3 Lessons My Horse Taught Me about Networking

They gave me the most stubborn horse in the whole ranch. His name was Ben. And Ben was a big, beautiful, brown and white horse. At the time, I never thought Ben would teach me so much about networking.

After we set off into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains for a two-hour trail ride, I quickly realized that Ben was more than a handful for a novice rider like me. And so I learned a few new things about riding a horse. . .

. . . And a few valuable lessons about professional networking.

1. Never Make Assumptions About People

I looked at Ben and assumed, “he’s such a beautiful horse, this is going to be easy.” I was dead wrong. He was stubborn and very strong. The rancher leading our ride also trained Ben. There was a history there that I knew nothing about. And his advice on how to handle Ben came too late.

When you are networking with people, it’s very easy to look at how they are dressed or what they look like and think you know who they are. Like Ben and his rancher, everyone has a story, and unless you ask, you don’t know that story. In one of my networking groups, there is one guy who made his first million when he was 21. He wears t-shirts and sandals. If you met him at a networking event, what would you think?

2. Be Curious, Not Afraid

If I had known Ben’s story and how the rancher really loved him, I may have been better prepared for the ride. I failed to ask questions. Maybe I was trying to be macho or pretend like I knew how to handle a horse. But I missed an opportunity to learn something interesting. Ben’s trainer can’t whistle. So all of his commands are variations of certain sounds. If I had asked about this, my ride would have been much smoother.

When you are out networking and meeting new people, change your frame of mind from fear (of looking stupid, inexperienced, fill-in-the-blank) to pure, child-like curiosity about the other person. Generally, when you show genuine interest in someone else, they will feel it, and reciprocate with genuine interest in you. Just ask.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Steer

When I first tried to steer Ben, my kicks and pulls were hesitant and timid. By the time I figured out how hard I needed to kick in order to steer him, it was too late. When you are chatting with new people at networking events, don’t be afraid to guide the conversation assertively right from the beginning.

No, I don’t mean kicking people or being a bully. Simply this: the questions you ask people will guide their thoughts. And their thoughts will precede what they say. Use questions like the reigns of a horse’s saddle. Be the one asking the questions. And be the one who listens.

What tricks do you apply when you network with peers? Share your Networking tips in comments.

Photo by visualpanic.

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Joshua Waldman helps frustrated job seekers leverage social media to find work FAST! He is the founder of CareerEnlightenment.com and the author of the new book, Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies. Sign-up for his newsletter today and get access to his exclusive training videos for free.


  1. Leigh Harris on the 23rd September

    We can learn alot from the animal world, especially those close to us. My dog reminds me to stay in the moment and to respond with praise (or something positive).

    Your lessons from your horse are vivid reminders, certain to pop into my mind the next time I am in a networking situation. Thank you for the mind-link – a great way to remember important actions!

  2. noch on the 25th September

    i like networking without thinking i’m there to network. rather i think about what interesting people i’d meet. instead of “working the room” and trying to gather as many business cards, i try to just let fate decide, and meet a few and have an interesting conversation about anything but their job / company. i don’t even ask for business cards. and because i focus on not networking, people actually enjoy talking to me, because networking events can get a bit superficial. and in the end people asked for my contacts and i’ve made quality relationships out of this, instead of going home with a bunch of biz cards and not remembering who is who

  3. Zsa Zsa on the 26th September

    This is so true! “When you are networking with people, it’s very easy to look at how they are dressed or what they look like and think you know who they are.” We are launching in Singapore soon. We will definitely share this article to the business women who will be networking for the first time. Thanks!

  4. Edwin on the 10th October

    Nice comparisson and good tips!

  5. Travelturkey on the 11th October

    This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog

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