The Power of Networking to Elevate Your Professional Brand
by Anthony Lewis
14/12/23Back to insights
Whether you're actively seeking new career opportunities, aiming to elevate your professional profile, or simply staying abreast of industry trends, networking is a key element of developing your personal brand. While the word "networking" might evoke images of crowded rooms with unfamiliar faces and cheese on a stick on toothpicks, the reality is far less intimidating than one might imagine.
Instead, we’d like to shine a light on the importance of developing meaningful connections, continuous learning, and friendly engagement with other stakeholders. Whether you are seeking permanent or interim opportunities, both now and in the future, this article will delve into four effective approaches to building and elevating your personal brand, which in turn we hope will help boost your career.
1. Attend Conferences and Events
Conferences and events provide an unrivalled opportunity to expand your professional network and gain insights from voices beyond your usual circles. By participating in industry gatherings, you expose yourself to alternative perspectives and thought-leading ideas by meeting and interacting with a diverse range of professionals. Conferences not only broaden your network but also help develop your knowledge and visibility within your field. Use these events to learn from industry leaders and ask thoughtful questions. Remember, the goal is not just to be noticed but to contribute meaningfully to the conversation.
If you are asked to guest speak or participate in a panel discussion, embrace these opportunities! Public speaking, while often daunting and not innate for many, is a crucial skill to develop. It offers a unique chance to showcase your insights and position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Embrace the intervals between sessions at events, even if you're not familiar with many attendees. The reality is, you're not alone in this; numerous others are likely in the same situation. These breaks present opportunities to expand your network, initiate conversations with new people, and reflect on the sessions and workshops that you've participated in.
So, whether it's striking up a chat with someone you meet exiting a session or introducing yourself to another attendee in the coffee line, these interactions can enhance your conference experience and build your network. While replying to emails and phone calls might feel more comfortable, especially if you are wishing to keep on top of what is happening in the office, stepping out of your comfort zone can be incredibly rewarding. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
Attending reputable conferences also connects your personal brand with crucial industry touchpoints, positively influencing perceptions. Maximise your presence by actively participating in conference hashtags and campaigns, sharing insights, and networking on platforms like LinkedIn and X (Twitter) to enhance your online visibility.
2. Engage with Former Colleagues and Contacts:
Who better to speak with about your future career or what they are seeing in the industry than your former colleagues? Your past professional relationships are invaluable when it comes to understanding their reflections on how your career could evolve and the steps you may wish to consider. Reconnecting with former colleagues, both employers and employees, can offer fresh perspectives and insights and hopefully honest truths.
Many of your contacts may now hold senior positions or have migrated into different career avenues since you last spoke, offering a wealth of experiences for you to learn from. These connections can help you uncover hidden or hitherto unconsidered opportunities and guide you toward roles that align with your particular skills and interests.
This approach isn’t about directly asking former colleagues for a job, which can understandably lead to awkward conversations. So instead of directly discussing your job seeking status, initiate conversations to seek advice, share thoughts of how you’d like your career to evolve, bring them up to date with the amazing things you are doing in your existing role, and gather feedback.
Equally important is to reciprocate. In my experience, most people are willing to offer advice generously, and what better setting than over a nice brew? Approach these discussions with the aim of learning from their experiences and insights, allowing natural opportunities for potential career discussions to unfold.
By staying connected with former colleagues, you not only increase the likelihood of positive word-of-mouth marketing but you also open up the door to collaboration opportunities in future projects, potentially broadening your professional impact.
3. Engagement with Recruiters
Form relationships with recruitment consultants, as they are valuable sources of industry knowledge and career advice. Good recruitment consultants should be open and engaging in conversation, genuinely interested in understanding your career objectives, even when there's no immediate benefit for them. In these discussions, openly discuss your career objectives, even when you're not actively job hunting. Their awareness of market trends ensures you can adapt and stay competitive.
Their broad perspective on non-linear career paths can provide valuable insights and even reassurance. At senior levels, the significance of recruitment consultants lies not solely in their contact book but in their ability to generously leverage their network, creating opportunities for you to exchange thoughts and ideas. Being part of their network allows you to access industry events and connect with other thought leaders in the field.
To find the right recruiter, explore resources such as the Institute of Interim Management and their annual survey for interim roles. Additionally, check online platforms and job boards, as these can highlight those recruiters who are particularly active in your area.
4. LinkedIn and X as a Shop Window
In the digital age, your LinkedIn profile and X Account serves as a crucial shop window for others to engage with and see what you are thinking, or to keep abreast of your views and how you are shaping your profession. For recruiters and potential employers alike, LinkedIn is a brilliant tool for unearthing talent for upcoming vacancies and it is used frequently to contact people about positions. Therefore it is paramount that you maximise your LinkedIn profile.
This doesn't mean you have to share every single detail online; it should feel right for you. However, maintaining an up-to-date profile with accurate contact details and a chronological summary of your career will aid in developing your personal brand. Additionally, participating in discussions and contributing to your network can be beneficial, though it's not required. For interims, networking online to build a future contact and role pipeline is important, however it should not be at the detriment of being known for doing a good job in your existing assignment.
LinkedIn provides an inoffensive way to reconnect with former peers and colleagues, especially those you haven't spoken to in a while and who might find a sudden phone call uncomfortable. It gives you the chance to reestablish a connection and as we’ve discussed, you never know where this might lead.
Building a personal brand is a continuous process that goes beyond mere traditional networking. By actively participating in conferences, reconnecting with old contacts, fostering relationships with recruiters, and optimising your LinkedIn presence, you can create a personal brand that reflects your expertise, interests, and values. Establishing authentic professional connections and demonstrating a dedication to continuous learning and development are essential cornerstones of a strong personal brand that will prove beneficial at every stage of your career.
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