Looking to build your professional brand to create a dream career? Professional networking is the answer. In the past, the way to communicate your professional capability was via your resume. And if you were lucky, you might get an opportunity to further expand on that capability in a face to face interview with a potential employer.
Fast forward to today and you are lucky enough to have endless ways to communicate your professional knowledge online and in person. And what’s more, with digital channels, you can reach a world wide audience of billions of people 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Have no doubt about it. Professional networking has changed forever.
Now that is real professional reach and an incredible way to communicate your professional knowledge to others. So don’t waste the opportunity to educate others about what you know to build your digital profile, amplify your personal brand and grow your professional network.
This article explores why you need networks, where to share your knowledge to build your professional profile online and how to work out who to share your knowledge with.
Why you need professional networks
Here are just some of the reasons you need a professional network. This powerful network:
- Gives you access to people who can give you feedback on your work, ideas and so much more
- Provides a trusted channel for advice and guidance
- Connects you to work and career opportunities
- Helps you to learn from others’ experiences
- Helps you to identify and develop new business opportunities
Once you have an established a trusted network, the contacts within it are often open to introducing you to their networks (as long as you behave professionally of course!).
Now that we have established that networks are indeed pivotal to your career success, let’s take a look at what knowledge you should share online to build your networks and professional influence.
“Passion, talent, and hard work are not the only ingredients for success. Whether it is changing careers or changing the world, an idea without a network will probably never become reality”.J. Kelly Hoey – Build your Dream Network
What to share
When you tell your professional story online there are many things you can communicate about your capability. Here are just a few examples.
- Your unique and well articulated point of view
- What you are passionate about
- Interesting or value adding components of products and services you are developing
- The skills you have used recently to make a difference within your company or in a broader context
- Interesting roles that others in your network may be interested in applying for
When you are very experienced in your chosen field you might consider sharing your knowledge via:
- A blog
- A regular podcast
- YouTube clips or a vlog
- Templates, tools and best practice processes
- Quick Reference Guides
- Product Reviews
Where to share your knowledge
There are many digital platforms you can use to build your network. There is often a temptation to share your knowledge on every possible digital channel. But this is not an effective network building strategy.
Choose the most relevant networks for the specific content or knowledge you are sharing. Here are some digital channels you might consider:
- Blog or vlog
- Personal website
- Online industry forums
For example, you might share some poignant professional hints and tips to fellow industry members on a specific Reddit conversation thread that you wouldn’t necessarily share on your LinkedIn profile.
As another example, you might make reference to one of your Quick Reference Guides on LinkedIn but promoting this on Instagram may not offer a suitable context.
“Balanced” knowledge sharing
To build real professional influence, you need to provide content that draws on your professional capability. Whatever knowledge you share should be designed to add value to others in your professional networks.
You don’t head to a networking event and just talk about yourself (if you do, you need to have a good hard look at yourself). So don’t take this approach when building your digital profile either.
The key to building credibility and influence, is to find a balance between communicating what you know and providing value to your network. Using each of your digital platforms, including social media accounts, to just randomly shout your knowledge from your digital roof top, is not an effective influencing or network building strategy.
“Cut through the networking noise and start building the powerful, real relationships needed to succeed in our digital world”J. Kelly Hoey
If you are new to sharing your professional knowledge in the digital space, here is a rule of thumb for content sharing to get you going:
- LinkedIn – post an update maybe once or twice a week
- Tweet – 5 times per week
- Post on other social media accounts such as Instagram and Facebook once a day (although posting regularity can vary widely depending on the industry you work in)
- Connect with all new contacts you have met in person on LinkedIn within 3-5 days of meeting them
Who to share with and when
Whilst it’s easier to share every piece of content you develop online with every single contact you have, this is not overly effective as an online professional profile building strategy. You should actively share content with those in your audience that the content will add value to the most.
When you are uploading content to any digital platform, think about why you are sharing this specific knowledge and your intended target audience before posting.
Equally, if you are reaching out to your network for help in any way, know who in your network is likely to be able to assist you best, contact those people only and know how to ask specifically for the help you need.
“Expertise is just your starting point. Networks are crucial because gaining access changes your outcome.”J Kelly Hoey – Build your Dream Network
Asking for help
Generally speaking, people do like to help other people. But when you ask for help you need to be very specific. Consider how busy your life is. So too are the lives of those in your network.
For example, let’s say you are looking for your next role. Instead of reaching out to your network with your resume attached saying something like, “I’m looking for work. Can you please spread the word”, be more specific and helpful. Help your network help you.
The following email template might be helpful as a starting point for this example:
Hi (contact name)
I have recently completed a role with (company) as a (role type). I am now looking for a permanent (role type) position in the (sector or industry). The great news is that I can start right away.
I notice you have worked with (company) and I would be very interested in hearing about opportunities with them. Do you have any contacts I could reach out to at (company) or know of ways in which I can better understand what roles they have available?
Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide me.
And remember, regular communication and contact with your network BEFORE you need help is best.
Communicating with your network – 101
Before you send something out to your network, consider the following:
- Content – what is it that I am about to share?
- Who should receive it?
- When should I send it?
- What is the key message?
- What is the tone and style?
- What is my call to action?
- Have I included everything required to make it easy to act on (if indeed I am making a request)?
- For content I have developed, how will I promote the post on each of my digital platforms?
- What hashtags should I include?
- Is the message going to look OK on desktop and mobile devices?
Networking is not a dirty word
So there you have it. Networking in the digital age can be super effective in sharing your professional knowledge and building the career of your dreams.
Networking should not be seen as a self serving activity only. It has the potential to provide a far more meaningful, collaborative and connected work life for you now and into the future.
When built strategically and carefully, your professional network offers invaluable contacts, information and resources as you move through your career. People who build their networks with mutual gain in mind are the most rewarding and often the most successful.
Put in the time and effort to build your existing network further. You will wonder why you didn’t start sooner.
Further Reading and Resources
Concept from Build your Dream Network by J.Kelly Hoey
Your digital footprint – A blueprint for success