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Personal Branding, Networking, and Much More, with Dorie Clark

Feeling overwhelmed by the ever-changing job market and the rise of AI? This episode is your roadmap to thriving in the future of work! Consultant, speaker, and branding expert Dorie Clark shares her secrets for building a rock-solid personal brand that sets you apart. Learn how to leverage your expertise, cultivate meaningful connections, and communicate your value with impact. Dorie also dives deep into the power of online communities, mastering the art of networking, and even her surprising side hustle – writing musical theater! Packed with actionable strategies, don’t miss out on this masterclass in personal branding, networking, and entrepreneurial thinking.

 

Check out the full series of “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcasts here or visit pathwise.io/podcast/. A full written transcript of this episode is also available at https://pathwise.io/podcast/dorie-clark

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Personal Branding, Networking, and Much More, with Dorie Clark

Wall Street Journal Best-Selling Author and Thinkers50 Member

This is the show which is brought to you by PathWise.io. PathWise is dedicated to helping you live the career you deserve, providing coaching, content, courses, and community. BBasic membership is free, so visit PathWise and join. For this episode, my guest is Dorie Clark. Dorie is a consultant, keynote speaker, and business school professor teaching executive education at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Columbia Business School.

She has been named three times as one of the Top 50 Business Thinkers in the world by Thinkers50, and she was recognized as the #1 Communication Coach in the World by the Marshall Goldsmith Leading Global Coaches Awards. She’s recognized as a branding expert by the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc. Magazine, and is the Wall Street Journal best-selling author of The Long Game, Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out, which was named the #1 Leadership Book of the Year by Inc Magazine and 1 of the Top 10 Business Books of the Year by Forbes.

Dorie is also a former presidential campaign spokeswoman, award-winning journalist, and filmmaker having directed an environmental documentary film, the Work of a Thousand. She was a producer for a multi-Grammy-winning jazz album, is a Broadway investor, and is a member of BMI’s Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Advanced Workshop. At age fourteen, Dorie entered Mary Baldwin College’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted. At eighteen, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith, and two years later, received a Master’s in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School.

Dorie, welcome. Thank you so much for doing the show with me.

Thanks for having me.

We’re going to talk about networking among other topics. I’m going to take one of your ice-breaking networking questions. What’s the coolest thing you’re working on?

Right this minute as we’re recording this, one of the things that’s most exciting for me is I’m flying in a couple of days out to Ohio because one of my side projects, which I chronicle in my book, The Long Game, is learning to write musical theater. The first-ever full production of one of my shows is going to be taking place at Ohio Wesleyan University. I’m very excited to see it performed. They’ve got costumes. They’ve got a three-story set that they’ve welded. It’s going to be off the hook.

That sounds really awesome. That’s not far from where I grew up. I grew up in Akron. There were always a couple of kids every year who went to Wesleyan from my high school.

That’s amazing. I love it.

Beyond that, you have a ton on your plate, which I probably only partially summarized in our introduction. Give the audience a fuller sense of all the things that keep you busy besides the musical theater work that you’ve been doing.

Getting To Know Dorie Clark

I do a little bit of teaching. I teach for the Executive Education Program at Columbia Business School. I write books. My newest one is called The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World. I also spend a fair amount of my time running masterminds and doing online courses. Some of them I do for places like LinkedIn Learning and Udemy. Some of them I run myself, including my flagship, which is called the Recognized Expert course. We had a launch of that, which was really exciting. I’ve spent a lot of time immersed in that world as well.

How big are your groups when you do those learning programs that you run yourself?

Typically between 50 and 100 people register for each official cohort. When people sign up, they get lifetime membership in the community. We have this very robust community that’s built up over the past couple of years of people who stay involved for years and help each other rise together. It’s really lovely to watch. We had our 64th community member get published in the Harvard Business Review. That’s one metric of people’s success they’ve experienced. That’s fun to watch.

That’s a pretty impressive stack because it’s not easy to get published in Harvard Business Review.

It’s true. There’s some strategizing you have to learn about what is of interest and how you present things in the right format. Like everything else, it’s a learnable skill. It’s not easy.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us the Dorie Clark origin story. Where’d you grow up?

I grew up in a small town in North Carolina and did everything I could to get out very quickly. I was not meant for the little, tiny, small town life. When I was fourteen, there was an early college entrance program at what was then known as Mary Baldwin College, now Mary Baldwin University, in Virginia. I did my first two years of college there, and then I transferred to Smith College in Massachusetts. I finished up by the time I was eighteen, which was really exciting because I did want to get a bit of a head start on things. That was pretty cool. Did you like growing up in Akron? How was that for you?

I liked it, but my family all moved away, and I don’t go back very often. I have a high school reunion coming up, so maybe I’ll go back for that. It’s probably been close to twenty years since I’ve been back to where I grew up, so I’m overdue.

It’s been a little while for me too, but I did a presentation at GoodYear, which was really fun. They’re a cool company there.

When I grew up, the big three auto tire companies were all there, Firestone, Goodrich, and GoodYear. For a lot of people I knew, one or both of their parents worked there. That was back when they made tires in that area. A lot has changed since then. The city has had to reinvent itself since then like a lot of cities in the Rust Belt had to do.

Big changes, for sure.

You were young when you were in college. What did you envision? You were in a rush to get out into the world. What did you envision doing at that point professionally?

It’s interesting. One of the things for me that feels very salient about the modern economy is that in some ways, I’ve managed to have every facet of every career that I wanted to have. On the other hand, which is very ironic, I wanted to do all these things that felt very cool to me. What has happened is that the economy has changed so much. The bar was decreased somehow and things were demonetized.

A problem that I tried to solve in my book, Entrepreneurial You, is the fact that you can do anything you want to do, but you can’t really make money at it. You have to figure out your backend if you’re going to be successful. In the things I was interested in, I wanted to be a filmmaker. I thought that would be really cool. I wanted to write books. I wanted to teach at the university level and all these things.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Dorie Clark | Personal Branding

You’ve done all those things.

I got to do all these things. Yet, what we see is anybody can be a filmmaker on their phones. You don’t have to have Hollywood backing you, but it’s a really different process. It’s understanding this modern conundrum of you can do it all. Do you want to have your own TV show? That’s what YouTube’s for. You can do it, but you have to figure out how to make it work in the context of an economic system. I wanted to crack the code on that on Entrepreneurial You because we all have to be entrepreneurial.

It drives me bonkers when people still complain that people aren’t giving them things or whatever. The modern economy has evolved so that no one’s giving you anything. We have to figure out how to make our thing and how to make it work. If you do, it means the sky’s the limit. You can do whatever you want, which is an incredible opportunity.

It is a big mindset shift. It’s akin to the pension world giving way to the 401(k) world in the US. You have to plan for your own retirement. It used to be that you went to work for a company like GoodYear. You worked there your whole career and then you retired at age 55 or 60. You got a nice watch on the way out the door and a pension, which is probably more valuable than the watch. That has changed. People have to think, “Am I saving enough for retirement?” In the same way, it’s like, “Am I taking care of my career? I’m not going to have a company that’s going to take care of me for my entire professional life.” It’s a big mindset shift.

It’s not that one is necessarily better than the other, but the critical thing is that everybody has to be on the same page. Where you really get into trouble is if employers and employees have differing expectations. When somebody feels cheated in that equation, that is not going to work well. A very formative experience for me was getting laid off a year into my very first job and realizing like, “Nothing is secure here.”

You can make your own security. If you have a strong brand or a good network, you can find a way to land on your feet, but people are not necessarily going to take care of you. It’s, on one hand, a little bit alarming, but on the other hand, as long as we recognize what the rules of engagement are, then it’s okay. We can figure it out. We can make it work.

Personal Branding

Part of that is personal brand. I know you’ve written a lot about that in your books and otherwise. For you, what is the essence of having a personal brand?

I think of personal brand as a synonym for your reputation. That’s really it. It cuts through a lot of the noise around it because the personal brand has become a loaded term. It has become conflated in some people’s minds with being an influencer. It has shallower manifestations of it. The truth is, for all of us at a basic level, it is helpful to us. It is a good thing if the way that other people think about us is pretty close to how we would like them to think about us. If we can make those things match our lives, then our careers are much more likely to be healthy and happy and manifest the way we want them to. That’s the question. How do you close the gap between how you want to be seen and how you are seen in the world?

Whether you realize it or not, we all convey a brand. People know us for things. They know us not to be other things. That ultimately is how they see us. That’s our reputation, the perception that we give, and all of that. It isn’t just for influencers.

It’s the thing that makes somebody say, “We have this amazing opportunity. Who would be good for that?” You want it to be you. If it’s something that’s genuinely exciting for you, you would like to come up reasonably quickly as being somebody’s first choice for that. It’s putting in a little bit of thought upstream to ensure that the message arrives with the right people downstream.

What are some of your tips for people in terms of how to think about articulating what their personal brand is?

This is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about dating through my very first book, which is called Reinventing You. Ultimately, with personal branding, to a certain extent, we fixate on what the adjectives are and what it should be. That is an important starting point because we want to understand both how we’re perceived and where we want to go. This is what enables us to make a plan to triangulate it.

Ultimately, the first starting point is really talking with trusted friends. A quick exercise that I like to do is to have you go to a half dozen people that you trust and ask them super quickly, “If you had to describe me in only three words, what would they be?” This is helpful, not because you’re going to be receiving information like you’ve never heard like, “I didn’t know people thought that.” It’s probably not right. You’re probably going to hear things and you’re going to nod along and say, “I get that.”

What is helpful is that the problem with most of us is that we don’t understand what people think of first when they think about us. We know too much about ourselves. We have no idea about the weights, the proportions, or whatever it is. If you ask half a dozen people and 5 out of 6 of the people, the first thing that they say is, “J.R. is so creative,” or, “He’s so strategic,” or whatever it is, you begin to understand, “This is something that people think is a big thing for me. This is different from other people.” It gives you something to work with.

The problem with most of us is that we don't understand what people think of first when they think about us. Share on X

It turns out that might not be the thing you want. You might say, “I didn’t know it was that. I’ll have to find ways to mitigate against it,” but you also might be inspired enough that you take it and run with it. You’re like, “I didn’t realize people thought I was so creative. How can I leverage that more? Maybe that can be a marquee part of what I bring to the mix.” A really useful starting point is to do a survey. It can be very informal, but see what comes back and see if you like it or not.

Do you ever ask people to go out and ask people, “Pick three words you would say are not me.”

You can certainly do it that way. That’s an interesting way to highlight the converse. It’s a little harder for the recipient because they have to strain their brain a little bit more to think of the negative, but that could be an interesting variation, for sure.

I think about it only because there are so many times when somebody will say, “They didn’t even think of me for this.” You wonder, “What do they think of me? Where’s the disconnect?” By maybe coming at it from both angles, you might get a little bit better sense of why they didn’t think of you for something. You want them to think of you when it’s something that you feel like you could do and that you want to do. Yet, I certainly hear from a lot of people, going back to our pre-recording conversation about the mid-level people, a lot of times, they’re frustrated because they feel like their bosses don’t get them.

It’s true. A big problem that I see, one of the chief ones, honestly, is it’s not necessarily that people have you wrong in a complete sense or whatever. It’s certainly not a malicious thing. It’s that people are busy. They’re distracted. They’re not focused on you. They’re checked out when it comes to understanding who you are. It’s more a sin of omission than commission, but they’re not thinking about you.

A big problem is the perception that they have of you is often out of date. When we first meet someone, we form a perception of them like, “Who’s this guy? I need to understand what he’s about.” They then know you for 5 or 10 years, but unless something has happened, it never occurs to them like, “I need to update my perceptions.”

Meanwhile, over the course of 5 or 10 years, you could have changed careers. You could have gone back to school. You could have moved continents. You could have done a million different things, but they’re still thinking of you as whoever you were in 2013 or something ridiculous. It’s different because it’s out of date. We have to be a little bit more thoughtful about making sure that we are updating people, that we are reaching out, and that we’re keeping in touch with them. When we do talk to them, we, in a low-key way, make sure to say, “I’m living in England now,” or whatever so that it finally sticks.

I’ve had conversations like this where somebody will say to me, “You and I worked together back at such and such. You probably remember me like this. I’m now doing X, Y, and Z which are completely different. Let me tell you a little bit about it.” It’s almost like they’re deliberately working at resetting your perception of them. Most people let you figure it out, but some people will spoon-feed it to you, which is, in the scheme of things if you’ve made a big shift in what you’re doing, can be really helpful.

You need to say it more repeatedly than you might imagine. There’s this saying in politics, which is carried over into the corporate world as well. I used to work in politics. It would say as this adage that a voter needs to hear your name seven times before they’ll remember it. It’s very true with any form of corporate communication. You’ve got bosses who are always like, “I always tell my people I appreciate them.” The workers are like, “When was the last time that happened.” You got the disjunct.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Dorie Clark | Personal Branding

Personal Branding: “A voter needs to hear your name seven times before they’ll remember it.”

 

We say it once and assume, “It’s taken care of.” We have to 7x whatever we’re doing. Thinking through like, “If I need this person to understand that I’m in a new industry now,” or, “I have a new career aspiration now,” it’s not that you say the same thing precisely seven times so that you sound like a robot, but you’ve got to find different ways in.

Maybe it’s that you have a conversation where you talk about it. Maybe you’re connected on social media to the person, so you start posting more regularly about the new thing that you’re trying to do so they see it in this ambient way. Maybe there’s some kind of an event that is tied in with your new industry and you invite the person to a reception with you. You try to hit them in different ways so that it really sticks.

For somebody who’s got a good sense of themselves but is thinking about, “How do I find the most impactful ways of conveying my brand online, offline, or whatever?” What’s your sense of what the most impactful ways are of getting that message across to people?

There’s a variety, honestly. Ultimately, it’s about repetition and variation. It’s not necessarily that, “You should always do this thing.” It’s about trying to create an echo chamber around the people you’re trying to influence so that they begin to see you in this new way. Y ou were asking earlier about networking, which is a topic that I have a whole chapter about in my book, The Long Game. There is this moment where you have a perfect opportunity. If you see somebody that you already know but you haven’t seen them for a while, and this is true, inevitably, they’re going to ask you some variation of, “What have you been up to? What’s the latest news with you?” They’re going to want to know something like that, and they will ask you.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Dorie Clark | Personal Branding

Most people, even though they understand intellectually that that question is coming, don’t prepare for it. As a result, they blow it. Instead, if you really have a thoughtful answer ready about, “I’ve been doing XYZ,” then they’re listening because they asked. It’s not you bragging or whatever. They’ve asked you a question and you’re responding to it. This is a perfect low-hanging fruit if you have that answer in your back pocket.

The AI Threat

I want to get to networking in a sec, but I wanted to ask you one more question on branding that I heard you talk briefly about at a conference that we were both at together. That is the idea that a personal brand is the ant to the threat of AI.

It’s interesting. Everybody is trying to wrap their arms around AI and what it can do, what it can’t do, and whose jobs it’s going to displace. A few years ago, the thing that everybody was freaking out about is, “The truck drivers are all going to lose their jobs thanks to the AI-enabled self-driving cars.” They might lose all their jobs, but it’s not going to be tomorrow. It is much more likely that a lot of white-collar workers will suddenly be losing their jobs thanks to the way that generative AI has evolved so quickly. We’re all trying to figure it out.

The truth is, what AI has shown us is that we know that this is true. You have, let’s say, an outsourced marketing agency and you’re paying them $2,000 a month, $5,000 grand a month, or whatever it is. They’re coming up with some social media copy for you and different things and you’re like, “Whatever. It’s annoying to me that I have to pay them this money. They do an okay job. They’re not the best, but they get it done.” If I have been paying $5,000 a month for this service and suddenly, I can get ChatGPT to do it for me for $20 a month, I am going to be all over that. I am not going to deal with this quasi-mediocre marketing firm. Why would I?

Even if ChatGPT is not quite as good, let’s call it 80% as good, which is debatable because it is probably better than that, if I can take the delta between $20 a month and $5,000 a month, I’m going to do that every time. The mediocre, the commoditized is going to go away.

What is not going to go away is if I were to say to you, “I have the best marketing firm in the world. They are incredible. They do such unique work. They capture my voice perfectly. Whenever I post something, I get so much positive feedback because it’s so creative and so innovative,” even if AI can do a pretty good approximation of that, I am not going to give up the best firm in the world that I feel like uniquely speaks to me, gets me, connects with my customers, etc., because they have a brand that is a premium brand. I’m willing to pay more for that.

For all of us as employees, it’s not saying that you necessarily have to be the best in the world, although that helps, but if people say, “J.R. is so good with our customers. Our customers love him. He’s the best. They all are saying wonderful things about him,” am I going to get rid of J.R. when we’re having cuts? No, because it’s going to make my customers unhappy. There’s a wide variety of things where you can excel, but we need to think about how you can create a brand where you are viewed as truly something different and special in whatever element you’re doing. If we have that, that becomes our career insurance.

That’s very well said. It highlights the importance of making sure that what you do is unique and distinctive. You don’t have to necessarily be the best, but AI is going to force the white-collar workers in many industries to raise their game because there’s a $20-a-month alternative to that $5,000-a-month mediocre marketing firm.

It’s really true. I have long felt that there’s a pretty wide swath of middle-class white-collar employees that think they’re worth a 6-figure salary because they’ve been getting a 6-figure salary. It’s not because you’ve been getting a 6-figure salary that it means you’re worth a 6-figure salary. It means you’ve gotten it in the past, but the past does not predict the future.

What makes you worth it is if you were in an open marketplace where you had to replicate that again, could you get a six-figure job again somewhere else? Could you do it repeatedly if we had to run the experiment 100 times? If you do, then the market has spoken. You’re worth it. If it is a thing that you lose and you can’t really replicate, that is a little too precarious to me. That’s why I am so big on beating the drum around building your network and building your personal brand because those are the insurance policies. That is what enables you to replicate the six-figure salary again and again across a world of infinite universes.

Networking

Let’s talk about networking. You talked a minute ago about how important it can be to somebody’s professional success. A lot of people still find it superficial and phony, but it shouldn’t be. It doesn’t have to be, right?

Yeah. If it feels phony to either the person receiving it or the person doing it, it’s not being done right. The way that I think about networking fundamentally, and this might sound naive to some people, is about making friends. It’s how adults make friends. What is different is that if you have a long enough horizon, you need nothing from anyone.

When I’m networking, the last thing I ever want to do is need something from people. I want to remove all needs from the equation because I want to get to know people, have fun, and make friends. Sometimes, do I need something from my friends? Yes, I do, but needing something from friends is a very different phenomenon. That is something that everybody understands because friends help each other and they do it without keeping score. It’s like, “I’m willing to do it for you and you’re willing to do it for me.” If I need something from a person I’m meeting, that creates a disgusting dynamic that people can sense and that I want to stay incredibly far away from.

It’s hard. Having been in sales-type roles in the past, you do go into a meeting with somebody you haven’t met before and try to push something to get a sale. You may be playing a long game, to use your book title, or you may need to play a shorter game in terms of getting immediate results. Those are hard situations because you haven’t really built a relationship with the person on the other side. They don’t trust you. They don’t know you. It makes it a lot harder for them to commit. Right. Commit. mm-Hmm. Time, commit money to whatever you happen to be in there. Certainly, from my early days being in more sales-focused roles, I did not get that. The fact that you had to play the long game, build the relationship, and let good things happen as they may.

It’s hard because there’s an inverse relationship. The needier you are coming across, the more you are going to be repelling people with that neediness. They see it and they’re like, “I can’t trust this person to have my best interest at heart because their need is so great. They’re going to do whatever it takes.” It sets off people’s alarm bells justifiably.

The central theme of my book, The Long Game, is about how you thread the needle between short-term and long-term concerns. Ultimately, the more you can set up a system so that wherever possible biasing toward the long-term, you’re going to be a lot better off because it enables you to have almost unpredictably and unexpectedly good payoffs. Most people want to eat the marshmallow and not let it multiply to 2, 3, or 10 marshmallows. If you’re the person who’s willing to wait for the pile of marshmallows at the end of the rainbow, there can be a lot of marshmallows there sometimes.

You’re bringing to mind that child psychology research that was done whenever decades ago.

It was Walter Mischel.

It showed that the kids who could wait for the second cookie ended up being happier and doing better in life than the ones who wanted instant gratification. It’s a good metaphor for the patients of networking. The conferences, industry events, and things like that or the obvious places to network, what are some of the less obvious ones that you think are particularly fruitful more than people think?

I have two answers. One is that networking can take place almost anywhere. I have a friend named Terry Rice who got his “big break” because he lives in Brooklyn and he took his daughter to gymnastics class or something. While he was waiting to pick her up, he recognized this guy from the picture he had seen who was the editor of Entrepreneur Magazine. He was like, “I know you.” It started a connection that ended up with Terry doing a podcast for Entrepreneur, writing a regular column, and things like that. If you keep your eyes open, you can network anywhere.

The part that I’ll say specifically that is more controllable is people often think about networking as occurring in certain zones. To your point, it’s like, “It’s a conference. I can network here.” A lot of people have a failure of imagination when it comes to networking because they do not see themselves as hosts or understand that they can be hosts.

They think of themselves as passive recipients of networking, like, “I can go to an event,” or, “Maybe someone will invite me to something,” but they don’t recognize that they can create something. I would encourage people to invite somebody out. Invite them to coffee. Invite them to a Zoom chat. Host a dinner. Anyone can do this and can get good at it. It’s one of the best superpowers because it’s extremely underutilized.

That’s certainly something from your books that I’ve taken away and you do a lot of in the masterminds that you host, dinners, and other things that you do to bring groups of people together. You ask them to bring people, so you start bridging into their connections. There’s a little bit of serendipity in those situations. I’m sure some of them work better than others, but to some extent, serendipity is responsible for a lot of good things that happen in the world. You have to foster it a bit.

That’s very true. How do you handle your personal networking?

I don’t go to a ton of conferences because of the time commitment, but certainly, I stay pretty active on social media, mainly LinkedIn, not so much the other platforms. It’s nice to see what people are up to. You spoke with Bo at General Mills. You got your Wheaties box that we were talking about earlier that you’ve got. I saw that on LinkedIn and commented on it at the time. To me, it’s fun to see those updates for people. That’s a way of building a little bit of a relationship with somebody even if it doesn’t turn into anything material one way or the other at any point in the near term.

Other than that, this show is a way for me to network. I started with people that I knew. Over time, I’ve gotten more publicists reaching out to me and asking me if I’ll meet with somebody that they happen to represent. If I feel like they’re a good fit or they’re doing something interesting, I’m happy to throw them into the mix. Part of my approach with this is to have a bit of variability in the guest types, so I’m thrilled when I can get somebody who people are really going to know, like you. Those are super popular with people.

What’s interesting is through these discussions, and I’ve done 100 and change of them at this point, I get connected to other people that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get connected to, and that’s great. Wendy Smith is somebody from the University of Delaware who I got connected to through a classmate, Dolly Chugh. Wendy Smith connected me to Amy Gallo. She has connected me to other people as well. I’m interviewing people that I didn’t know that have come through some of those secondary contacts. Those are some of the ways that I’ve built my network, particularly over the last couple of years as I’ve done this passion project focusing on career development.

That’s awesome.

A lot of people find this uncomfortable, the small talk and things like that. You have a ton of suggestions for people when you’re in the moment at a conference or a cocktail party. We won’t go through the whole list, but maybe pick a few of your favorites.

It’s understandable that people are uncomfortable with small talk because you might start out with a small talk-y question to break the ice. You want to move away from there pretty rapidly. If someone was forced to have an entire conversation of, “It has been very sunny, hasn’t it?” It’s going to be horrible. It’s going to be so boring. Nobody wants that.

The goal is to try to use small talk as the tip of the spear to break in and open something up to learn about the person. It may turn out that you have something in common with them, which is cool. You can bond over that. Maybe you find out something interesting and you are present enough in the moment to say, “That’s so cool.”

Let’s say we’re at a conference and I come up and say, “The weather’s really nice, isn’t it?” That’s a lame opening, but it’s something. You say, “It’s great. I’ve been loving it. It lets me be out on the water more.” I can say, “Are you a boater or a water skier? What do you do?” You can say, “I do hydrofoil.” I’ll be like, “I don’t even think I know what hydrofoil is. What is it? How did you start doing it? What makes you a good hydrofoiler? Where are the best places to hydrofoil?”

All of a sudden, I don’t even know anything about this thing and you can educate me. You’re excited because you’re talking about this thing you can geek out on. It’s great for me because I’m learning about a cool thing I didn’t know about. You’ve got to take it in the moment and roll with it. If you go in and the goal is like, “I have to sell something to him,” the whole time you’re telling me about hydrofoil, I’m not going to pay attention because I’ll be like, “How can I pivot it to insurance policies?” It’s not going to be good for anybody. If you’re present, you can learn a cool thing or make a cool friend.

Entrepreneurial Mindset

That’s very true. I’m mindful of time. I want to spend a few minutes on this idea of an entrepreneurial mindset. You hit on this earlier in our discussion. For somebody who’s in a corporate job, why is the idea of thinking entrepreneurially about themselves still important and relevant?

It’s still important for a couple of reasons. One is that if you have an entrepreneurial mindset, it’s forcing you to look for creative ideas, creative connections, and possibilities. Those are things that if funneled correctly can really add value to your company. If we have an archetypal passive attitude that’s like, “I’m doing my job. I’m doing what they’re telling me,” we all understand that that’s not cool. That’s not how anybody wants us to be.

If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, it's essentially forcing you to look for creative ideas, creative connections, and possibilities. Share on X

We have to be entrepreneurial enough in the sense that with this owner mentality, it’s like, “I am taking ownership over my career over what I’m bringing. If I see a process that isn’t working, it’s good If I come up with a suggestion about how it could work better.” All but the least enlightened bosses will be pleased. If you say, “There’s a process that is really inefficient. If we changed this and this, we could do it 20% faster,” most bosses would say, “That’s cool. Why don’t you implement that?” It’s a way to demonstrate your interest, connection, and potential and show people like, “I have ideas. Let me run with them.” That’s good.

The other reason that’s so critical, honestly, is that you can’t take it for granted that you will always be at your company. No matter how much your company likes you or no matter how much your boss likes you, that umbrella of protection may not last forever. A PE firm swallows you. Your boss leaves or gets fired and you no longer have your protector. A lot of things can happen, and I hope they don’t. It is good to have something in your back pocket to recognize, “Even if I want to be here forever, I might not have the opportunity to be here forever. How can I be thoughtful at all times to make sure I have a fallback?” It’s important for people to ask themselves that so we can be as protected as possible in a very uncertain economy.

This leads to the gig economy and portfolio careers. It’s becoming more common for people to have a side gig. They’re doing multiple things at one time to de-risk any one revenue stream evaporating, that being their only source of income.

Society fundamentally underestimates the risks of certain things. People know this intellectually. You hear about the shark attack and everybody’s so freaked out about sharks. I’m making these numbers up. 10 people die from a shark attack and you have 100,000 that die in traffic accidents, but the shark attack is the most vivid thing, so that’s the thing we’re freaked out about.

Similarly, we fail systematically to understand the risk. It has been proven to us that even the hottest companies or even the hottest industries like the Googles and the engineering jobs at Silicon Valley companies can be cut too. Everybody thought that was untouchable. If you’re an engineer in Silicon Valley, you can write your own ticket. You’re hopscotching from one victory to another. All of a sudden, in 2023, people started getting axed. Their worldview was shattered. We all have to recognize that it’s being very Buddhist. We can enjoy and appreciate the present, but it is not going to last forever.

When you’re out part of that hustle culture and working multiple things, you can easily burn yourself out too.

It’s true. Certainly, what I hear from a lot of people is, “I’m already stressed. I’m overstretched.” In fact, in The Long Game, one of the things that I talk about is that very famously, Google popularized this concept of 20% time. You are able to allocate up to 20% of your time to these non-core projects or experimental projects, which, in the past, have yielded great results for Google. Gmail and Google News came out of these 20% time experiments that their employees did, so it’s a cool, valuable thing that can pay off.

Estimates show that fewer than 10% of Google employees take advantage of the 20% time. It’s not that they’re not creative people or whatever, but it’s that they are so busy they don’t have time for it. The reality is it’s less 20% time and more 120% time. It’s more like, “Do your job and then do this extra thing.” People are already like, “I can’t.”

That being said, it’s also true that if you do make that little bit of effort, and maybe it’s not 20% time but maybe it’s 3% or 5%, you can get a jump on things in terms of building your skills, building your net, expanding things out, and putting yourself in prime opportunity. We have to be both realistic because there are certain times in our lives where we can’t and we’re tapped out, but where we do have the bandwidth to try to apply it where we can.

Staying On Top

How do you stay on top of it all?

It’s true. Now, I’m working less hard than I have in the past, but I’ve tried to be very strategic. The concept I talk about in my books is thinking in waves. It is understanding where you are. A mistake that some people make is they don’t want to work as hard, so they don’t work as hard. I worked like a freaking maniac in my 20s and 30s seven days a week, which is not great and not really sustainable over time, but I was single and I could. It helped me build a big enough snowball that it had the momentum that I was able to cut back a little bit more and have a quite manageable schedule. It is largely a product of work that I put in on the front end.

Also, as I reach new milestones in my business, and I’ve been working for probably 8 or 9 years, I’ve had a focus on trying to be thoughtful and strategic about how to build up my passive revenue in my business. It’s the non-time-for-dollars revenue. The more that I do that and the more successful I am at that, the more I allow myself to cut back on the time-for-dollars thing. I stopped doing one-on-one coaching probably a few years ago, so that has saved me a lot of time that I’m not doing. I continue to reallocate that time toward additional passive income opportunities.

Certainly, those passive income opportunities, and if you are participating as a solopreneur, it can be whatever words you want to use to describe it, it breaks that cycle. Your time is limited, which means you can only make hourly rate times the hours you’re willing to work. That’s a maximum of 168 a week if you don’t want to sleep. Getting into those things that aren’t tied to your own time is a really important concept that a lot of solopreneurs struggle to get past.

That’s exactly right. It becomes really hard because you’re capped by the hours of the week. You’re capped by the constraints of your own labor. It’s no wonder that people’s income plateaus because they can’t do it anymore. You have to change it up and find a way to do something different.

It’s this thing about how to scale yourself ultimately. It’s this whole adage of platform businesses. It’s like making yourself into a platform business.

It’s true.

Being mindful of time, let me ask you maybe one last question which I ask most of the guests as my last question. If you could go back and tell your eighteen-year-old-that-graduated-from-Smith self something about the work world or something about careers that you know now, what would you go back and tell your younger self?

Advice To Younger Dorie

We were talking about this a little bit earlier in the context of my book, Entrepreneurial You. There’s a guy who was a big early internet theorist named Doc Searls. He had a concept that I thought was really interesting to think about and probe that we were alluding to earlier. It is that thanks to the internet, there’s been a shift because you don’t make money from something. You make money because of something. You have to probe that. It’s like a Zen Koan. It’s quite profound.

In the past, we used to make money from something. It was like, “I’m a filmmaker, so I’m going to make money from my films. People are buying tickets to my films.” It’s a very straightforward transaction. Whereas now, you have a situation where because so much has become free, scaled, and demonetized on the internet, you might have a blog or a podcast, let’s say. There are some exceptions. Certainly, some people make money from their blog or their podcast because they have millions of viewers and they get advertising revenue. That is less than 1%.

For the vast majority of people, it’s not that it’s not worth it for them to have a blog or a podcast. It could be an incredible marketing tool. It could be the best decision they ever made, and yet, they might not make $0.1 from it. It might cost them money because they’re like, “I have to have a producer. I have to have show notes.”

They make money because the right person hears the podcast and hires them for a $200,000 contract. All of a sudden, years’ worth of hosting a podcast is paid for because you have landed the exact right person at the exact right time. Understanding that and mastering that equation in the internet era is quite interesting and powerful.

It’s an interesting idea. I have never heard of that before. It is true that people build a base and then they monetize what they’ve built but in another way. It’s the natural evolution you go back to. You used to be able to make money writing, producing films, or whatever the case may be, and then we democratized all of that. The problem with democratizing is the money all evaporates and you’ve got to find some other way to make money. We’ve been in this cycle of constant change which makes it difficult for people to keep up with. It’s an interesting time that we’re in, and that’s even before you get to the whole AI thing.

It’s wild. Thanks for helping everyone navigate it. These are great conversations.

I’m trying in my own small way. I appreciate you doing this. I violated one of your rules to wait a year before you ask for something because I met you in November 2023 and it’s April 2024, so 5 months. I’ll give myself a 45%, a failing grade, but thank you anyway.

It’s a pleasure to violate my rules for you.

I take that as a badge of honor. You have a good rest of your day. We’ll look forward to hearing about how your show at Ohio Wesleyan goes.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I’ll mention to anyone who wants to geek out on any of these topics that I have a free Long Game strategic thinking self-assessment at DorieClark.com/TheLongGame. Thanks so much.

Thanks.

I want to thank Dorie for joining me. It was fun to catch up and talk a bit about personal branding, networking, adopting an entrepreneurial mindset, and a little bit about her own journey. Dorie is certainly a proponent of taking control of your career. If you’re ready to do that, you can visit PathWise.io. If you’d like more regular career insights, you can become a member. It’s free. You can also sign up on the website for the PathWise newsletter. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Thanks. Have a great day.

 

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About Dorie Clark

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Dorie Clark | Personal BrandingDorie Clark is a consultant and keynote speaker, and business school professor, teaching executive education at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Columbia Business School. She has been named three times as one of the Top 50 business thinkers in the world by Thinkers50, and she was recognized as the #1 Communication Coach in the world by the Marshall Goldsmith Leading Global Coaches Awards.

She is recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc. magazine, and is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Long Game, Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out, which was named the #1 Leadership Book of the Year by Inc. magazine and one of the Top 10 Business Books of the Year by Forbes.

Dore is also a former presidential campaign spokeswoman, award-winning journalist, and filmaker, having directed the environmental documentary film The Work of 1000. She was a producer for a multiple-Grammy-winning jazz album, is a Broadway investor, and is a member of BMI’s Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Advanced Workshop.

At age 14, Clark entered Mary Baldwin College’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted. At 18, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College, and two years later received a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School.

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