Playing host to family visiting me in southwest Florida recently I took my guests on a tour of the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford in Fort Myers. I had never realized before that that the two men knew each other, much less had homes right next door.
But what fascinated me the most was hearing that Ford actually worked for one of Edison’s companies in Detroit. And in fact, Ford had been tinkering with an invention he called the Quadricycle when he met Edison, who saw the potential and encouraged young Henry to “Keep at it.”
The power of belief
It made me think of how important it is when you’re building your personal brand to have someone who believes in you to cheer you on, to support you. Because when you’re building your brand initially, before you’ve really established yourself, all sorts of fears and doubts can creep in. Is this the right direction, who am I to attempt this, is this really going to work, etc., etc.
Turning to successful people in your network for help in developing your brand and identifying ways you can leverage it can greatly accelerate your success.
Too often we don’t engage our network early enough, getting out there only when we’re ready to forward a resume or ask for specific referrals. But seeking out their help earlier in the process can help you reach your goals much faster.
5 ways engaging early will help
Here are 5 ways your contacts can advance the development of your personal brand much faster than you could possibly do on your own:
They can show you the path. Seeking advice from someone who’s already gone through the kind of evolution you’re trying to make can speed up your journey. They can point out pitfalls to avoid and show you shortcuts that can flatten your learning curve and save you an enormous amount of time.
They can recommend the right resources. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know or what you’re missing until someone who’s been through it before points it out to you. And more often than not, they can help you find what you need to plug the gap.
They can give you a shot of confidence. Henry Ford would likely have been a success even without Edison’s words of encouragement, yet having the moral support of someone you greatly respect can be very motivating, and help keep you going even in the face of setbacks.
They can connect you with opportunities. This is the very essence of networking–when someone who knows you and what you can do sees an opportunity that would be a perfect fit for you. Your contacts are your extra eyes and ears in the marketplace. But the more you keep your goals and your intentions to yourself, the fewer people will be available to help you.
They can recognize your best qualities. Recently I told one of my coaching clients that based on our discussions over the past few weeks, I thought what really separated her from her competitors were two things–her inside status in the industry and her strategic mindset–and that she should play these up in her marketing materials. She was dumbfounded. She had never placed value in those traits because she took them for granted. But I could clearly see these were major strengths that her competitors did not have and that she should definitely capitalize on to win new clients.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your network to get some feedback on your work in progress. If they laugh at what you’re trying to do, they’re probably not the right supporters for you.
But if they start to proactively engage in your ideas and particularly, if they start to give voice to bigger visions that you’ve been too timid to even dare think about, then you know you’re on the right track.