How To Articulate Your Personal Brand Through Your Social Network

Business guru Jack Canfield says that you are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.

It makes sense, right? The people in your personal and professional networks have an extraordinary effect on who you are and how you see the world. They affect how you spend your time. They affect many of the decisions you make. They affect the way other people see you. In short, your network and how you interact with them are key components of your personal brand.

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The Care And Feeding Of Relationships

It's surprising, then, that people don't pay more attention to building and nurturing their professional relationships. The reality is that you need to pay as much, if not more, attention to building your relationships as you do to building your skills and abilities. Genuine professional relationships, just like personal ones, take time, care and commitment to sustain. And the return on your investment will be more than worth the effort. People often think about networking if they need something -- a job, a reference, some advice -- but they don't often think about how their relationships directly shape them as a professional. If you only pay attention to your network when it's convenient or when you need something, your relationships won't be very strong or authentic. In turn, your personal brand and career development will suffer.

Keep Better Track

The first step to better managing your relationships is to literally manage them better. Make sure you have an accurate, up-to-date database or address book application in which everyone you know is listed. Don't use your cell phone as your only address book, in case you lose it! In addition to keeping track of people's email addresses and phone numbers, keep a record of other important information that will help you build strong relationships, such as people's birthdays, Twitter names, and snail mail addresses (for those times you'll want to send a handwritten note). It's also a good idea to jot down when and where you met someone or another specific detail, such as the person's favorite football team or children's names.

Connect Online

Next, be sure to follow the people in your network on various social media sites. For professional purposes, LinkedIn and Twitter are the most important. This way you can keep up with people's news and occasionally send a hello or forward an article that might be of interest. Small gestures on social media demonstrate to others that your personal brand includes generosity and a true interest in the careers and lives of the people you know.

Broaden Your Thinking

As you continue to build your career and increase your networking activity, you'll want to associate yourself not just with individuals, but also with groups. Group involvement shows people that you value community, sharing and helping others.

Without a doubt, these groups should include your university alumni community, with whom you can connect through listservs, LinkedIn groups, in-person alumni clubs and reunions. It's likely that your alma mater helped you grow as a professional and influenced your personal brand, so it's valuable to maintain a connection and give back to others who shared the same college experience. Strong personal brands include demonstrating pride and loyalty to the institutions that have shaped you.

You should also look into joining professional associations related to your field of interest. Most professional associations have local, state and national groups. Some even have an international presence. Depending on your interests and goals, other potential communities include volunteer organizations, your local Chamber of Commerce, arts organizations, running clubs and any other online or offline group that appeals to you. Such memberships provide countless ways to meet others, learn about yourself and discover new skills and opportunities that will enhance your personal brand.

If you are trying to build your experience in a new field, then it's even more important to take part in communities associated with your desired profession. Even if you've never officially worked in public relations, for instance, you can include your interest in PR in your personal brand by joining the Public Relations Society of America, following their tweets and attending their in-person events. This will help you learn the lingo, find out about potential opportunities and build relationships with people in the field you want to enter.

Go The Extra Mile

No matter where or how you are connecting with people, a crucial piece of your personal brand involves how you interact with the people you know. When you see that it's someone's birthday on Facebook, write a quick "Happy Birthday" wall post. When you invite someone to connect on LinkedIn, always customize your request with a polite and gracious note instead of using the generic message. Occasionally reach out to people in your network to say hello and ask if there is anything you can do to support them. Send holiday cards. You'll become known as someone who is thoughtful and always goes the extra mile. And, in turn, people will be more likely to go the extra mile for you.

Share Your News

Finally, don't be shy about keeping your network posted on what you're up to. Remember that networking and personal branding are not just about who you know; they're about who knows you. While staying conscious of not posting sensitive personal, client or privileged information, update your social networking status at least once a week with news about what you're doing, what you're reading or what events you're attending. If you're speaking on a panel, invite people in your network to attend. If you're walking in a charity fundraiser, invite people to participate or support your efforts. If you've built truly genuine professional relationships, people will want to know how your personal brand is evolving and how they can support you.

So, look around right now at your relationships. Glance at the last three people who IM-ed you today. Find your last five Facebook friend requests. What can you do for each of these people? What can you do to strengthen each of these relationships? What should they know about you? Attend to your network daily and not just your personal brand, but your entire life, will be better for it.

Next: How To Leverage Social Networking For Professional Success

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Holly Paul


Holly Paul is the U.S. Recruiting Leader for PwC, one of the world's largest professional services firms, overseeing all of the firm's campus and experienced recruiting activities and managing a team of more than 200 professionals who comprise the firm's recruiting network. In her role, Holly leads PwC's efforts to attract, engage and hire full-time professionals and interns -- including PwC's increasing use of social media for recruiting purposes, as well as initiatives to build and maintain relationships with the nearly 200 universities where PwC actively recruits.   

Holly is a frequent speaker and subject matter expert on recruiting, human resource management and career related topics, appearing on college campuses around the country and interviewing with numerous media to offer perspective on such issues.  She has been featured on ABC News' "Job Club," Bloomberg Radio's "The Hays Advantage with Kathleen Hays," and regularly quoted in The Wall Street Journal, FORTUNE,,, CareerBuilder, MORE Magazine online, The Chicago Tribune, MarketWatch, The Houston Chronicle, dozens of campus newspapers and other news sources. 

As a member of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Recruiting Network, Holly leads the experienced recruitment network sharing best practices from the U.S. firm with her peers who lead the recruiting efforts at other PwC Global Network firms around the world. The collaboration drives greater consistency and efficiency in the recruiting process for PricewaterhouseCoopers worldwide. 

Holly draws upon her more than 16 years of experience in a variety of roles across PwC's organization to inform and enhance the firm's recruiting function.  Most recently, she served as PwC's National Sourcing Operations Leader for campus and experienced recruiting.  In this role, she was responsible for the business operations and financial management of the recruiting organization, as well as direction of campus and experienced recruitment strategies and initiatives.

From 2006 to 2007, Holly led the human resource operations of PwC's Internal Firm Services (IFS) group, comprised of 7,000 professionals who provide internal strategic services in the areas of administration, finance, human resources, information technology, infrastructure, knowledge management, learning and education, marketing and sales, and other key support functions.  During this period, Holly led a redesign of the human capital organization within IFS, to better align process and talent with firm strategy.   Previously, she served for a decade as a human resource leader in PwC's Carolinas and Washington, D.C. metro markets. 

Holly began her career in PwC's Florham Park, New Jersey office in 1994 as a client service assurance professional.  A 1994 graduate of Lafayette College with a BA in Anthropology and a concentration in Accounting, Holly is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and maintains certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). She resides in Bethesda, MD with her husband, Bill, and their two children.

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