Networking to Build Your Personal Brand

I was in Houston Sunday speaking at a Jewish federation young leadership event (by the way, what a terrific young adult community showed up on a Sunday morning) about how networking can advance your career if you take an integrated, strategic approach to it. Here is a much abbreviated version of what I recommend anyone do who wants to move their career forward using both on and offline networks.

The good news is that online social networks like FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, Plaxo and LinkedIn offer powerful channels to help professionals connect with and serve as expert advisers to one and other if they are used smartly. The problem is that too many people fail to fully leverage their presence on these to their full advantage.

I see too many people with incomplete profiles. Failing to create a strong and unique profile can limit your visibility to people who might be looking for someone with your skills and talents. So, take a second look at your profile and make sure it presents you to your best advantage.

While MySpace and Facebook started as purely social networks, they have grown up to now be used by lots of people as a part-social, part-professional space. If you care about your career (and who doesn’t these days) be careful about what you say and show on these networks. And, know that they are often checked out by potential employers and clients as well as old friends.

To make the most of networking for professional purposes you need to have clear goals for 2009-2010 and leverage your networking experiences so you can achieve them. That can mean joining a selective number of social network groups and engaging in them. You need to ask questions, offer your own skills and knowledge and compliment others good ideas if you want to reap the benefits of networking and grow your list of valuable resources. It’s all about giving something of value and getting it back over time.

The same can be said about in-person networking. What you put into it determines the quality of the return on your investment. You need to prepare for these events by having a great elevator pitch and knowing about the trends in your industry or profession as well as being current on the news of the day. You need to be able to engage strangers in conversation and learn how to be a generous contributor. Again, what you give is what you will eventually gain.

So, learn how to use networking online and in person to build the network of supporters out there willing and interested in being part of your professional community. It will become a community that you will treasure.

Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional, with deep experience in both the public and private sectors. She currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.