People often talk about wanting to improve their personal brand. But what is ‘Personal Branding’? Your personal brand is how you promote yourself. “Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.” David McNally and Karl Speak, authors of ‘Be Your Own Brand’ explain.
It is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that we want the world to see. It is the telling of our story, and how it reflects our conduct, behaviour, spoken and unspoken words, and attitudes. We use our personal branding to differentiate ourselves from other people. Done well, we can tie our personal branding in with our business in ways no corporate branding can possibly succeed.
“Personal branding is one’s story”. That story will play an important role in establishing or boosting our career. Developing a personal brand might sound challenging, but there are a few incremental steps that we can take to build credibility in our field.
As we cultivate our ideal personal brand, it’s important to network regularly (and effectively) to grow our professional circle. Connect with peers and industry thought-leaders by going to formal and informal networking events is one way we can do that.
The more connections we make—and the more value we can provide in our interactions—the more likely it is that our personal brand will be recognized. The best networking opportunities for our personal brand are cultivated over time, and consist of a combination of integrity, and quality that we can offer to people. “Networking is simply a proactive approach to meeting people to learn with the hope of helping them.” – Michael Goldberg
Whether we’re a networking novice or an experienced hand shaker, we can always improve our business bonding skills. Here are some ways to up our game:
1. Set a target – We should network with a purpose. It could be as simple as setting a target to get five business cards from potential suppliers or finding out what the competition is doing. Or we can aim higher and secure a follow-up meeting with a big client. Setting targets will help us focus and we’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s over, too.
2. Doing our homework – It’s important to know who’s going to be at an event, which we can often do by checking social media–conference hashtags on Twitter are a good place to start. Then make a shortlist of people you want to meet. Google them and view LinkedIn profiles so when you do meet someone new, you will know something about them.
3. Quality over Quantity – People often think that networking means meeting as many people as possible. But that’s not the case. Making a few meaningful connections is far better than working an entire room. If we can have three or four deeper conversations, then we and the people we meet will be more likely to remember the interaction.
4. Social Media matters – By using LinkedIn, we know how powerful social networks can be for real networking. Engaging with people online is important for people of all ages, but particularly if we want to make contacts with younger prospects or companies working in a digital space. Remember, though, nothing solidifies a business relationship like meeting face-to-face.
While these tips will help us network more successfully, the more people we meet, the easier it will get. It won’t take long before we figure out what types of conversations work best and how to make a meaningful first impression.
Networking is a long-term investment. It is all about respect and trust. By learning to value our contacts and not taking our friends and business connections for granted we can build valuable relationships.
By making networking a priority and regularly reaching out to people from different fields, we broaden our network even outside our industry. We never know where our next opportunity is going to come from.
Networking can be a challenge, but if we learn from these tips and practice, practice, practice, we are more likely to feel at ease and be more successful in building our personal brand.
All the best!