How to Successfully Network and Sell Yourself
Networking is one of the most important social skills you can build. No matter what your career, having a community of professionals you can turn to for advice, leads, and job opportunities are vital for your success. Forbes offers a great video on their YouTube channel that provides 4 tips to help you network successfully. I highly recommend watching it. Once you’re done, we’re going to look at how you can put those 4 recommendations into action.
Building a Clear Brand
Before you can build a network, you must build yourself, and your Brand. Decide on what you want to be known for, what your key talents and skills are, and what accomplishments and experiences you want to highlight. As you look for these things in yourself, make sure that you
Find your niche. Sell yourself with a specialty to help you stand out from the crowd.
Ask for accolades. Go to people who you’ve done relevant work for and ask them to write something brief about the work you provided. If you’re starting out and just graduated college, ask this of your professors or a mentor.
Build your social media presence. Your social media should include your education and experience, yes. It should also highlight your skills and help you showcase your talents, your accolades, and your niche.
Create an online portfolio or CV. If you’re a creative person, include samples of your work. Include a place to share the accolades you’ve gathered from previous employers, clients, or professors/mentors.
Once you know your brand, begin looking for companies and other professionals who match your brand. This can be the most intimidating part of networking, especially for those starting out. Fortunately, you have resources like,
The internet. Search for companies and professionals in your area, in your region, and nationwide whose business matches your brand profile.
Business organizations. Check with your local business organizations for business listings, contact information, and networking opportunities.
Conferences and networking events. Look for conferences in your area, both for business in general and focused on your field and niche. Attend conferences and look for opportunities to showcase yourself – speaking opportunities, volunteering at events, setting up your own booth, working a booth for your target professional or company, etc.
When you research, don’t just stop at who you need to contact. Look at the business as a whole – visit their website, sign up for their mailing list, and follow their social media. Before you offer something to them in contacting them, make sure that you can identify a need.
When you’re starting out, it seems like making initial contact would be the most intimidating part of networking. However, if you’ve done your research well, then you’ve positioned yourself to make contact easy and set yourself up for success. Your contact may be by phone or email. If you’re attending conferences, it may be in person as you approach the people you want to build a network with. When you make contact, remember to,
Highlight what you have to offer, your skills, and how your niche matches their brand
Offer something simple and actionable to demonstrate your abilities and willingness to work with others
A caution – don’t offer something that the business or professional doesn’t need. You’re not likely to receive a positive response. Remember, they don’t know you yet. Instead, look at what the company has that you can enhance and build positively on with your skills.
Making contact is only the beginning. Building connections with those people you contact builds your network. Some of the strategies that we have already discussed (offering to help the target business or professional at conferences and offering your expertise to businesses) will help you build the report you want. You can also establish connections in indirect ways. Two simple ways to build rapport indirectly with businesses include,
Offering professional mentoring to others in your field
Volunteering at charities and non-profits that your target professional or company supports
Effective networking takes time, patience, and dedication. If you take the time to do your research through multiple channels, reach out to companies and professionals in an open, cooperative manner, and follow up on your contact with community building, you will create a network of professionals that will help you reach your career goals.