“Professional networking is not about who you know, it is about who knows you”, Mark Jefferies. I was recently invited by Future Females Windhoek ambassador, Adel Oosthuizen, to present on the Do’s and Don’ts of Online and Offline Networking. I focused the presentation on personal branding.
Personal branding is an emergent process of developing an image. It is established on one’s passions, skills, values and capabilities. Personal branding involves deliberate efforts and ample visibility, through various online and offline interactions. I identified and shared four key elements that we should be aware of as we continuously build our personal brands, they include; relevance, leveraging, authenticity and leveling up.
It is important to note that not every networking event or social media platform adds value to your brand. When you have defined your brand, it is easy to identify where your brand should be showcased. In order to determine whether your personal brand interactions and engagements are relevant to your audience, ask yourself whether it resonates with them or simplifies their lives. Does it bring them closer to their goals or arouse their curiosity. A relevant brand is a strong, it is also a brand that is agile and evolving.
“Networking is about investing a little social capital before asking for a withdrawal”, Dr. Ivan Misner. To build a network from which you can leverage well, you need to connect with people at a time when you do not ‘need’ them. Networking should be strategic. You should deliberately socialize where like-minded professionals are. You should communicate without asking for favors, especially not on the first meeting. When a time comes where you need something from your network, you too, should be ready to offer something in return. Networking is about offering, more than it is about asking. It is also worth noting, that in the process of leveraging your network, you will have moments of discomfort. Get comfortable with discomforts such public speaking, rejection, judgment, failure, and other. Remember, in most instances, these fears are caused by imposter syndrome (our own preconceived ideas of other people’s perceptions about us).
Since a personal brand is emergent; your skills, passions and capabilities, at any given time are based on your current and potential future selves. Your past is a part of your story, but when networking, you should focus on investing in tomorrow. Therefore, do not create virtual and social personalities. Be authentic. When you are authentic, you are consistent. Consistency facilitates trust. Being authentic also enables you to be more aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Being aware of both, is an empowering experience. When you are aware of your strengths, you know what to focus on. Like-wise, when you are aware of your weaknesses, you know what to work on. Christine Lynch said, “Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, your uniqueness and what you stand for”.
If your personal brand is to live up to the definition of emergent, then your networking activities should be purposely directed towards personal excellence, because the aim is growth. In the process of growing, I advise that you offer coaching advice in your content and practice servant leadership. Building others, while working on yourself is a great way to chisel your character, more specifically, your emotional resilience and intelligence. “Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about cultivating relationships”, Dr. Ivan Misner. Do not wait for anyone to development you. If at all possible, create and facilitate platforms for engaging with other powerhouses, from whom, you can learn and grow. Make use of whatever is aligned to your brand image. Be it blogging, writing, volunteering or organising empowering events. To level up is a proactive decision.
In order for your name to be mentioned in critical, career boosting discussions, it is important to have a strong and visible personal brand image. Your brand image is an extension of who you are. It is how you are perceived by others. Build it through networking. Networking is a currency.