Recently I had the chance to sit down with Porter Gale and pick her brain about some smart tips that can help anyone get better at networking. Her new book Your Network Is Your Net Worth features a cover quote from Sir Richard Branson. As if that weren’t impressive enough, she is the former CMO of Virgin America and someone who I’ve crossed paths with a few times at events over the past few years.
As you’ll see in the interview below, she’s also one of those people who happens to be gifted at making connections and building an amazingly connected and powerful network – and her lessons should be valuable for you no matter how good you think you are (or aren’t) at building your own network.
1. One of the big pieces of advice you start your book with is how people can uncover their passions and find their purpose. Can you share a little about what that process was like for you in your own career? Did you know immediately what you wanted to do, or was finding your calling a more gradual process?
Great question. For me, the process of finding my passions has been a gradual process. I’ve had multiple careers and have found that the more authentic and honest I am, the more I’m able to operate from a place of faith and passion and not fear. I’ve also done a lot of self-reflecting over the years and learned how to overcome some of my own self-inflicted barriers.
2. I found it really interesting that you chose to start your book by asking people to uncover and list the barriers that may be holding them back from achieving the success they want. Sometimes the barriers ahead of us are easy to see (micro-managing boss, bad product, etc.) – but sometimes they can be much tougher. For anyone struggling to understand what may be holding them back, what are a few tips that you think could help?
When most people think of networking, they automatically have a vision in their head of cocktail parties and conventions. My approach to networking is based on a transformation process and not a transactional game. Therefore, to authentically network I believe it’s important to look inside first and outside second. I encourage people to take an inventory of all the actions and behaviors that may be interfering with their ability to connect. In Your Network Is Your Net Worth I share stories of people that have overcome fear of public speaking, addiction issues, negative thinking and more. Several questions to consider include:
Do you have barriers that get in the way of your success and happiness?
Do you emotionally or physically want to change any behavior or improve your appearance?
Do you have any fears or phobias that keep you from activities?
Do you change jobs often or find yourself under- or unemployed?
Do you make excuses or not follow through?
Do you have any compulsive or addictive behaviors, or have others on more than one occasion singled any out?
3. I love that your book is filled with real examples of people and their personal success stories. I’m curious to know how much you needed to go out and research their stories versus pulling together a collection of amazing stories from people within your network. In other words, did the power of all the personal connections you had built over the year make writing a book of advice on building your own network easier?
I could not have written this book without the power and support of my network. Every story in the book is either a personal story, about a person in my network or about a person referred from my network. I conducted all the interviews myself and thoroughly enjoyed the process. Each person has a story if you ask the right questions. I did humorously try to score one interview outside of my network, with Bill Clinton, but that never happened. You can read about that process and why you shouldn’t let the “no’s” stop you from going after your dreams.
4. In networking events, people often think they need to make as many connections as possible. I have often shared with people that I tend to do the exact opposite, and aim to have fewer but more meaningful conversations. As an author and entrepreneur, at every event you visit you probably have many demands on your time. How do you balance the desire to make deeper connections with the challenge of only having a limited time to spend at any event getting to know people?
I am a fan of quality over quantity-based networking. My suggestion is that prior to any event, try to review an attendee list and think about the three people you’d like to meet. Once you have your list, do your homework and think about how you can add value to your potential conversations. Don’t focus on ME focus on the WE, what can you bring to the table to help your new potential connections.
5. If you could tell readers one big insight that they will take away from reading your book, what would it be and how could it change the way they think?
If I could tell people one thing, it would be to keep helping others at the heart of your networking. I call this “Give Give Get” or put more focus on giving than getting. Or, simply put don’t expect anything in return for your actions. Help people because you’re genuinely interested in building strong, long-term authentic relationships. One simple question to remember is, “How can I help?”
6. One of my favourite chapters in the book is where you talk about the role of content strategy in building a personal network – and how “Everyone is a Producer.” Recently I have been sharing with many brands and marketing leaders that aside from producers and consumers, there is a new third category emerging of curators. The curators are the ones that make sense of the noise of content out there, without necessarily producing anything new themselves. Can you share some thoughts on how curation might offer a new way for people to produce without necessarily being great writers or filmmakers themselves?
I love the concept of curating. Being a curator is a great way to add value to a conversation or category. My believe is that the best curators probably have a strong awareness of their passions, purpose and are specific with the topics and articles they share. For example, Jessica Northey @jessicanorthey has done a fantastic job of curating and building content around Country Music. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Focus your curating and conversations around your passion.
7. A story that we share in common is that Tim Ferriss connected us both to Steve Hanselman as our literary agent. I have shared that story a few times over the years as an example of how the power of connections sometimes works in unexpected ways. When I met Tim back in 2007 at SXSW, he was a guy in a t-shirt with an idea, and not yet a best selling author / life hacking guru. My chance taking an hour to meet with him back then made a big difference in my career. It’s the ultimate proof that we don’t know where people will go, because we can only see them where they are. As a final question, can you share the role that serendipity and just being approachable has played in your own success and how anyone might be able to create those same chances for themselves?
Serendipity is a very powerful thing. I’ve made powerful and career impacting connections on airplanes, at conferences, on virtual coffee chats and more. My advice for people comes back to defining your passions and your purpose. When you know your desired road map, it will be easier to connect people in unexpected ways. So,get interesting and get interested. Don’t get stuck in a routine or travel about life with “headphones” on. Remember Your Network Is Your Net Worth and one new connection can greatly impact your life, happiness and success.
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