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The final piece of The Networking Trifecta of Triumph is your reputation. In a nutshell:
Your reputation is your most important asset.
This is almost contrary to what we are taught in academia, where for the most part people attest that it’s what you know that will get you the job. But truth be told, it is not what you know, it is what people know about you and your knowledge, abilities, brand, and attitude that will get you the job and other game-changing career opportunities.
Your reputation is what people know about your brand and your attitude. It is an extremely important piece of networking because it is the carrier across time, space, and extra dimensions of what value you can provide other parties, teams, and institutions.
TIP: Decision-makers want to hire “known quantities,” because it reduces the risk associated with bringing in talent.
The reason surrounding this makes sense; people want to engage or hire “known quantities” – people whose brands and attitudes are already known in the community. Your reputation is how others confirm that you are a known quantity. The more you are seen and the more positive bits of information people know about your brand and attitude, the lower the risk they have in engaging or hiring you. Given a choice, I would rather hire someone whom I either know personally or by reputation, or who others in my networks know and can vouch for by either personal knowledge or reputation. I would prefer not to engage someone who is a stranger to me and whose reputation is either unknown to others I trust or is negative in some form.
About 10 years ago, I was attending the monthly meeting of the Southern Arizona article of the Public Relations Society of America. This was a regular event for me – to meet new people, to exchange information, to learn new ways of solving PR problems I might find in my job. Each meeting incorporated an invited speaker as well as time before and after the meeting to freely chat and network with those in attendance. At this particular session, the presentation consisted of a panel of editors from local publications offering tips on how to pitch them stories. One of the speakers was in a new job – he had just taken over as the editor of the regional business newspaper, to which I subscribed and read regularly.
TIP: When there’s new blood in an organization, this is often the best time to pitch new, or even create, opportunities.
When the formal part of the meeting concluded, I practically jumped from my chair and pushed my way across the room to introduce myself to him. I thanked him for his speech, congratulated him on his new position, and offered him my business card. I then blurted out that I had an idea for a column that I would like to write for him and inquired whether he would be interested in meeting with me to discuss it. Perhaps because he was so new on the job, and perhaps because he himself wanted to get to know other professionals in his sector, he granted me the appointment.
I approached the meeting as if I was going for a job interview – which of course, it really was. I took with me a portfolio that included an example of a potential column, previous writing samples, my résumé, and other projects that demonstrated my proficiency in public relations and my ability to solve his problems (relating to upping his readership and ad revenue) with finesse. What I specifically did not include was a list of references.
We had a very pleasant conversation and, of course, after I left I sent him a follow up email to thank him for meeting with me and to tell him I was looking forward to working with him. And then I waited. I waited in fact, several months. And then one day, I received an email from the gentleman stating that he wanted to move forward on the column idea, and that I have “an excellent reputation.”
Of course I was thrilled. Of course I was excited. But I was also completely perplexed. How did this guy, who although not new to the city was new to his job, know that I had an “excellent reputation”? How did he find out and then conclude that I would be an asset to his publication? The answer was obvious once I thought about it: He clearly spoke with people in his own networks, professionals he trusted, and they must have assured him that my brand and attitude were something that would bring him benefits. Our networks clearly intersected and my reputation was carried from one to the other to him. And since it represented me as someone who could be an advantage to his company, he made the decision to hire me.
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