Outworking everyone is one way to reach your goals.
It’s how I advanced early in my career. Except, that wasn’t a sustainable strategy and it only got me so far in what I could produce.
Everyone told me that networking was the answer. So I plunged in. I read books that coined cool sounding phrases, like “power networking” and “never eat alone.” I attended as many events as I could, and made as many contacts as possible.
I learned how to network from the experts, but the experts made networking sound like manipulative, scheming tactics.
That type of advice seemed counter-intuitive to my approach in life and work.
One of the reasons I love consulting is that it’s all about the relationships:
- I work in service for clients
- I develop and mentor junior consultants
- I collaborate with partners and others in the market
Sure, all that ‘always on, always serving’ can become a black hole that consumes me, but when I can get in the flow, man, it’s really a source of energy.
A More Powerful Way to Network
A few years ago, I heard Porter Gale, former Vice President of Marketing for Virgin America Airways, give a speech on how your network was your net worth (Her book, incidentally, is titled Your Network is Your Net Worth.)
She described networking as a way to build relationships by being yourself and being generous to others.
After her speech, I was fortunate to sit next to Porter at dinner. What struck me the most was her interest in me—a complete stranger.
Being yourself and being generous weren’t just words in a speech, she lived by them.
According to Porter, building authentic relationships with others provides them with value. Value can be anything the other person might find useful, like:
- Giving helpful advice
- Introducing them to another person
- Guiding them with their career
In the spirit of helping Porter connect with a larger audience—namely, you—I asked her to share her thoughts on networking as it applies to management consultants and related professions.
Graciously, she agreed.
A Message From Porter
If you’re like many of my friends, the topic of networking isn’t your favorite dinner party conversation. Many perceive networking as boring, a chore or they equate it with “schmoozing.”
Even for me, in the past, the thought of entering a party and striking up a conversation with a stranger caused me great anxiety. However, somewhere along the way, connecting with people that shared my values and interests changed my life.
A couple of years ago, I woke up and was overwhelmed by how full my life had become. My career and social life were rich and my feelings of happiness were at an all-time high. I sat in gratitude and realized my success wasn’t just because of hard work – much of it was directly correlated to the people in my life and in my network.
Either by fate or design, around the same time an associate asked me to make a presentation about social media at a conference he was hosting. I sat at my desk and tried to put pen to paper.
An hour later, I called the host, “I love social media, but I’d like to talk about the power of connections and giving back.”
“The topic sounds interesting, I can’t wait to hear what you have to say,” he responded.
I told tales about the remarkable people I had met on airplanes. I encouraged the audience to recognize the power of the connections in the room and I explained, “Helping others and being authentic changed my life.”
With life imitating my presentation, that day I met a literary agent that believed in my concepts, and I met Jeff Kavanaugh and others who have provided valuable guidance and support ever since.
With the support of friends like Jeff, I wrote a book called Your Network is Your Net Worth so I could share my ideas with others. It’s a book about breaking down barriers, finding your passions and being the best you can be. It’s a book about connecting and recognizing the power and true value of our relationships.
If you are one of the millions who are aspiring to do better— in work or relationships— it’s a book I wrote for you. It’s a storybook and a primer that I hope will help you find greater happiness, success and true wealth.
Since you’re a friend of Jeff, and he’s been an invaluable contact in my network, I’m thrilled to share three of my core ideas with you.
1. Approach networking as transformational, not transactional
If you remember one concept regarding my approach to networking, remember this: networking should NOT be viewed as a series of transactions.
The old way to network involved climbing a ladder for individual benefit. The past was about competition, pursuit of materialism and “keeping up with the Joneses.” In today’s model, networking IS transformational or an inside game first.
What I mean is that you first must identify any barriers (e.g. negative thinking, fear of public speaking) standing in your way of connecting, and define your values, interests and core purpose.
Once you’ve identified any barriers (more about that in my book), you can focus your efforts on meeting people that share your passions, and your networking should feel conversational and not awkward or confrontational.
For example, Jeff says that when he connects with people based on his core passions of tennis, consulting, farming, or parenthood, conversations come easily and his networking efforts flow naturally and actually seem to create energy.
Networking based on values and passions is not only more natural, I also believe that seeking out and working in collaboration with others who share your interests can be the basis for building a strong network foundation, enabling you to reach a higher level of success than you would on your own.
Time and time again, I can track much of my success or career opportunities back to collaborating with or tips from contacts within my network.
For example, during a economic recession I found myself holding a pink slip when the advertising agency I worked for shut its doors. Within several months, I had a call from a past co-worker that a start-up airline called Virgin America was looking for a Vice President of Marketing.
My contact wasn’t interested in the job, but he thought the opportunity sounded like a fit for me. After several interviews, and many reference checks with contacts in my network, I was offered the position that ultimately changed the course of my career.
2. Define your passions and purpose with the Funnel Test
Over the years, I’ve worked with many companies and found the ones with lucid and succinctly described visions are more likely to succeed than those with unclear or highly complex visions.
Some companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defining their brand positioning, core values and vision. Yet as individuals, we often don’t take the time to clearly articulate our own passions or purpose.
Imagine that you have five floors of elevator stops and you need to convince someone to hire you while you ride up together. Or you are given three minutes on a stage in front of your peers and you have to describe your personal mission.
What would you say? How would you create a memorable connection? To help you define your passions and purpose, I’ve created a simple test that I call “The Funnel Test.”
Step 1 is to define your three greatest passions, or a succinct set of words that clearly define your core interests.
You can put a high priority on any type of passion, from fitness to family or education to the environment.
For example, I watched my mother build a network based on her passions of volunteering, family, and fitness when, after having lived her entire life in Minnesota, she moved to California to be closer to her family.
Within sixty days of arriving, my mother joined a master’s swim team, found a group of women who played tennis at the park, and became an alternate in a golf foursome. When she added in volunteering for a single-mothers group, her daily activities and calendar entries rivaled mine.
The area where your three passions overlap is your sweet spot. If you can find activities, work, or relationships that combine two or more of your core passions, you are likely to hit the jackpot and be more effective in and excited about your actions and activities.
Step 2 is to define your desired tone.
How do you want to present yourself to the world? What is your authentic voice? Are you quiet and reserved? Witty? Bold? Irreverent?
To use the example of my mom again, I’d define her tone as reserved. She’s understated and is more likely to listen first and talk second.
Now fill the space below your passion circles with a selected word for your tone. Like a funnel, where the contents flow from top to bottom, envision all of your actions being influenced by your tone. Remember, simple is good.
The last step of The Funnel Test is to define your core purpose in twenty words or less.
What do you want to accomplish in life? And work?
Write what is in your gut, and look at the passion words in your Funnel Test. Your goal is to write a phrase of fewer than twenty words that describes your purpose.
Once you’ve defined your passions and developed a focused purpose, your networking efforts will be more effective and authentic. Use this test as a filter to help you guide your activities and meetings.
3. Focus on “Give Give Get.”
The last concept I’d like to share is about the power of helping others. The phrase I’ve coined to help you remember this idea is “Give Give Get;” that is, put greater energy into giving than receiving.
I believe the key to unlocking the hidden power of connections is helping others when you don’t expect anything in return. A focus on giving can transform your emotional state, improve your relationships, build your happiness quotient, and teach you the importance of gratitude.
If you put giving back and helping others at the center of your networking and relationship building, you are likely to have more impactful and stronger relationships, among other benefits. What you will find is that the giving will come back to you tenfold.
Living “Give Give Get” can be as easy as remembering that small actions can make a big difference or asking your contacts, “How can I help?” Think about the “we,” not just the “me” when networking, and you will have greater success.
I hope the concepts and stories will help you grow and build your network. With deep thanks and appreciation to friends like Jeff, I encourage all of you to think about the value of your connections, your relationships, and your true net worth.
What role does your network play in your life?
What truly makes you happy?
Time and again I’ve found that the people and relationships in my life have a direct impact on my feelings of happiness, the experiences I have, and the business opportunities that land in my path.
Remember to look inside first, outside second. If you focus on your passions and reorganize your networking around your values and beliefs, you will discover the kind of lasting relationships, personal transformation, and, ultimately, tangible wealth that is the foundation for happiness and success.
Help others, be of service, live each day fully, and, remember, Your Network is Your Net Worth.