How to Network without Networking

Sometimes the best way to network is by not actually networking. Opportunities can arise completely out of the blue and totally catch you off guard. But you can make this work to your advantage.

When I first started college back in 2014, I received a critical piece of advice: always make sure to introduce yourself AND your brand. In the beginning, my first-year mind didn’t quite know what to make of this. What was my brand? And why did I have to announce it after my name? It wouldn’t be until third year that I would really begin to understand that advice.

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Understanding your brand comes from knowing what you want out of life, and how you are going to leave a unique footprint of yourself on the world. To network your brand is to network your goals and interests; it is to make yourself stand out amongst your peers, mentors, and friends so that they can network for you without even knowing what they’re doing. The first step in how not to network for yourself, but let others do it for you, is to identify your goals. For me, I know that my interests lie in fashion and that I would like to be a buyer after graduation. This means that my brand would consist of two things: the industry I want to go into and the position I want to hold.

When meeting someone new, you don’t necessarily have to start the conversation with “Hello my name is…and my brand is…,” but you should aim to bring it up in the conversation. Usually, upon meeting a new person, they will ask about your major, career goals, and/or your personal interests. These are great leading questions that you can use to your advantage to include your brand into the conversation. The goal is for you to connect yourself with your name and your brand, so that if an opportunity arises and your friend hears about it first, they can immediately alert you. This has worked a number of times for me with some of my friends in the McIntire School of Commerce, as they label me their “fashion friend.” Any new information that comes their way through the school, or even through their own networking and job searching, I am the friend they think of first when the hear about anything fashion related.

So the next time you meet someone, be sure to introduce your brand, too. The more people that can connect your name with your brand, the better off it will be for you in the long run. This is a great way to network without actually networking yourself. Take five or ten minutes to figure out your brand and try it out, opportunities may start to present themselves sooner than you think.

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Thumbnail Photo via The Business Woman Media