Ready to take your career to the next level? No matter your career goals—getting a promotion, landing a big account, reaching the C-suite, or getting more autonomy and flexibility at work—your network and personal brand are central to that success. Just like the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” we’ll also say, “It takes a network to grow a career.”
Let’s dispel the myth right now: Networking is not just about handing out business cards and making small talk at events; it is about building meaningful relationships that can open doors and opportunities for you.
In this blog post, we will explore why networking is a vital part of your career growth and personal branding. We’ll share practical tips on how to network effectively, even if you’re an introvert or new to the industry. So don’t stop networking just because you landed a job—it could be the key to unlocking your full potential and achieving the success you desire. Let’s get social!
What makes networking so important?
You’ve heard it a thousand times: networking is a crucial factor for career growth and personal branding. In today’s job market, it’s not just about what you know, or even who you know, but who knows you and what you’re known for. It’s not enough to sit back and wait for opportunities to come knocking on your door. You have to go out there and create those opportunities yourself.
But let’s take it a step further. Maintaining your network is useful even when you’re not looking for a job.
First, this practice allows you to connect with others in your field, exchange ideas, and gain valuable insights that can help propel your career forward. It’s also about building meaningful relationships based on mutual trust and support.
So, instead of waiting for luck or fate to intervene, take charge of your own destiny and start intentionally building your network and crafting a personal brand. You never know who you might meet or what doors might open as a result. Embrace the unexpected, step out of your comfort zone, and keep your mind open to the unexpected.
What does networking have to do with creating a strong personal brand?
Your personal brand needs to go beyond self-promotion and encompass the art of building meaningful connections and nurturing relationships within your professional circle.
Our amazing coach John Roccia talks about your personal brand as three spheres of influence:
- People you know personally and work with regularly.
- People who are adjacent to your team that you interact with occasionally.
- People at your company or in your industry that don’t yet know you.
The people who work with you regularly know all kinds of wonderful things about you—the type of work you do, how you add value, why you’re the best person for a given challenge, etc. The further out you go to those other spheres, the less likely it is those people will know any of those things. They don’t get an opportunity to learn all those wonderful details about you.
This information gap is precisely why building your personal brand is so crucial to your career success.
Your personal brand is everything the people who work with you on a regular basis get to know. Or at least it can be.
When you actively engage with others in your company, industry, or field, you have the opportunity to showcase your expertise, unique value, and core values. By consistently presenting yourself professionally and sharing valuable insights, you establish yourself as a trusted and credible resource. Your network becomes a platform for spreading your message, amplifying your brand, and positioning yourself as an authority in your domain.
Moreover, by building those relationships, you gain access to diverse perspectives, ideas, and opportunities that can further enhance your expertise and personal brand. The connections you forge can become advocates, endorsing you and opening doors to collaborations, partnerships, and new ventures. Ultimately, your network serves as a catalyst for expanding your reach, increasing visibility, and solidifying you (and your personal brand) in the professional world.
Building relationships and expanding your professional network
You’re ready to start building your network! Amazing! Here are a few things to keep in mind as you do:
Develop connections everywhere you go.
While it’s important to network outside your organization, don’t overlook the opportunities to connect within your current company. Building relationships internally allows you to collaborate, learn from others, and showcase your skills and expertise to a broader audience.
Additionally, think about connecting with individuals at different levels, not just connections with people higher-up. Lateral connections and relationships with more junior colleagues can be invaluable in the long run, as careers are dynamic and ever-changing. You never know who will become a key contact or influential figure in the future.
When it comes to creating meaningful connections, keep your focus on giving and providing value, rather than solely seeking personal gain. Most people start building their network when they’re in a time of need, and then feel uncomfortable asking strangers or people they hardly know for help, and with good reason! They haven’t built that social capital yet. Instead, by creating relationships and developing a personal brand during the “good times” in your career, you’ll be able to give freely to others. For many people, it’s much less awkward to offer to help than to ask for it.
Keep it real.
Remember to go beyond surface-level interactions in your networking efforts. Take the time to delve deeper into conversations, ask meaningful questions, and actively listen to others’ perspectives. By sharing reflective and insightful insights, you can create engaging and memorable interactions that leave a lasting impression. These deeper connections have the potential to evolve into mentorships, collaborations, and friendships that can benefit your career and personal growth.
Communication plays a pivotal role in networking success. Be clear and concise in your conversations, conveying your thoughts effectively while respecting others’ time and attention. Strive to be reliable and trustworthy. That means following through on commitments and providing support to those in your network. Encourage others in their pursuits, offering guidance, and sharing opportunities when appropriate. Positivity, resilience, and encouragement are essential practices to create long-term relationships.
Going beyond job searching
Research shows that 70% of all jobs are not published publicly on jobs sites and as much as 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections. That means that no matter how many other potential job applicants there may be for a given role, no matter what is on your resume or cover letter or LinkedIn profile, having a strong personal brand and rich network will be the golden ticket to connecting with prospective employers and landing that new job.
However, it’s vital that you take a few steps back. There are infinite benefits to building your personal brand beyond just meeting potential employers or landing a new job. We’ve talked about a few of them. Here are some of the many ways your personal brand and network can help your career advancement:
- Reach potential customers: Even if you’re not in a sales role within your organization, bringing in new customers improves your perception within the organization. Even better? You’re able to help your connection by solving a problem for them!
- Stay current with industry trends: Connecting to other people is a great way to stay up-to-date by providing access to insights, perspectives, and discussions among professionals in the field.
- Identify new opportunities, industries, or roles that you can learn more about: As you see what others around you are doing, you may learn about something that either enhances your current work, or opens your eyes to a new path you may be excited to explore.
Branding yourself for career growth
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when creating a personal brand. First of all, most of us don’t know what we want to be known for, let alone feel comfortable broadcasting it to others. However, branding yourself lets others understand how you can add value to their lives and why they should pay attention to you.
Here are some tips to help you get started.
- Identify your target audience—the individuals you want to connect with and serve. Understanding their needs and aspirations will guide your personal brand development.
- Define a few key “brand attributes” that represent what you want to be known for. Choose no more than five, ideally, focus on three defining characteristics. These attributes should align with your professional goals and resonate with the people you want to reach. By focusing on a select few, you create a clear and memorable brand identity.
- Craft a professional image. Your appearance, demeanor, and online presence should align with your desired brand identity. This doesn’t mean you need to be a robot! When professionally presenting yourself, strive to be polished and authentic. Maintain a friendly and approachable demeanor while demonstrating expertise in your field. Focus on active listening and meaningful conversations, offering insights and assistance when relevant. By being genuine and supportive, you build meaningful connections that contribute to your brand’s growth.
- Be real. Remember that integrating your personal life into your professional story can humanize your brand and make it relatable. Share your passions, hobbies, and experiences that showcase your unique personality and values. This adds depth and authenticity to your personal brand, making it more compelling and memorable.
- Consistency is crucial in branding. Ensure that your message remains consistent across various channels and interactions. This includes your online presence, networking events, and work engagements. Simply put, you want to make sure that the people you work with on a day-to-day basis agree with the persona you’re representing online. A consistent message builds recognition and reinforces your personal brand’s core values and offerings. And really, you don’t want to be a phony!
- Lastly, be clear about your goals. Define the direction you want to take in your career and let it guide your personal brand development. Even if you don’t have a specific 5- or 10-year plan, make sure that you’re clear on what you want. (Hint: Not sure what that is? A career coach is a great resource to help you define your vision!) Communicate your aspirations and expertise with confidence, showing others the value you can bring.
Remember, branding yourself is an ongoing process. Continuously assess and refine your personal brand to align with your evolving goals and target audience. By cultivating an engaging, authentic, and supportive personal brand, you position yourself for success in your career journey.
Strategies for effective networking in person and online
Yes, it’s true! Building your personal brand and network is both online AND in-person. Gone are the days of awkward social mixers, but also you can’t just rely on your digital presence to do all the work for you. A well-rounded personal brand strategy will involve a mix of all these different approaches.
Make time for industry events, conferences, and seminars
While industry events, conferences, and seminars may not always sound enticing, making time for them can bring numerous benefits to your personal brand and career growth.
Sure, spending a few days in a stuffy convention center may not be the most glamorous prospect, but these gatherings provide valuable opportunities to expand your knowledge, gain exposure to new ideas, thought leadership, and emerging trends. Engaging with experts and attending informative sessions can broaden your perspectives, sharpen your skills, and keep you ahead of the curve—all of which companies value in their staff and potential employees.
Moreover, let’s not forget the serendipitous aspect of these events—while navigating through the crowd, you might just stumble upon someone cool who could become a valuable connection, collaborator, or even a friend. So, despite the initial reservations, carving out time for these events can prove to be a worthwhile investment of your time and energy.
Consider joining industry organizations and associations
Joining prominent organizations and associations offers a dual advantage. Not only does it enable you to stay up-to-date with trends and meet fascinating individuals, but it also enhances your personal profile. Your membership serves as a valuable credential for your resume and LinkedIn profile, showcasing your commitment to ongoing learning and positioning you as a respected thought leader in your field.
Using social media platforms for building your own personal brand
Social media provides a powerful avenue for building your personal brand, and one platform that stands out for professionals is LinkedIn. Crafting a compelling LinkedIn bio allows you to showcase your expertise, experiences, and achievements to a wide audience.
If you want to take it one step further, having a personal website can further strengthen your online presence and serve as a central hub for sharing your brand story and portfolio. This is more relevant for some fields than others but can be a strong selling point in some fields.
Maintaining a consistent message across your social media presence is crucial. It helps establish a cohesive brand identity (aka, what you want people to know about you) and reinforces the value you offer. Regularly writing and sharing content that is relevant and insightful demonstrates your thought leadership and expertise in your field. Whether it’s through thought-provoking posts, engaging articles, or timely updates, sharing your ideas can spark meaningful conversations and attract a like-minded audience.
Don’t be afraid to explore new ideas and write an article that reflects your unique perspective. Offering valuable insights and sharing your expertise can position you as an authority and generate interest from potential collaborators, employers, or clients. By leveraging your online footprint effectively, you can amplify your personal brand’s reach, establish yourself as a trusted thought leader, and open doors to exciting opportunities.
Taking action to create a personal brand and take control of your career success
As you can see, building and maintaining your personal brand and network is an ongoing process. Want more tips for taking control of your career? Learn more here.