While completing my masters, I met with one of the school’s administrators to explore opportunities that were available to me after graduate school. I was wondering how many doors would open for me now that I had an advanced degree from an accredited institution. The administrator replied and said,” I know this is not the answer you are looking for; however, education is not the only factor needed to open the doorways of opportunities. I was surprised by this statement because often times we are told education opens the doorway to opportunities and success.
As I reflected on our conversation, it became crystal clear to me what he was saying. While an education is a necessity, it does not necessarily guarantee success in this competitive society. So the question still remained, how does one create opportunities to become successful? One way would be by taking deliberate steps to build and expand your network base. This requires being at the right place at the right time. The other would be creating and promoting a positive personal brand.
To expand your network base, it starts with developing relationships with those with shared interests. You can accomplish this through networking, volunteering with business organizations, and conducting informational interviews. Networking is not a one and done process; it is continuous. It requires being flexible and sometimes operating out of your comfort zone. Second, you have to create your personal brand. Your personal brand is a marketing term that tells the story of who you are as a person. For instance, your brand might convey that you are a likeable, diligent, innovative, and dependable person. If you have that type of brand, many opportunities will come your way.
Networking and having a strong personal brand will put you on the road to accomplishing your goals, but it requires preparation, practice, and follow through. Below are some tips that will give you focus and direction on being successful in networking and establishing your personal brand.
- Be true to yourself: Conduct an inventory of who you are as a person. Determine your likes, dislikes, values, and goals you want to accomplish. Be comfortable in your skin and know who the woman/man is in the mirror.
- Develop a strategy: Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and do a SWOT analysis to build your business/life plan; then you will know what/who is needed to assist you in achieving your goals.
- Do the work: After developing a strategy to do the work, realize that it will take faith, relationship building, and a belief that you can turn negatives into positives.
- Always remember the people that helped you to become successful: As you become competent in your business, career, and life, remember those that assisted you.
- Help others: As you grow by doing the work, spread the seed of helping others. By doing so, you will reap greater returns.
- Always reinvent yourself: To sustain your life or business, you must remain innovative by staying abreast of new practices and trends in this society. You can accomplish this through continuous education, reading journals, research, and being a part of think tanks.
If you exemplify through your character and work, that you are about purpose, service, and determination, people, and groups will gravitate to you and offer support and advice.
Alan D. Benson is the author of this article and President of Benson Group, LLC.