Many of us think of networking as being time or place specific. We go to “networking events” after work, during breakfast, or over lunch and hand out our business card, hoping to make a connection. But, where networking actually begins is with building your personal brand. When it comes to professional development, nothing is more important than how you present yourself.
You are your reputation.
Not your resume.
This doesn’t mean that your resume is unimportant or that you don’t have to work hard to build your resume. Experience still speaks for itself. But if you are solely focused on getting the highest paying, or most prestigious job, or simply amassing a collection of business cards when networking, you may not be spending enough time on building your personal brand, your network, and your reputation.
Remember, your network is your net worth. And the best way to build your network, is to build your personal brand first.
There are several keys to building your personal brand:
- Cultivate an online presence. Your online profiles should be consistent, professional, and showcase your diverse interests and skills. Invest in a professional headshot. Use your full name. Connect with others in your industry. Offer insightful commentary on industry or world issues, but share personal (relevant) anecdotes, too.
- Be an industry leader. Become an authority figure or a specialist in a niche part of your industry. Comment, connect, share information. Stay relevant. Keep current and stay informed. Showing that you are a go-to source of information on a given subject or issue automatically places you in the orbit of others who are seeking or sharing the same information.
- Network network network! You never know when you are going to make a meaningful connection with a fellow industry leader, or someone in another industry who may become a powerful professional connection. Strive to make meaningful connections, and articulate your personal brand and your added value.
Your reputation may not always precede you, but it certainly always follows you. In the age of online and social media, your personal brand must be concise, consistent, and most importantly, engaging. Often, we may meet someone in a face to face networking situation with whom we already have an online connection. And, when we meet someone in person who we don’t have an online connection with, the first thing most of us do is connect on Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook as soon as we’re back at a computer. Consistency in your online and offline brand is key. And remember, in person, a firm handshake, eye contact, and a memorable elevator pitch will get you – and your reputation – noticed.