When I was younger I was always told “It’s not what you know it’s who you know” so build your network and make sure you connect with the right people. It was advice that plagued me for years because I was not terribly good at building my network, I hated going to networking events and frequently forgot to take my business cards to events, let alone collect others business cards and then follow up with them later.
However, a while back I read a quote that shifted the emphasis from who you know to take taking the responsibility make yourself known.
It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you.
This completely shifts the emphasis from focussing on who can help you, and places it squarely in the domain of how you can serve others - by sharing your knowledge, your expertise, you experience and in the process positioning yourself as a person to know. It also aligned completely with the approach I was taking in positioning myself into an entirely new career and network, and one that has helped me over the past four years to build a coaching business that now supports me financially.
Be excellent at what you do
The first place to start in positioning yourself as the person to know, the expert to come to, is to become really good at what you do. That means investing the 10,000 hours in honing your skills. But it takes time (about 5 years of working on a skill in a variety of contexts and increasing levels of complexity) to build up those 10,000 hours.
So does that mean you can't position yourself in your network until you have half a decade or more of experience?
No, not at all. You should start position yourself and serving your network as soon as you can in your career, at university in fact, because in the competition for opportunities that give you foot in the "world of work" door, is becoming greater each year, and with claims of nepotism, bias and favouritism becoming more frequent, positioning yourself as someone who will be of value to an organization is way more important than hoping for an introduction from a relative or friend.
More importantly, if people don't know you exist and don't know how your work is of value to them, the fact that you do excellent work becomes somewhat irrelevant (hard truth to acknowledge - sorry!)
Identify and focus on what you want to be known for
So how do you do get people to know that you exist and that your work is excellent and of relevance to them?
My advice is to identify the 3 to 5 things that you want to be known for, and that will be valuable to your network (and the people who you want to know you) and then become your own publicist, public relations officer and marketing manager rolled into one - ie start building the narrative, the story that you want to be known for - by showcasing your work, your thoughts, what you have learned, and how you can be of value to the people that you want to know you.
Write your LinkedIn profile using keywords (so that you can be found in searches) that position you for the industry and the work that interests you, and then showcase your achievements in a tangible way as evidence of how you create value.
Write and publish articles on LinkedIn focussing on the 3 to 5 things that you want to be known for. You could pick those topics using these as guidelines:
What do you value? What is a philosophy that guides you in your work in your life in the way you choose who to work with and be friends with?
What industry do you work in/want to work in?
What is the work that you do/want to do?
What are the particular skills that you have and can showcase with tangible evidence?
What is a problem that you can solve?
As an example, here's what I want to be known for:
Everyone whether you are employed or not, needs to manage their careers like a business #ceoofmycareer (my philosophy)
I work with people predominantly in the mining industry (the industry I work in predominantly) but am open to working with anyone in a transition phase (if they are open to my philosophy above)
One of my services is helping my clients position themselves using Linkedin and CV writing as a tool (a skill or service that I offer )
Career and business coaching (the type of work I do)
The transition from technical to strategic positions is challenging because what gets you there (technical skills) is not what makes you good once you are there and a whole ned range of competencies are required to excel in a strategic position (a key challenge that I help my clients solve
Engage in conversations on topics for which you want to be known
Creating your own content can be time-consuming, so if you are not ready yet to be positioning yourself through your own content, then the quickest way to start being known is by engaging in conversations with people that share content on the topics that you want to be known for. No need to dominate their conversations - just add value with a comment, a question, a note of appreciation, something of value that adds to rather than detracts from the conversation.
By engaging in conversations, particularly on LinkedIn you show up in other people’s networks. If you are consistent enough in contributing value to conversations pretty soon people will be looking out for your comment, your content and thinking of you when they are looking for someone who has expertise in the topics that you have made yourself known for.
So what do you want to be known for?
I thrive on conversations and would love to engage with you on your career and how you are managing yourself and your career like a business.
I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself. I help you do that through one-on-one coaching, CV and LinkedIn profile writing, topic-specific workshops and a suite of blogs and other materials available on my website. Want more information? Drop me a message and I will get back to you asap.
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