As you may know, b.iD provides branding advice to many different organizations from a variety of industries. As noted in our Case Study, it is our responsibility as a creative agency to provide the most appropriate advice regarding how businesses can develop their identity through branding. But businesses are the not the only entities who need branding advice. Personal branding is essential for the marketing and communications professional. There is certainly a way you can demonstrate how strong your personal brand is and one of the ways is through networking. In order to have a successful networking experience, you have to know yourself first. Some questions you may ask yourself include the following: Who am I? What do I stand for? How can I be an asset to the organization I would like to be part of?
B.ID had the pleasure to speak with Michelle Ngome and provided us with significant insight on the topic of networking. Michelle’s journey in becoming a connection strategist, author, founder & CEO of her own marketing firm (Line 25 Consulting) began early in life. She discovered that at a very young age she had a gift to communicate and provide advice to the individuals that surrounded her. It was not until a marketing gig in college that solidified her decision in obtaining a career in connecting with people in order to fulfill their professional and personal aspirations. Her journey was not a straightforward one though. There were certain paths that she had to embark before reaching her status as a successful advisor and business owner.
See how you can stand out and put your best foot forward with this revealing interview on how networking can improve your personal brand.
Q&A with Michelle Ngome
Can you tell us the moment in your life where you decided that becoming a networking professional would be your path to take?
I knew my graduate school experience required me to build a strong network, but I had no idea what that looked like when I started. Fast forward I served on a few boards and people were asking me a series of questions on networking and social media. I literally took those dozens of questions and wrote my book Network, Navigate & Nurture: The Equation to Strategic Networking and things took off from there.
What advice can you give to an individual who is timid and can conquer whichever fear they have when networking?
Yes, this is one of my goals to change our perspective of networking. I don’t believe we all have to be forced into attending happy hours and conferences. It can be overwhelming. Today, network where you are at. For example, if you work at Starbucks or a coworking space don’t hesitate to say hello if you are intrigued by the person next to you also working. Too much pressure is placed on the appropriate networking environment when we can literally meet people anywhere. We can’t gauge the quality of a contact based on a specific event.
In your opinion, what is the difference between networking during the holiday season and other times of the year?
Hopefully more fun! Attend every ugly sweater party possible.
First, this may be a good time to reconnect with people. Reach out to people as a courtesy via phone, email, or holiday cards. You can follow up with thank you cards if you were invited to a special party.
Second, if you are employed participate in the office Christmas party. Take that extra time to prepare your best dish or set aside the extra money for the gift exchange or adopt a kid programs.
It is important to be flexible during this season. It is easy to be at a corporate event on Thursday and an ugly sweater party on Saturday night. Most importantly, do not get too carried away and drink too much.
There are many individuals who are unfortunately have been out of work for quite some time. This is especially affecting recent college graduates. What advice can you give these individuals to maintain their will to find work?
You have to start networking today for the job you want tomorrow. Yes, things are good now, but you cannot wait until you are in a desperate situation to start your career or look for a job. Be encouraged. Ask for help from resources and referrals. Don’t hesitate when it comes to internships or volunteering because you never know when or where opportunity will arise. Remain open to contract work. Consider your skills and passions that you can monetize. We are in a gig economy from Fiverr, Upwork, Uber/Lyft, Wag, Dolly and a lot more.
We speak about the many things we should do in order to have a successful networking experience. What is one aspect or thing that most people don’t take in consideration when networking that you think individuals should definitely consider to have success in networking?
I am spending more time discussing relationship maintenance. This is beyond the initial meeting or the person you always see at the same event. Sincerely taking time out to send the courtesy email or text to see how people are doing. It is the little things that keep you top of mind. Networking is the activity. It is important to create healthy, strategic, and sustainable relationships.
When in contact with recruiting professionals, what advice can you give job seekers conduct themselves in a way that does not come off as desperate or being too pushy?
Start the process early. Get to the interview early which will allow you time to relax. Ask questions. Follow up.
Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. How can an individual stand out in positive ways among the many social media users that use these platforms to obtain employment?
Social media is about quality and consistency.
If you have a message push it on the platforms where your audience receives it well. You may have to switch up the context a bit based on the platform.
As far as employment try to think outside the box as much as possible. If you have a good idea create a video and send it to them.
We know that many employers browse through the social media accounts of their prospective employees. What should employers dismiss and what do employers not ignore when deciding on whether or not the prospective employee should be hired?
This is a tough question. I think because of cellphone technology and social media we are always on even when our shift is over. Every industry is different; therefore, mandates may vary. As for employees I would recommend reviewing your privacy settings on a monthly or quarterly basis. Limit your profile and restrict posts.
What are your thoughts on the need to have business cards while networking?
My views have changed drastically when it comes to carrying business cards. They are nice to have. Over time I have become more selective when I carry and distribute my cards. I see more people pull out their phones and connect right away. The most important thing is being confident with releasing your contact information. For example, I don’t have my card, but put my information in your phone or ask for the preferred contact method.
How can an individual stand out among other individuals who are networking as well in an event? Are there certain words or phrases that a person should say to a recruiter?
Honestly it is about being comfortable with yourself and open to connecting with good people.
Always consider quality conversation versus quantity of cards. I can’t say practice certain words or phrases. Just listen to people and see what the connection point will be between you and the other person.
As you can see, Michelle’s expertise is simply invaluable. You can see through this interview her vast knowledge, but most importantly, the desire to see individuals succeed in networking. We hope you can incorporate this networking advice to your personal branding goals.
Speaking of success, one of the most significant factors that prevents people from reaching their goals in life is fear. Michelle’s new book Success Undefined: Reject Your Fears & Frame Your Success, tells us how you can overcome personal fears that will lead you to reaching your objectives. We all have our own definition of success. Find your definition of success through Michelle’s latest book release.
Need even more, Michelle? She also has a podcast for African-American Millennials called The Networking with Michelle Show, a podcast that is dedicated to discussing life strategies with entrepreneurial advice.
And as Michelle would say, “I (we) believe in you!”