Let’s face it, for many of us the thought of networking conjures up emotions comparable to the common fears of public speaking. As a result, you may feel that effective networkers are born, not made, so why bother? There is one simple data point that answers that question – networking is the primary way to manage your reputation and display your brand identity in a way that could ultimately lead to that next employment/career opportunity.
I always advise my clients that the foundation of effective networking is passion, especially concerning your unique promise of value. Think about it: if the art of getting out and mingling with fellow professionals does not come to you naturally, you need an inner core to keep you steady as you take on this learning curve. Passionate self-awareness about your strengths, interests, values and goals makes all the difference.
When you marry a passionate awareness of your networking goals with a well-developed personal brand, you are ready to assertively dive into your networking community. Passionate networking is a growth process that will take you through several phases, but you can get a great start at it by putting the following best practices to work:
1. Banish the butterflies by focusing on the other person – Listen actively to each person you meet and ask questions that help you understand their passions, values and goals. When they see that you are interested in how you can help them, it will establish your ability to be a resource for others as part of your brand. Talk about a competitive advantage!
2. Speak clearly and confidently as you share your personal brand statement – This is a statement that tells who you are, your brand attributes, unique promise of value and benefits you bring to your target audience. Be prepared to share as a response to a relevant question that highlights your personal brand. Avoid being intrusive. Build rapport first.
3. Share your passion – Get used to talking about the origins or recent inspirations behind the goals powering your networking. Whether it concerns a company you founded, a business that you help manage, or your expertise in a given area, get used to talking about the relatable experiences that led you to this point in time.
4. Know what you want – As you build relationships and provide value to others, eventually you will be asked, “How can I be a help to you?”. Know what your answer would be based on the person’s profile, values, and area of expertise. If you don’t place an order, you won’t be served!
5. Manage your brand with your defined branded look – Unless you’re networking in a large urban city, like New York City, you will likely be rubbing shoulders with the same people constantly. Dressing in a memorable way is key. Reflect interest by managing a clear and consistent personal style and “power colors” that tell your story. Invest in the appropriate clothing that speaks well of you and your unique promise of value. When you strategically showcase your defined branded look you will get results from being seen and known as the complete leader whose leadership presence is valuable and worth the connection, because it opens doors.
Even though networking passionately may take you beyond your fears and insecurities, relax and focus on sharing your inner greatness with those who can benefit the most. Today, choose to embrace this age-old practice of relationship building by displaying to the world that you are evolving into the complete leader that you were meant to be!