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Networking and personal branding Networking and personal branding
by Joseph Gatt
2020-07-24 07:30:24
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Let me start with the story of a lucky guy. He was a chef, highly skilled at that. He worked at an embassy but dreamed of opening a restaurant.

One day, he met a couple of guys who wanted to hire him as a chef at their new restaurant. They wanted him to sign up quickly, but he had his conditions. Negotiations lasted for two months, then collapsed.

netw001_400The chef took stock of the situation and realized that he would still pursue the idea of opening a restaurant, with a partner, but he had one “new” condition: he would work with people passionate about serving clients, not with people trying to make a quick buck.

The chef was a regular at a couple of pubs where young entrepreneurs liked to hang out. But it took him almost four years to finally be able to meet an MBA student who shared his philosophy and wanted to open a restaurant. Restaurant ended up opening and was a huge hit.

So how do you go about personal branding? Today, a lot of college students and young professionals limit themselves to “social media” when it comes to personal and social branding.

That is you're going to have college students or recent college grads think that social networking is mainly done online. But, the reality is networking is mostly done offline. Let me explain how it works.

Most cities don't have a whole lot of places where you can meet people. Most cities will have two, three or four organizations where you would “fit in.”

That is, your college degree, professional aspirations, and skills will only fit into two or three organizations. What about ethnic and religious organizations? I'd personally leave professional aspirations out of those organizations, and focus on cultural and faith-based activities with ethnic and religious organizations.

So to keep things simple, let's say that you're a car salesman. You could confine your networking to the company you are currently working at, that is all your “friends” from the profession will be people you work with at the car dealership. Confinement as you know can cause anxiety and claustrophobia, so you may want to expand your professional network over the years.

So what are the organizations and associations that deal with car sales? You will probably have one or two pubs or cafés where a lot of car salesmen hang out. Then you will probably have one or two labor unions that deal with car salesmen. You might have one or two interest-based associations where car dealers hang out.

Once you become a recognized figure at the pub, the labor union or the interest group, that's when you can expand your horizons a bit and represent car salesmen at events and organizations that represent wider business or professional groups. And that's how you expand your professional network.

What about social media? To me, social media is really more about distancing than about getting people together. Plus, it's hard to get a clear idea of who a person really is by looking at their social media profile.

I'll finish with a few mistakes many (including myself) have made:

-Branding yourself and looking for a job at a religious or ethnic organization: people at Church or at the Asian-American cultural group or whatever are very quickly going to prevent you from trying to get a job or build business deals in the place of worship or cultural exchanges. Church is about worship, the Asian-American cultural group is about promoting cultural interests, and there will be people watching out and trying to make the organization stay in line with its mission.

-Branding yourself exclusively online or on social media: picture this. You met this hot girl on social media and ask her out on a date. I bet you can picture the adrenaline rush that gives. It's a lot easier to work with people you meet in person, than to invite people for business when you meet them on social media.

I used to get a lot of invitations for a “cup of coffee” or a “drink” from people I had met in social media forums back in 2013-2014, and turned down every single one of them. Even worse, there was this guy I had interacted with for 2 (or more) years on social media, that I had never met in person, and neither of us had the guts of inviting each other to meet in real person - the main reason was that this was in Korea, I spoke Korean and he didn't, and his wife was giving him a lot of trouble for not speaking Korean, so if his wife found out that I, his foreign friend, spoke Korean he would lose the excuse that “foreigners can't learn Korean.” So I remained a “virtual, secret friend.” You get the idea.

-Going to professional associations or labor unions or “corporate” pubs just to get a job, and then disappearing. People who do that tend to have a terrible reputation. Even when you get the prized job, keep hanging out with the crowd! You never know when you will lose your job and need to find another one.

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