Personal branding and professional growth through networking
If approaching new people is a hard task for you, take comfort in the fact that you’re certainly not alone in that struggle. However if your job requires you to network, sell, and/or give excellent customer service, you must overcome this fear in order to be successful. Open yourself up to greater opportunities and more jobs by expanding your community of people by networking. This is something that I struggle with, but I don’t just sit and wrestle with it anymore. I’m fighting back and developing this skill so it won’t be so hard. Here to help me is expert networker, Jessica Bland Flagg, who works in the marketing department at Eastman Chemical Company.
Learn how to engage with others: Continuously put yourself in situations where you have to get up to speak, share your opinion, and/or meet new people. If you’re an introvert, this can be difficult, but it’ll become easier with consistency.
Smile and act friendly: Even if you’re nervous or uncomfortable. Remember names as you get to know everyone. Disregarding people because of their titles is a mistake. “Networking is not about becoming best friends with everyone you meet,” Flagg said. “It is about learning enough to connect the dots for your and others — to create win-win situations.”
Enthusiastically listen: Find common ground, interests, hobbies outside of professional life. Ask open ended questions, then genuinely listen to their stories. Flagg suggests you start with the basics when asking questions. For example: Who are you? What do you? Where are you from? Let them talk more than you. “Most people like to talk about themselves,” Flagg said. “If they’re worth their salt, they will reciprocate with questions, giving you an opportunity to talk. Do so, but don’t dominate the conversation.”
Your only agenda you should have when you walk in somewhere is how you can help other people instead of how everyone else can help you.
Afterward: follow-up with any plans or collaborations you discussed at the meetings. Reach out to confirm you’re available and willing to help if that’s what you offered. If you promised an introduction to someone take a few seconds to shoot out an email virtually introducing them to each other.
Networking isn’t just for those seeking for employment. Here are three reasons why you want to network:
- You’re building your personal brand. Collecting people to make a tribe, a community of people.
- You’re exposing yourself to new ways of doing things.
- You’ll meet people who’ll inspire you to be better, do better.
Flagg offers her final advice for those wanting to be successful when networking:
“Networking depends on your goals…and that’s for you to decide. Why do you want to meet new people? For some, it may be to find grown-ups to have conversations with grown-up words, or swap stories about parenting challenges. For others, you may be seeking a job… or trying to figure out the right path for your next phase of life. For me, it’s gratifying to meet people, learn about them, and potentially connect them to others so everyone wins. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy meeting new people for me, too. I like knowing a little about a lot of people. But the real magic happens for me when I connect two people with common needs or interests so they both win.
So you may be thinking — that’s real noble, but how does that ultimately benefit me? Let’s face it – we are humans, and we rarely do anything without a personal benefit. And that warm fuzzy feeling I get when two other people are benefiting may not cut it, right? The answer is simple. Ultimately, my personal brand benefits when I can successfully connect others for a mutually beneficial win. So what does a win look like for you?”
A great book to read to learn fundamental skills is Dale’s Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
It’s time to get out there in your community and become a voice to be heard and respected.