Chapter 1Act Personally, But Think InstitutionallyDevelop Your Network Beyond Your Organization

I grew up in a neighborhood that was a sort of lower-middle class, [even a] working-class neighborhood in New York. And we were all the sons and daughters of hardworking people, but people whose network basically extended to family and neighborhood friends. It was not very expansive, nor was it very…“vertical.” And at the end of the day, from the point of view of making your way in this world, it wasn't very helpful. You had good people like your grandmother, who would give you good advice on a personal level, and love and nurture. But they really couldn't help you navigate the space above the lower-middle class, because they had no relationships there.

Richard Parsons was born into a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn and did not have any “connections.” But he went on to become the chairman of Citigroup, the twelfth-ranked company on the Fortune 500 list. This is the so-called American Dream, the ability to come from nothing and work your way to the top of the food chain. There are many ways to “make it,” but they all require networks, something Parsons was lacking at the beginning of his career. But all it took was one connection to change his life.

While Parsons attended Albany Law School, he interned with the New York state legislature and drew the attention of the governor's office. They extended him an offer, and Parsons began working for the man who would eventually shape his entire ...

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