Although the reasons to expand your professional network are infinite, networking, at its core, is a form of marketing. With networking, you have the opportunity to grow your personal brand by connecting with others who share similar interests, are working in the same line of work, or who need help with an area where you have expertise.
Because we know a thing or two about branding here in Cleveland, we thought we’d share these four helpful tips for communicating your message through networking:
1. Update Your Online Presence
In recent years, Cleveland has been steadily innovating and modernizing—and, likewise, we are all works in progress that can use a refresh every now and then. Your website and social profiles should be constantly updated and improved to reflect your expanding skillsets. It’s quite possible that people will meet your internet self before meeting you in person, so it’s important for your social profiles and company website to be representative of who you are and what you do. A good way to communicate this is by incorporating consistent branding and sharing interesting content. And don’t forget to add high-quality visuals to your social profiles—no one wants to be friends with an egg!
2. Get Out of the Office
Even with an established online presence, you can’t expect to meet new contacts just by sitting in your office. There are tons of professional networking groups you can join in the Cleveland area, such as SME Cleveland, The Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club and WIN, to name just a few. But if the thought of schmoozing it up in a room full of suits where you don’t know anyone doesn’t appeal to you, that’s ok. Networking in Cleveland isn’t confined to stuffy conferences and executive meet-ups.
At Roopco, we encourage one other to volunteer and give back to our local communities. Doing so gives us the opportunity to expand our networks while pursuing meaningful work at non-profits, including America SCORES Cleveland, Dress For Success, The Hermit Club and Youth Challenge. You could also join a sports league, frequent a favorite happy hour or try out a different spot each week. The goal is to be social, not sales-y, so it’s ok if you’d prefer to meet new people outside of a formal setting.
3. Tell Your Unique Story
The story of your personal journey is your greatest networking asset. Craft a narrative that’s concise yet intriguing enough for your conversation partner to want to learn more about you. This way, when somebody asks, “So, what do you do?” you’re not struggling to find the right words to describe what it is that you’re working toward and why. Emphasize your mission in your current position or communicate your aspirations in a way that paints an optimistic view of the future. A pessimistic outlook won’t inspire positive relationships, and, being from Cleveland, it’s our responsibility to uphold the Midwestern standard of contentedness. So, avoid complaining, even if you’re feeling stuck professionally.
4. Offer to Lend a Hand
Networking is just as much about giving as it is receiving. Before asking, “What can this person do for me?” ask yourself, “What can I do for this person?” The people you meet may not become customers or your next boss, but that doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t worthwhile. Try to add value for them by providing personalized advice, supporting their work, introducing them to someone else in your network or becoming their mentor.
Having a dynamic presence both online and in person is important for your brand strategy and personal growth alike. Use these tips to make meaningful connections in the sixth city and push yourself to grow. Not in Cleveland? Well, as long as you’re cheering on the Cavs, feel free to borrow these tips for your local city!