,” include: give wisely – not to receive, but to offer value – and get started by asking one of your partners what one thing he or she would like your help with.

In fact, much of the book focuses on the notion of a higher purpose for all of the constant “liking” and “following,” the idea being that in the process of climbing your own proverbial career ladder, you can – and should – pull up a couple folks with you. Read: Selfish pursuits must be checked at the door.

So does that mean you have to relegate yourself to a life of charitable lack, forgoing your own visions of success and prosperity? Hardly, say Wilson and Mohl. By focusing on authentically serving others, you will attract more opportunity than you could ever imagine.

Likewise, the authors suggest that readers examine their own connections, categorizing contacts into one of three groups: Exchanger, Giver, and Taker. The titles are self-explanatory, and though readers may feel inclined to fill their networks with as many givers as possible for their own personal gain, Wilson and Mohl urge professionals to seek out Exchangers, or those people who will be a constant resource for giving and receiving information and opportunities.

The authors also recommend that readers not rush the process: “Only by focusing on a few, high-quality connections – 10 or fewer at first – can you truly accelerate your goal achievement. It’s paradoxical, but starting small to grow a big network is the way to go.”

That said, if your sole purpose is to amass as many Facebook friends as possible, or your last Google search was “How to Get 5,000 Twitter Followers in 30 Days,” Networking Is Dead is probably not the book for you.

If, however, you want to grow your network organically and strategically, focusing on “connections that matter,” this is most certainly a must-read.

Andrea Williams is a journalist and writer based in Nashville, TN. For more, follow her @AndreaWillWrite.

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