Consider networking as a tool for brand recognition, professional development, awareness and advocacy, says Chi Chi Okezie

Networking still reigns as one of the most cost-, time- and energy-effective ways of building relationships and excelling in your career. Studies show that professionals are not leveraging, expanding or efficiently using their networks. The reasons for this include obstacles such as a lack of time to establish a proper network and no clear planning to achieve goals or milestones. This can be an extreme deterrent for career and business advancement.

This article focuses on the advantages of networking despite these challenges and offers suggestions and strategies to maximize your networking efforts.

Brand Recognition

Networking can be a useful tool for creating, establishing and sustaining a personal (or professional) brand. One of the major components of branding (whether personal or professional) is consistency. Networking can offer a platform for consistent and meaningful connections for developing a strong brand. It can also enhance a person’s recognition and value proposition.

Here are a few questions that can help with your networking benefits toward branding:

  • How am I showing up in my personal/professional settings?
  • How are people receiving me and vice versa?
  • Am I standing out or being noticed (either good or bad)?
  • What are others saying about me (either good or bad)?
  • What are ways that I can make a good impression?

Professional Development

Professional development opportunities can happen at networking meetings, conferences, career expos, etc. The key is to use these opportunities to not only learn but also create bonds and relationships. Intentionally find ways to connect and expand your network. It is also a good idea to leverage technology to achieve your goals. Besides in-person events, consider engaging in digital forums, online groups, remote coaching programs and other forms of distance learning. Utilize apps and software to enable a seamless avenue of connectivity.

Below are a few questions that can help you along your development path:

  • How am I using technology to expand my networks?
  • Are there ways that I can connect remotely with diverse groups?
  • How am I appearing in virtual spaces?
  • Can an online community be useful for my networking?

Awareness and Advocacy

Another advantage of networking is creating an environment for awareness and advocacy. Whether through your own personal passions or partnering for a cause, networking mobilizes change. Being an advocate, sponsor or supporter empowers others and builds your leadership and communication skills. It strengthens communities, groups and societies to improve the overall quality of life. Networking can also be a tool for fundraising and other forms of non-profit development. Many times it can be boxed in as a specific means of job search, career advancement or professional transition. In reality, networking is multidimensional for many purposes.

Do not put off networking. Consider networking a tool for brand recognition, professional development, awareness and advocacy. Regard it as a means of improving relationships. Leverage its benefits both in person and online. Continue to use technology to advance and evolve to be successful in your ambitions. Use it as a means of supporting others and making an impact and a meaningful difference.

Chi Chi Okezie is the owner and producer of SIMPLEnetworking, LLC, a consulting firm based in Metro Atlanta, GA, USA which specializes in business networking, diversity and inclusion. Her company was granted a Proclamation for Business Networking Day by ... (Read More)

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