"Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room," says Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO. So, if you left the room now, what do you think people would say about you? Would they mostly be in agreement about your character, work-style attributes, passion for work and family, or would they offer an inconsistent array of descriptions about you?
Your personal brand is vitally important, no matter what career and job you have chosen as your livelihood. Without careful consideration, thought and nurturing, you could unintentionally be complicating your career trajectory and making success more difficult to achieve than it needs to be.
With that in mind, I'd like to share a sample from my latest book, Your Personal Brand: Your Power Tool to Build Career Integrity. This excerpt comes from a chapter titled "Networking – Step Out of Your Comfort Zone," in which I share advice on networking and the career value you get when you master this art of meeting new people and making lasting connections. Here are five of the 10 tips I offer in the book:
1. Make eye contact. Always look people in the eyes when you introduce yourself. Averting eye contact makes you seem disingenuous and causes awkward moments that leave a negative first impression.
2. Don't monopolize the conversation. Yes, you can talk about yourself, but networking is about give and take. Make it a two-way conversation.
3. Give good hand. Always engage in a good, firm handshake upon meeting someone -- after checking that your palms are dry. A moist or wet hand is a real turn-off. If you're afraid of germs, carry a hand sanitizer with you, which is much more convenient than running to the bathroom to wash up every time you shake another hand!
4. Keep it professional. While it's OK to discuss career issues and topics outside of work, be especially careful not to get too deep into your personal life -- especially if you’re just getting to know someone. On the other hand, people generally love it when you remember something about their personal lives, like the name of their child or pet. Also, if a person has a name that's difficult to pronounce, take the time and effort to learn how to say it beforehand. You'll make a terrific first impression as a caring person.
5. Be sensitive. Going to an international event where you expect to meet people from different countries and cultures? Before you arrive, do a little research about the social customs and practices of the host country. Even if you stumble over foreign phrases or make a mistake, your new contacts will appreciate your effort to respect their culture.
Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter@KevinIwamoto. His book, Your Personal Brand: Your Power Tool to Build Career Integrity, is available from Amazon (including a Kindle version), as well as from CreateSpace.