Secrets to Successful Networking: Building a Personal Brand
By Andy C. Ng (Wasserman Peer in Career)
During one of the city’s frigid, torrential downpours, I found myself with an old friend at The Bean in the East Village – try their dirty chai latte, you’ll become an addict, I swear. Catching up about our winter breaks at home (much needed quality time with family, food and SLEEPING), the conversation naturally led its way back to school and our professional endeavors. Both my friend and I have founded our own respective social ventures: his tackling the hunger space, mine addressing yet another facet of educational inequality. The past two years have provided an enormous wealth of business plan competitions, recruiting and partnership development, but I was anxious to pick my friend’s brain about the perpetual hot topic of “networking.” He said networking is “just being a person,” or in layman’s terms, be who you are and have a conversation.
Networking seems easy on paper: attend an organized event (like the employer presentations held at Wasserman), make a nametag, and mingle with some folks. But the pressure of making a decent first impression and possibly landing an internship or job weighs heavy on your shoulders, your rapidly sweating hands, and your sanity. Making a coherent sentence all of the sudden is more difficult than landing on the right side of a curve in your Calc class. The issue is not simply being a good speaker, but rather it comes from a lack of a polished personal brand.
Public speaking is a big passion of mine, and my knack for it lies in this understanding: say what you believe and believe what you say. As college students we all are masters of “getting by” with our words, but imagine the power in really believing and supporting what you’re dishing out. When talking about yourself, the more you understand your past experiences, dreams and working style, the more beautiful a picture you can paint for others.
Here are my simple tips for building a personal brand:
1. Build Out + Learn Your Resume
- Chances are you already have a resume, which is great! If you don’t (and even if you do, really) visit the Wasserman Center and sit with a Career Coach. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to study the most important document of your life (at least up until now). And not just the boring logistics of how much money you saved the company or how many volunteer hours you accumulated. As Simon Sinek preaches in his TED talk, people don’t care what you did – they care about why you did it. Think about your motivations, what you learned and how it’s influenced or continues to influence you. Approaching your resume in this light will give you valuable stories and insights that you can share with others.
2. Hashtag It
- Not literally. Can you imagine #AndyNgNYU on all my profiles? But really, I’m talking about social media (the Internet in general) and how it’s actually useful. When you type your name into Google, many things might pop up. So why not put things into your own hands and populate the search with viable, honest presentations of your interests, personal story and work? You can design, write and post to a blog (like this one!), retweet and follow news of companies you admire on Twitter, and my absolute favorite, make an extremely detailed LinkedIn profile. Keep in mind that your brand follows you and exists everywhere. The more you update and post, the more chances you create for someone to notice.
3. Make a House of (Business) Cards
- You have nothing worthy of putting a business card? Nonsense. One, you’re a NYU student which holds value on its own already. Other items you can list are positions or titles held on campus or current internships, fellowships and even scholarships. For instance, mine says I’m a Dalai Lama Fellow and a Gates Millennium Scholar. While most people might not know what these things are, they are nonetheless good starting points for conversation and elaboration. Something else you might want to consider putting on a card is your answer to the question, what are you? Are you an entrepreneur, a coder, an engineer, actor or writer? I have several of these “careers or roles” on my card and when listed, it’s a very direct way of expressing to employers (or whomever might have my card) what my likely skillset and interests are. A plus side to a card is that it’s also easy to carry around while still being professional.
4. Dress It Up
- Wearing your personality is a possibility, even in the world of pantsuits and overpriced ties. When I first began networking, I always wore appropriate clothes with a pop of color (POC) whether it was my socks or a bowtie. Along with a firm handshake and a cute smile, this was my way of giving an awesome first impression. If color’s not your forte, no pressure – just make sure that your personal appearance is up to par. Being “put together” does not mean being average or drab. Your well-fitted clothes and confident body language should draw you compliments from everyone in the room.
If you still need some tips, make sure to check out Wasserman’s Attire for Successful Hire event later this month on Thursday, February 12th from 5-7 p.m.
Attire for Successful Hire, co-sponsored by Macy’s!
Thursday, February 12th 5-7pm, Seating is first come, first serve basis!
Prizes, food, AND networking!
Don’t let the wrong outfit cost you the job! Be sure to join our Peers in Careers team and representatives from Macy’s as they offer fashion advice and showcase clothing trends that will help inspire the confidence you need to land that job or internship. You will also learn to decode terms like “business casual,” and figure out how to add variety to your professional wardrobe. You can RSVP via CareerNet.
• All attendees will be entered into a FREE raffle
• First 50 attendees will receive a Macy’s Gift Bag
• View Appropriate attire for your job search, internship, and full-time wardrobe
• Mingle with Macy’s Executives and Recruiters
• Free Food and Drinks!
Remember that networking does take practice and that the more events you attend, the more comfortable you get. And with those events you should start testing out some of these tips and see which areas of your personal brand are useful and which ones need more work. Getting out of your comfort zone always feels weird at first, but when it comes to networking, the more you know yourself and your needs, the more prepared you’ll be to brand and share that with the right people who can help out.
Andy C. Ng is a Gates Millennium Scholar and senior studying English, Urban Education and Social Entrepreneurship. In addition to being a Peer in Career, Andy is Chair of the Greek Alliance, an Undergraduate Admissions Ambassador and member of the CAS Senior Leadership Board. Outside of NYU, Andy is involved with projects at Google, Harry’s and Venture For America, having previously worked at JPMorgan Chase and his own startup, Student to Student.