When I work with graduating college students in preparation for their job search, I typically ask them if they’ve seen The Godfather. If they say no, I usually rant and rave about what awful parents they have and the lousy decisions they’ve made in their lives up until now. Eventually I try to return to the subject at hand unless they confess to never having heard of The Godfather, in which case, I simply give up on them.
You see besides being one of the greatest movies of all time (and yes I favor the first one over the second) The Godfather presents the greatest lessons on networking that you can possibly ask for. And it does it all within the very first scene.
If you haven’t seen The Godfather over 50 times like I have, let me refresh your memory. The movie opens with Amerigo Bonasera, the hard working, honest funeral director appearing before Don Corleone – The Godfather, played by Marlon Brando. Bonasera tells the tale of his beautiful daughter who was viciously beaten by two young thugs, one of whom was supposed to be her boyfriend. When the boys appear in a court of law, they are given a suspended sentence, and they go so far as to smile at Bonasera whose daughter is permanently scarred from the beating she received.
Bonasera comes to The Godfather for justice on the day of his daughter’s wedding. We are told that It is customary among Italians to offer favors to the community on the day of their daughter’s betrothal whereas my people simply offer mid-shelf liquor and plenty of sponge cake to celebrate. Bonasera asks The Don to murder the young punks who assaulted his daughter or at least make them suffer. Being a man of honor, The Godfather will take up his cause, but before he does, he rightly chastises the timid funeral director for coming out of nowhere to ask for a favor (It helps if you read the quotes below with a few balls of cotton in your mouth for effect).
“We’ve known each other many years but this is the first time you’ve come to me for counsel...for help.”
Networking Lesson 1: Never wait to be in a situation where you need help to reach out to someone You’ll get called out on it and rightly so.
“I can’t remember the last time you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee even though my wife is godmother to your only child.”
Networking Lesson 2: It really doesn’t take much effort to establish and maintain a professional friendship. Even a simple cup of coffee is a nice enough gesture for a colleague or hardened killer.
“But let’s be frank here. You never wanted my friendship. You were afraid to be in my debt."
Networking Lesson 3: Never be shy about helping out others. Always be there for someone else because good karma will eventually catch up with you. Chances are you won’t be asked to dispose of a body, but small gestures will go a long way.
“You found paradise in America. You had a good trade… made a good living..."
Networking Lesson 4: Don’t get full of your success. Bad stuff happens and then you’ll realize that you can use a community to help you reestablish yourself.
And most important…
“You don’t offer respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me Godfather. Instead you come into my house on the day of my daughter’s wedding and ask me to commit murder.”
Networking Lesson 5: Call people Godfather if it makes them happy. Or at the very least, realize the things that are important to people and show them that you care.
Bonasera of course realizes his own networking shortcomings and after an uncomfortable silence finally says (you can take the cotton out of your mouth now):
|A little respect goes a long way|
“Be my friend…Godfather.”
The Godfather, as befitting a man with a pussy cat on his lap, responds with humility and friendship (put the cotton back in).
“Some day…and that day may never come, I may call upon you to do a service for me. But until then, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.”
God, I love this scene. It makes me wonder why they called the movie The Godfather as opposed to The Networker. You see what the Don wanted to convey is that people are generally happy to help other people. And as a rule they won't expect much in return, if anything at all. But before you ask, in fact, long before you ask, you have to show a little friendship, a little respect, and on rare occasion -- a ring kiss. And since you never know who you might eventually look to for a favor, it’s good to treat everyone you meet with respect and friendship. It’s really that simple.
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On a separate, but not totally unrelated note, I am happy to say that I will be returning to “my family.” Next week, I will begin working for Albridge, an information management provider for registered investment advisors and broker dealers. They are a subsidiary of Pershing, who is in turn a subsidiary of BNY Mellon with whom I spent a large portion of my working career.
I am grateful to be returning to the fold and especially grateful to the people who offered encouragement, friendship, respect and the leads that helped open this exciting opportunity for me. You know who you are. I am privileged to have worked with and drank coffee with some wonderful people over the course of my career. Thank you all for being there and please know that I would (symbolically) kill for you all.