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Outbound & Inbound Networking

Lesson 14 from: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

Outbound & Inbound Networking

Lesson 14 from: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

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Lesson Info

14. Outbound & Inbound Networking

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of the lesson is networking, specifically focusing on outbound and inbound networking strategies.


  • What is outbound networking? Outbound networking refers to the traditional approach of networking where you start with yourself and the people you know and try to connect with the person you are trying to reach through mutual connections.
  • What is inbound networking? Inbound networking is the second half of networking where you start with the person you are trying to reach and work your way inwards, finding someone close to them who can help you get closer to your target.
  • What is an example of inbound networking? An example of inbound networking is a young man who wanted to interview a reclusive filmmaker. He went to the city hall where the filmmaker had to go to get permits for filming and struck up a conversation with a woman behind the counter. She recommended him to someone at a production company who eventually connected him with the screenwriter and assistant production manager for the director.
  • How can you approach a gatekeeper to reach a famous person? Instead of trying to contact the CEO or VP directly, you can contact the executive administrator or gatekeeper and build a relationship with them. By treating them with respect and asking for a short conversation to assess if your ideas are worth the famous person's time, you can gain their trust and get access to the person you want to reach.
  • Is it necessary to maintain your network? No, it is not necessary to actively maintain your network by sending cards or reaching out regularly. Networks don't decay, and you can reach out to people even after years of not contacting them. It's more important to use your network when you need it and have genuine conversations.

Lesson Info

Outbound & Inbound Networking

You've just done networking really well and the last thing I want to cover really briefly is and that's only half of networking. 98% of the people do only half of what networking really is. I want to briefly describe to you the other half so you have the power tool fully available to you. So, networking means, of course there's you and the people you know and the people around you and then there's the person you're trying to reach, so let's say it's that book agent that you don't know over there and the people they hang out with and the people that she knows. And how do you put them together? Well, of course, traditional networking, which is outbound, that's what you were just doing, that's what most people think is the whole story, is who do I know and who do they know and who does that person know and does my dad's dentist's freshman roommate's golf buddy actually know the woman who runs this thing? And that's where the six degrees of separation works and it works great. But it's onl...

y half the story. That's all starting with just you and who you know. How about starting with who they know? Inbound, don't start out from you, start in from them. So, inbound is the second half, where you begin, so start close to the person you're trying to reach. You might not be able to even know who the person you're trying to reach is, much less have access to them, but maybe there's somebody close to them you can get to more easily. And then you just jump over all the space in between and you land right close to where you wanna be and in one or two steps, you're there. Example, young man I'm working with is into film, wants to interview a very very well-known independent filmmaker, who actually lives here in San Francisco, works here in San Francisco often, but is known as reclusive, never gives interviews, never gives interviews to the public, really hard to get a hold of. And the young man I'm talking to is terrifically introverted, was raised on a farm, and has no connections whatsoever. His people don't do movies. That's not what goes on in his world. So, he's stuck. He's really stuck. "What do I do, Dave? What do I do?" We go well okay, let's think about what not your problem is, but what your director does and how does he spend his time in his life and what's going on? What we came up with is well, you know, he's in San Francisco and he films, and where does he go, and what does he do? We're just kind of imagining his life and who the people are. Is there anyone in his circle that might be accessible to us, that could help us get close? And we realized he films in San Francisco. When you film in a city, you film outdoors. You film outdoors, you have to close the street. To close the street, you've gotta get a permit. Oh, yeah, so where do you get the permit? At city hall. So, he goes to city hall and he goes to the counter where you fill out the form to close the street to make a movie. He says, "I'm a film student. I'd like to find out what it's like to go through the process of actually filming outdoors. Is this the place I fill out the form?" "Oh, yeah. He's the form, fill it out." And talking he says, "Hey, do you do this all the time", to the woman behind the counter, let's call her Cindy. "Oh yeah." "Great, so you interact with these people all the time, right?" He says, "Well, you know actually I'm a terrified introverted young man and I would really like to talk to some people in the film industry. Do you deal with any people on a regular basis who are nice?" And he goes, "Oh yeah, you really want to talk to the people over at Acme. You know, you really want to talk to Ellen at Acme. She's terrific." "Would you give me her number?" "Sure, no problem." So, he calls Ellen, this is a true story. He calls Ellen and at Acme and in no time is into the network of production companies in San Francisco. Within three weeks, gets the screenwriter and the chief assistant production manager for this director talking to him. Director won't talk to him. Doesn't talk to anybody. But that's okay. I get within two feet away from this guy within three weeks by going to city hall. Now, the challenge of inbound networking is thinking up cleverly, who's that person nearby? Doesn't have to be a, this was a person behind the counter at San Francisco city hall. That's the power player. It's just access we need, not power. That's where the executive administrator, the administrative assistant, the switchboard operator, there are lots of people who can help you. So, just give yourself the chance of using all the networking tools, not just half the networking tools. Dave, I've got another story. So, often famous people have an executive assistant. And often the executive assistant is just the, she's the screener. The gatekeeper. Gatekeeper to keep people away from the famous person. So, what do you do? Oh, so the gatekeeper. Gatekeepers have two jobs, right? Keep the wrong people out and let the right people in. So, since a gatekeeper knows who to let in, I don't call the CEO, I don't call the VP. I call, when I call the switchboard, "Who's the executive administrator for Annaliese?" "Oh, you mean John. Yeah, you need to talk to John." "Oh, great." I call John. "Hi, John. This is Dave." "Well, hello Dave. Who are you?" "Well, I'm a guy who has, I have a question for you, John. There's this thing I think you might be interesting, a conversation that Annaliese might be interested in having and I'm not sure it's really worthy of her time, but I know that she really trusts you and understands that you have her best interest at heart. So, I wondered, could you and I schedule a call for five minutes where I can tell you what I want to talk to Annaliese about and you can assess whether or not it deserves her attention." You have to wait two or three minutes for John to pick himself back up off the floor because nobody talks to him like that. Except there is one person who talks to John like that all the time. Who is it? It's Annaliese, who trusts him and lets him manage her schedule. Because now I'm already on the same ground as Annaliese, 'cause I'm treating her employee the same way she does. The right time to call an executive is seven AM, before the executive administrator get in. No, that's stupid. Call the executive administrator by name. And frankly, if you deserve to talk to Annaliese, John will get you in. John has gotten me in about 19 times out of 20. Now, I'm pretty good at this, I gotta say. But, you could even do it 15. Just call John, "Here's what I think might be interesting. Do you think Annaliese might care?" "Actually, I don't think she would." "Would anybody in the organization at all find that an interesting conversation?" "Well, Bill might." "Can you connect me to Bill?" "Well, no, not really." "Well, who could?" "Well, that would be Sam." "Can you connect me to Sam" "Sure." Just pay your dues and it works. So, give yourself a chance. People will be willing to talk to you if it's a worthwhile conversation. Even an information conversation just about the story. Okay, so outbound is very easy to do. It's low-threat, 'cause you know all the people you're talking to, right? It can wear people out. If you're using your network a lot, you get exhaustion. The nice thing about inbound, starting at the city counter or starting with the executive administrator, is it's creative, it's highly effective, it doesn't wear people out, but it's challenging to come up with that first step. It takes creativity and thoughtfulness, but it really does work. So, that's it for networking and unicorn hunting, hot to crack the hidden job market. Now, any realizations, insights, or particularly questions, including from our online participants? Does anybody have any times where this has worked? Any good stories? Yeah, we get a lot of questions about how to do it. It still feels sleazy, you know. So, anything that's on your mind about this process we've just been talking about and practicing. Yeah, and things that you've done. Stories that you've done where it has been useful or helpful and has worked. Yeah, go ahead. I've been trying the inbound path a lot lately and I've found that, there's a tip I got from a book I read about this, but it's asking for like 19 minutes of their time, 'cause some people have commented, like the 19 catches their attention. Otherwise, they'd be lost if I said 20 or 30. It's like giving them a weird number or something that like stuck in their head. Try the weird number trick. Yeah. Well, it also sounds like you're willing to be held accountable. 20 means 30. 19 probably means 19. And I stick to it, yeah you don't go over. Other thoughts or questions? Yeah, right there. Yeah, actually, I was able to meet somebody that I was able to learn a lot from from YouTube and I ended up presenting them with a gift, a painting that I'd done and that led to more conversation and then we developed a friendship. That's great. Which brings up, it doesn't even have to be a painting. But boy oh boy, a handwritten note. Thank you very much for your time and when you get to 30 minutes say, "Look, I wanna be respectful of your time. I only asked for 30." And if they say, "No no no no, I got more time." That's fine. But, that handwritten note, a whole painting, that's really extraordinary. That's great. I have a whole file of little notes that people have left me and it's the ones that they actually slip under my door or I get in the mail, which are special. An e-mail's great too. Of course you would always thank someone with an e-mail, but boy, if you could do a little more personal thing, you build up a lot of good karma. We have an example from the online audience I want to read. This one comes from Valentino, who says, "I contacted a person the other day on Linkedin because I read an article that they wrote in a national newspaper and I wanted to talk about it and I wanted to pass by some ideas that I had. And the very busy entrepreneur called me after five minutes and the day after, I had the CEO in my office." Whoa, whoa. That worked. But this is the thing, Linkedin, Facebook have connected the world in a way that has never been connected before. And validated this behavior. It's totally okay, absolutely. And by the way, if you do send that e-mail to somebody who wrote an article you saw or a book that you've, and you don't get one back right away, they're just busy. They're just busy. Keep trying. Our rule is set of three. You can ask three times. If you don't get a response, you just stop. Find a new person. Yeah. I mean, at the heart of this, not to throw myself in a file, but at the heart of this, it's about being genuine, right? Yes. Absolutely. I'll meet with anyone who wants to call and ask of me, but if I feel like it's sleazy, I'm not gonna do it. Absolutely. And maybe that's just my own threshold, but every job I've ever gotten has been through someone I knew. I've never just sent a resume in because that isn't for me personally how it's ever worked. That doesn't mean that isn't true for other folks. So for me the same thing would be true. You know, the reason I stood over there, and actually I never even got to what I was talking about, I was so busy talking to other people about what they needed. Right. But, I figure it will come back around and we'll figure it out later. Yeah, and we were in a very artificial situation we were trying to get through fast. But here's the thing, if you smell like a job-seeker or it looks like this is a setup, it's just gonna fail. That's why we say start with curiosity. I'm really curious about this nanotechnology land and I've read your, I read a paper you wrote, or I read something you posted on Facebook. Could I just get even, you know, 10 minutes of your time. I want to ask some questions. It's so interesting to me. It's gotta be real. But when it's real, it's really reciprocated very rapidly. And then there's a whole pay it forward thing. Some day someone's gonna call you with a question or an interest in your story. And you're gonna participate because-- We spend a lot of time with people pretty much doing this for the first time, you know, 21, 22, 23 years old, and they really do want a job. That's really what I want. I don't want a conversation, I want a job. So, how do I do that? Take a breath. It turns out that this human communal behavior is in fact how this stuff happens. And maybe most of your jobs came from people you knew, but everybody's jobs come from people, whether you knew them before or not. So, the people thing more likely than just a resume in the mail. So, we say look, you have to be in the conversation. You want to be in the conversation. You gotta have a reason to have the conversation. And, "Hey, tell me about you", has just got a 55 times higher hit rate than, "Would you hire me please." So, what you have to do is go sit down, calm down, have a glass of wine, and say, okay is there anything about this field, anything about these people that I really could be interested in for 30 minutes. And can I get myself to defer the "please hire me please hire me please hire me" panic long enough to when they say, "What do you want to do?" "I just want to talk to you for a half an hour." And I can tell the truth. You gotta go find the truthful answer somewhere in there in you that will generate a true curiosity and an authentic conversation that isn't doubly-minded. And still you can hold back that panic attack. Tomorrow we'll deal with it. You know, a little bit of time is on your side. So, that's all you have to do. And look, if you think you wanna work there, there's gotta be something of interest. If not, what are we doing? But you have to get there. You have to get the true curiosity. Question or thought? Well, I just had kind of crazy networking story to share. Great. Networking's a big part of my work and my life and a project collaborator from Australia said, "Tessa, there's this girl in Jamaica that you have to meet. I think you guys are super like-minded." And I said, "Sure, why not." We set up a Skype call and it was like 45 minutes and she really wanted to come to the Bay area and I was like, "If you're ever around, I'm happy to host you." A month later, she had a ticket and she spent a week on my couch. (audience laughing) And she started a creative design studio in Jamaica now. She's helping me turn these scenarios into graphic novel stories. And now it's a life-long friendship, plus she helped inform my work. I helped inform her work. So, it was a really cool random meeting. And only in a globally-connected world can someone from, you know, Australia and New Zealand and Jamaica and Peru. We were doing a Facebook Live, there was someone on from Azerbaijan. I'm not even sure I know where that is exactly. But, you know, he had gotten a bootleg copy of the book and wanted to ask us questions. And maybe someday he'll be sitting on my couch or sleeping in my spare bedroom. Who knows? Well I think we have so many people from all over the world hanging out with us today. So, this absolutely does work. It's actually good to live in the modern world. The Internet's like this really cool thing. We should use it appropriately, not just let it eat resumes. There's other ways to use the Internet. Are there either comments or questions about this stuff? Okay, a question I get a lot is do I have to maintain my network. Once I've networked with somebody, do I have to send them a card every six months. Our position, other people say it differently, really simple, no. I don't think networks maintenance exists. There's no such thing as maintaining your network by necessity. You use it when you need it. I've called people back that I barely had met once eight years later. "You know, the really tall guy, talked really fast." "Oh, yeah yeah yeah, right so what's up, Dave?" "Okay, so do you know this guy?" "No, I don't. But, I know a guy who does. I'd be glad to help you out." It turns out networks don't decay. You're not hanging out. Don't make up conversations you don't want to be in in order to quote maintain the network. That's called annoying people. It does not serve you. And you can go back years later, they'll be there, they'll be fine. Don't worry about it. Okay, time to move on. And that's how you crack the hidden job market. You gotta be in the community to be in the conversation. During the conversation, you've just gotta ask for the story. And don't forget, you're just asking for directions. They'll help you.

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A fantastic class for someone seeking to optimize their life for a greater sense of satisfaction and especially for someone who is considering a career transition. We are taught effective methods for brainstorming, examining, and prototyping our options, and we are given an approach for the hardest task of all: how to make a choice when faced with multiple good options! Also great tips for networking and getting your foot in the door. This class was very timely for me as I've been struggling with making a decision on what my next career was going to be. I now feel equipped with tools that will help me make that decision with less agony and more fun! Also, I'm a huge fan of design thinking, so it was great to see how that methodology could be applied to making one of the most important decisions in our life.

Karen Vitto

Great course! Great for who like me is on their 30's starting life in a new country with a new language and have been out of the industry for 4 years. Designing new goals, making new networking and starting a MBA for some updates on my carrear. Really helped with some focus. Super recommend!


Loved this class! It was high energy, fast paced and well organized, as well as inspiring. It helped me to make more concrete things I've been thinking and dreaming about. I'm so glad I took it. I made great contacts and will definitely use this material in the future!

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