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Personal Branding and Networking for Beginners in 2020

Firms are always looking for graduate talent. However, with the current economic landscape, intakes are being deferred and hiring numbers are lowering, and so opportunities will soon be few and far between. By using this time to develop a personal brand and to learn to network, you can build a strong foundation for your future.

‘Personal branding’ and ‘networking’ have become buzzwords in the world of professional development; but what do these words actually mean? In this article, I’ll explain how you can build an effective personal brand and also give a beginner’s introduction to virtual networking.

Firms are always looking for graduate talent. However, with the current economic landscape, intakes are being deferred and hiring numbers are lowering, and so opportunities will soon be few and far between. By using this time to develop a personal brand and to learn to network, you can build a strong foundation for your future.

‘Personal branding’ and ‘networking’ have become buzzwords in the world of professional development; but what do these words actually mean? In this article, I’ll explain how you can build an effective personal brand and also give a beginner’s introduction to virtual networking.

What is personal branding?

‘Personal branding’ means marketing yourself to the people you want to reach, like prospective employers. A great way to understand personal branding is “how people would describe you when you’re not in the room.” A personal brand is effective if it is consistent and authentic – so what are the key steps to building an effective personal brand?

Building a Personal Brand in 4 Steps

1. Every marketing strategy has a target market – which industries, organisations and roles are you aiming to capture the attention of? Find their values and which skills they’re looking for. This may sound daunting! Later in this article, we’ll look at how you can use LinkedIn as a search engine to find information about industries, organisations and roles.

2. Work out your unique selling point (USP): what do you do differently? You can do this by curating a list of your unique blend of skills and passions. If you’re stuck, try a personality test such as this one to get you started. Remember to keep it authentic!

3. Choose the platforms you will use to promote your personal brand, including online media (LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter) and offline connections (networking events, insight days).

4. Now you’re ready to implement your marketing strategy! Below are some ways you can promote your personal brand. Remember to keep it consistent with your target market.

  • Engaging with people online and offline – this is the basis of networking, which we’ll discuss in more detail next.
  • Content sharing – this could include articles or videos about industry trends.
  • Become a thought leader – getting involved with current discussions and sharing your insights, by posting and commenting. You can find these discussions by looking up specific hashtags.

What is networking?

Networking is all about people – it means making connections in order to learn and to create career opportunities. Why should you even bother, you might ask? Well, it turns out that around 85% of job vacancies are filled via some form of networking! You can also develop skills such as commercial awareness through networking. 

The most common method of virtual networking is a platform called LinkedIn… But LinkedIn is just for middle-aged businesspeople, right? Not anymore! So what can you use LinkedIn for?

Using LinkedIn as a Search Engine

linkedin toolbar
When you log in to LinkedIn, you should see a page called “Home”. This is your feed – it shows the recent posts from your existing network.
linkedin search engine
At the top of the page, you should see a search bar. You can use this to search for and follow specific organisations that you’re interested in.

These are great ways to virtually engage with companies and research their areas of interest; look at what they’re posting about and check out their websites – most organisations have a “Careers” section on their website. This helps you to learn more about the target market for your personal brand.

You can also use the search bar to find specific people – search for people you already know from school, university, or any work experience. When you find someone’s profile, you should see a button that says “Connect”: click this button to invite them to become part of your virtual network. If you’re just starting out, don’t jump straight into connecting with strangers – it’s important to build your peer network first. 

In the menu, you might have noticed a “Jobs” section. Just like other popular job search websites, you can also use LinkedIn to search for and browse current vacancies. Job descriptions are the one of the best sources of information on what skills are needed for specific roles.

Using LinkedIn to Make New Connections

If you’ve already built your peer network, you may want to start making new connections. The idea is simple: reach out to people within your target market. This time, you will need to click “Connect” followed by “Add a Note”. Alternatively, you might see an option to “Personalise Invitation”.

linkedin add note done
“Add a note” so that the invitation to join your virtual network will come with a message.

You might be wondering why you need to personalise an invitation. Remember that this person doesn’t know you, so you will need to tell them why you’re reaching out to them. Research their industry or organisation first and think carefully about what you want to know. Ask clear, direct questions about things that you can’t find on the internet. Remember that some people are busy and won’t reply, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back!

Resources

These tips are not professional advice, just insights from my own experiences. If you want more detailed advice on how to craft the perfect profile, I’ve linked some resources below:

  • Tips from LinkedIn themselves here
  • For more networking insights, check out networking expert Kelly Hoey‘s blog and podcast
  • If you want to master personal branding, then this free course from Bright Network Academy is a great place to start.
Personal Development and Networking in 2020
If you’re on LinkedIn be sure to follow The GrassRoute’s official LinkedIn Page for updates.

Written by Dani Yates

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