On the evening of March 4th four women sat at the front of a room at Morgan, Brown & Joy, ready to share their experiences and extensive expertise. The topic of tonight's discussion? How to brand yourself and develop a network inside and outside of your current workplace. The women leading the conversation were Ellen Keiley, President and Founder of EMK Consulting Group, Rita Balian Allen, President of Rita B. Allen Associates (a career management firm), Stephanie Franklin, Vice President of HR for the Healthcare Division of Nuance Communications, and Jaclyn L. Kugell, both a Chair of Morgan, Brown & Joy's Management Committee and a managing partner.
In order to succeed in starting and building your brand, each of the ladies agreed that you first have to know what you want - be goal oriented. You have to be able to advocate for yourself and know how to articulate your brand. Rita took a page from her book on branding and recommended focusing on the 3 p's - prep, packaging and presentation. An essential aspect of branding is relationship building. Community involvement is key here. Through giving back, you can gain support for your brand.
Because a lot of people have similar skills, it is often more about who you are as a person that makes you stand out. For those who are introverted, Stephanie suggested setting goals for yourself. For example, when going to a company event, plan on meeting at least three people before you leave. Starting with small, manageable goals allows you to easily become comfortable talking to new people. As you progress, networking will become more natural to you. Jaclyn pointed out that networking can be done anywhere. In fact, many business transactions take place not only through professional networking, but personal networking as well. It is crucial to have a strong network, since you never know when your internal company network will suddenly become your external. Don't learn the hard way!
As moderator, Rita questioned how others have seen their brands change as their careers have developed. Stephanie started out as a reliable worker and became a strategic leader. She did this by taking different assignments and establishing herself quickly in a new environment. She stressed the significance of balancing confidence with humility. If you want to change, first ask for feedback from internal and external mentors. Second, push yourself out of your comfort zone. You don't necessarily need to make new connections to do this. You can focus on relationships that you already have, just nurture them. Ellen credited community involvement as a necessary step for her success. She emphasized that giving back is an indispensable form of networking. Through writing or speaking you can be a thought leader.
Social media can be a worthwhile tool to help you promote your brand. Although there are a lot of options, you do not need to be heavily involved in every platform. Figure out which one fits you the best. When choosing, focus on what your objective is. A blog, for example, can help you share as well as showcase your expertise in detail. Being active on social media is just one more way you can leverage and continuously expand your network.
However, there are other forms of networking to consider. Jaclyn advised sharing a relevant article with a colleague, or introducing coworkers to help forge new connections. You don't have to know the answer to every question to develop a strong brand. Instead, refer them to someone who will know. Jaclyn reminded everyone that there is no reason to comprise yourself to fit into an environment. Although it is a simple professional courtesy, timely reciprocation when someone contacts you will add to your brand and reputation. Mentors can also provide another layer of support. They could even be peers who have had different experiences than you. Rita recommended a particularly good book to help with this, Expect to Win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace, by Carla Harris.
The final topic of the evening was networking advice. What are the most important things to remember when it comes to promoting your brand? Stephanie stressed the importance of remaining authentic; people can tell when you are not genuine, and Jaclyn reminded everyone that to find what you love you have to be patient. Your company brand should coincide with your own personal brand. Ellen suggested focusing specifically on relationship building. Some of the biggest mistakes you can make here include trying to be something you are not, or having a lack of transparency. Rather, you should focus on confidence. While networking, share your strengths using stories and don't forget to talk about the results. Rita emphasized that this is what people will remember the most.
The event ended with a WITI raffle! Rita's book, Personal Branding and Marketing Yourself: The "Three Ps" Marketing Technique as a Guide to Career Empowerment, along with a one year WITI membership, plus a WITI t-shirt and bag were all given away to two lucky attendees. With that, the evening concluded and another wonderful event came to a close.
About the Author:
Emily Ubik is in her fourth year at Boston University pursuing a double major in electrical engineering and archaeology. She comes to Boston from the Midwest and is interested in getting to know women in business and making connections. She came across Women in Technology when she heard that WITI was trying to become more involved with universities. She is now an active member of the local network and is looking forward to writing more about WITI Boston events.
About Women in Technology Boston:
The Boston affiliation of Women in Technology International offers multiple events throughout the year in metro Boston and downtown. Our focus is to provide ways in which women of all ages, skill sets and backgrounds connect with other women both locally and globally to advance their careers and improve the leadership development skills. For 2014 fun events and relevant leadership development content will be provided for members and non-members alike. To learn more and see what's up next, visit www.witi.com/boston