I just went to my last networking event before baby and I have to say it was my best yet. Why do I feel that way? Probably because I’ve done so much networking in the past 10 months and well, practice makes perfect.
Now, I’m certainly not a perfect networker, but I have learned a thing or two. Rather than talk about traditional networking (where you go to an event and talk to strangers about who you are and what you do), I thought I’d talk about a different type of networking that I believe is really valuable to you and your personal brand. I call this, networking by providing value and I recently did a workshop on it.
Networking by providing value is when you volunteer for something aligned to your brand. I volunteer with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Calgary Chapter. Doing so is a form of service for a group that’s important to me and tied to my brand. (Side note: My current role as a personal branding strategist evolved out of my ten years of experience in communications. So many of the proven communications practices and tools apply to personal branding!)
So, how is this networking? Well I’d say it’s the highest form of networking. It’s a chance for me to get to know others involved in IABC in a more intimate way than through a five minute chat at an event. Rather than just tell them what my personality is and what I’m capable of doing, I get to show them. It’s a chance for my personal brand to come alive! I’ve built a brand for myself that’s based on commitment and responsibility. Now, it’s one thing for me to tell people that I embody these values, it’s quite another for me to actually show them I do.
Beyond getting to show my stuff, I’m in regular contact with a group of high calibre communicators on the regular. These are people crushing it in their respective areas of the profession AND keeping their finger on the pulse of industry trends - so they’re the kind of people I want to know (and the kind of people who I want to know me)!
Last year, I planned an event on digital media for IABC. The event featured three great speakers on the topic and it was a pretty cool venue too. We had a good turnout, and I noticed an interesting side effect: my volunteer role a.k.a. my untraditional form of networking helped immensely with the traditional networking. Because I was visible at the event, people knew I was involved in it making it easier for them to approach me. Sure, maybe they would have anyway, but they approached me to comment on the event and ask more questions about it. These chats inevitably led to them asking about my business and the work I do.
Because networking is part of communicating your personal brand, it will always be important if you want to grow your business or professional career. If the traditional way of networking is not your thing, why not try a different approach?
Any other ways you network by providing value? I host Meetup groups for entrepreneurs and professionals. I see this as another way of networking by providing value. You can learn more about it here.