If you haven’t yet, go back and read The problem with networking, Part 1 and The problem with networking, Part 2.
The brand of “you”
The brand of you is the tool you need to get remembered. A quality brand of you is the tool you need to get referrals. A quality brand is not only memorable but also relevant to the intended audience. This relevance is key. Without it you will not be more successful than those that rely on random chance.
The key ingredient is personal relevance, or value. To successfully network, you need to get past the charity mentality. Everything is a two-way sales transaction. You need to recognize that you are asking for something of value; either reputation or time. You are not going to get good results unless you have something of value to give in return. This is your brand. When people hear your name, they need a value statement to associate with it, and in turn, with you.
Selling is a two-way transaction. It is an exchange of value for value. That is what is lacking in the popular model. The employment consultants presume that, in exchange for a half hour of a manager’s valuable time, the grace of your presence will be a fair payment. Sorry to disappoint you, but no. Business people talk to other business people because each of them expects to get some value in return.
It might be prestige when later speaking to a friend or colleague: “Hey, I had coffee with the Vice President of Marketing at Starbucks.” It might be a job possibility for themselves: “hmm. Maybe Starbucks needs a new Marketing Director.” But, why did the president of Starbucks show? “I’ve been thinking about replacing our old Marketing Director and this woman worked miracles at Peet’s Coffee.” It could have been; “This guy’s kind of a geek but he knows that new coffee importer we’ve been eyeing.” It is doubtful that the corporate VP met with you without some sort of return in mind. You must bring value to the table.
To complete the quality brand of you, one must have the value statement. The question that should come up is; “what is my value?” or “what value can I create?” What can you use as value? That depends on the audience. Fortunately, since your objective is to get hired, the audience is pretty easy to define.
In terms of marketing, the target audience is pretty easy. You know what type of company and job you want. At least, I hope you do. If you don’t, find out and read this again when you do. Your target audience is A) anyone in a potentially hiring position in such a company, and B) anyone that could possibly connect you with the prior set. Since it isn’t always easy to determine all of the parties in set A and B, your set C) is anyone that is an unknown quantity to you. As long as you are not certain that someone is not in your sets A and B, they have the potential to be and should be considered a potential target.
Time and reputation are two of the most valued personal commodities. Information is probably the third. Money, perhaps? No. You can’t buy your way into a job. At least not in the obvious sense. You have to buy your way in without seeming to buy your way in. This means that money and gifts are pretty much out. It’s just the way it is.
Time is also difficult to give. In fact, you are trying to find someone that will allow you to give time in exchange for money. The desired end result of your job search process is to allow you to give time. In some cases you can further your progress by volunteering time but there are risks involved. The right kind of volunteer work can help but the wrong type can take you further from paid employment and even further from high-paid employment.
That leaves reputation and information as the primary commodities you can trade in. You offer one or the other or both and in turn receive time and reputation and/or information. That is the way it works. With a quality brand, your name implies that time spent with you will equal a return of valuable information or a reputation boost for the recipient. That is what you need to build. If you do volunteer your time, you must do so in the context of building your supply of reputation and or information to trade with. Volunteerism without that context is fine but is just charity on your part and won’t necessarily further your job search.
Next: How to build your value.