The Five Tips to Build a Strong Professional Brand
By Wayne Brown
The number of people working from home or involved in a hybrid situation has grown compared to pre-COVID. Some are facing challenges in this new work/home life in order to achieve a balance and building their professional brand. Rather than view this situation with pessimism, look for opportunities to make changes to your own professional brand and expand your network. Make this time count for you professionally. Even with all the other work-at-home distractions, taking a few moments to reflect on your own brand strategy can help in attracting more opportunities and strengthening your current network.
Regardless of your industry or position, building your professional network can provide lasting benefits. It can mean the difference between landing new opportunities or not meeting your career objectives. For some, networking presents challenges, as it may not be aligned with your natural inclination, leading to stress and fear. This new economic environment could be a catalyst for reinvention.
When building your professional network, it will not develop overnight. Hard work and consistency are necessary. Here are a few basic steps to follow:
1. Building a Network Starts with a Mental Makeover
View your work colleagues, business associates, clients, and managers as potential persons to add to your professional network. I suggest framing your attitude to view your network as resources that will help you when needed. From childhood, we have learned social skills. Some have excelled while others take great effort to achieve this. The mental makeover starts with outlining the goals of what you would like to accomplish from your network. Are you prepared to help your network grow and expand? If networking is a personal challenge then accept the suggestions from others to make changes.
I have spoken to numerous people who tell me that they do not have the time to invest in themselves. For the record, these same ones invest in planning their vacation, weekend trips, and social outings. Investing in yourself should take precedence.
2. Connect and Provide Information to Your Network
Using social media to stay in touch is important. LinkedIn has simplified building the professional network because it has provided a platform where all users can interact, regardless of their professional position. It provides a platform of equal footing. Most people who connect on LinkedIn, by default, have identified themselves as people who should be responsive to connect. By participation, they have stated, “I am open to connect”. Therefore, using this tool to build out your professional network should be pursued. A word of caution is to connect with people who you know or have been referred to by someone else. Joining specific LinkedIn Groups is also an effective way to build out your professional network. Providing valuable information to a Linkedin Group will cause others to seek you out to connect with you.
However, not everyone in your professional network is using LinkedIn. Do not underestimate keeping in touch via email. Connecting via a phone call or inviting an associate to an event can inform your network that you are a “connector”. It says that you have their interest in mind and can build trust.
3. Do You Know What Motivates Your Network?
Each one in your professional network possesses a key. What do they need? What are they looking for? Once you obtain this key see how you can help them. There may be no immediate financial reward but it builds loyalty and trust. In a number of those situations, I have benefited with additional business contacts and opportunities resulting in new opportunities.
Furthermore, once you know what motivates your network look for opportunities to “feed” it. Do you have information about a new industry conference you can pass along? Sending links to publicly held information could be helpful? If you hear about any new job hires, why not target specific contacts to share this with?
4. Know When it is Time to Detach
When the farmer plants the seed, there is an uncertainty that weeds may come to choke out the harvest. Even when building the professional network some contacts may be toxic and should be eliminated from your network. If you see signs of “it’s all about me”, this is a warning to eliminate them before them damage your reputation. It really does not make sense to help others when they demonstrate no signs of reciprocation. Building a professional network requires people share of similar interests who see the value and opportunities to help others to reach an objective.
5. Take the Time to Evaluate the Results of Your Network
How are you benefiting from your network? How does your network view you and your contributions? The time to assess and evaluate is well worth it. This evaluation will allow help focus you and obtain new or different contacts.
The professional network is a powerful concept. At times it can take on a life of its own and become a formidable force. I can attest firsthand to the power of a professional network. The effort involved is shadowed by the results to connect to individuals who can provide you with business contacts, opportunities, and even support.
About the Walker Group
The Walker Group provides business development and advisory services for early and late-stage start-ups. Our varied market segments help us to identify synergies and opportunities to stimulate growth as we partner with our clients to build their businesses. Through our one-on-one CEO Advisory Services, we have helped companies navigate through key business problems, increase sales, build new revenue streams, and gain new customers.
Wayne Brown, Managing Partner of The Walker Group, has over three decades of experience in the financial services and technology industries. For more information contact him at [email protected]