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Navigating Career Growth as a Woman (Part 3) - Personal Branding, Networking, Emotional Intelligence

In the previous two articles of this series, I shared my opinion and experience on career development, plus some of the best practices to enhance it, such as creating a career plan, seeking mentorship and sponsorship, seeking feedback, or advocating for yourself, to name but a few. Even personal growth strategies, addressing challenges like competition vs. collaboration, problem-solving mindset, and taking ownership.


Now, I want to explore 3 more strategies that can help you advance your career: personal branding, networking, and emotional intelligence. These will help you showcase your value, build meaningful relationships, and handle challenges in the workplace. 


What value you get from it:

  1. Personal branding, you will learn actionable methods to develop a strong personal brand,

  2. Effective networking strategies and frameworks which anyone can implement 

  • discover how to build and nurture professional relationships that open doors to new opportunities and collaborations.

3. Emotional Intelligence: what is it really? 

  • how does it show up in the workplace and how can you get better at it


What this article does not:

  1. It does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution; the strategies need personalisation, for your particular situation

  2. The article does not delve into technical aspects of talent acquisition,

  3. It does not cover sector-specific career development strategies – so it is applicable regardless of your role domain.

 

While I write all of these articles from the perspective of a woman in a senior job role, I truly believe that the details shared here can be beneficial regardless of our gender or inclination.

And what it is interesting for me to realise as well, is the fact that all these tips, tricks, experiences, are strongly related to one another. It leads me to believe that you probably always need to deploy more than 1, 2, a number of “tactics” at any given moment.

 

Personal Branding

  • What can be considered personal branding in the context of talent acquisition

  • 3 Strategies to build and promote a personal brand

  • Internal VS. External Personal brand

  • Challenges you may face and how to overcome them

  • Relevant resources for building your personal brand


“Although personal branding originated in the field of marketing (Lair et al., 2005), there are now more than a hundred published papers on the topic across a range of disciplines…No commonly accepted academic definitions or theoretical models exist.”

The “self-presentation” definitions in relation to Personal Branding tend to include such words as “impression,” “reputation,” “individual's strengths,” “uniqueness,” “image,” “self-promotion,” or “identity.” These definitions position personal branding as a person-centric activity, focused on managing how others view the individual - e.g., “how we want to be perceived by employers, potential employers, clients, professional peers, and others in a way that will boost short- and long-term career prospects”

(Evans, 2017, pp. 271–272) (Parmentier et al., 2013; Molyneux, 2015; Schlosser et al., 2017)


Our “personal brand” is not just about how we present ourselves to the professional sphere, but how we are perceived by it. Mastering personal branding helps us inspire trust and credibility.


 3 strategies I used to craft, develop and nurture my brand (so far):


Authenticity:

  • In my experience, being authentic means unapologetically showcasing one's true self, sharing genuine opinions, and pursuing passions with vigor. 

  • This sincerity fosters deeper connections with audiences, establishes rapport, and cultivates a devoted following. 

  • Word of warning, authenticity must be balanced with professionalism. The way we articulate our thoughts and interact with others should always be considerate and respectful.

  • Content - not everything we do has to be 100% new or revolutionary. However, I suggest that you explore the topics you are most passionate about and drive them. Pouring passion into the topics you want to share with the world, will quite easily be felt by others. It is passion that also helps you build expertise, which, in turn, it helps you build a brand.


Downside? Not everyone will like you or accept your most authentic self. We are still in a business environment, so learning how to balance your behaviors and actions is paramount (see more below in Emotional Intelligence).



Consistency:

  • Think of a brand you love (guilty pleasure: Audi) - just as a successful brand maintains a uniform message across various mediums, in Talent Acquisition we ought to ensure our actions echo our words and beliefs,

  • Consistency makes you coherent and recognisable, it reinforces your reputation

  • Ideally you start from understanding your unique value proposition - don’t worry too much if you are not fully aware of it. Some of us are multi-passionate, bringing strengths in multiple areas. Then just select a few of the things you care for deeply.

  • Pinpoint your audience – one time you may want to be visible in the community of iOS Software Engineers, for example - so go understand that audience, other times, you may want to focus on the Talent Acquisition peers, so understand them, and so on - and your actions can be targeted to either one of your audiences (or to multiple audiences at once).

Give them something before you ask them for something.

You will hear me saying that A LOT.


Delivery:

  1. Ideally you would define your value proposition “what are you really good at that others would benefit from seeing / hearing?”:

  • What gaps did you identify which you can bridge?

  • How can you create more signal and less noise in your industry, community, business, even team?

  • But as I said above – it is sometimes hard to get to the bottom of it. So, before it becomes a blocker for you, pick a select few things you where you add true value and go ahead with those.


2. Choose your platforms and channels:

  • Not everyone has to be constantly active on LinkedIn, maybe you value other platforms, Medium, Substack, X (former Twitter), Discord, Slack, etc…it does not matter where you are present as long as you are intentional with your actions (content, etc). 

  • What is online once – stays online forever – just remember that 😊

  • Maybe you are offline – meetups, book clubs, courses, etc – the medium, being online or offline should not prohibit you from activating and developing your personal brand.

  • Choose the channels which matter for you and for the audience you want to reach as well. Where will the people be, who need to upvote your work? That’s where you go.


Internal VS. External Personal Brand:


Arguably, all of the above can be applied both internally and externally (in a company).


Internal Personal Brand:

When we refer to “internal personal brand” – think of is such as your work signature.

  • How we are perceived by our colleagues, stakeholders, and the extended talent acquisition team,

  • Building a strong internal brand involves consistently demonstrating our expertise, reliability, and collaborative spirit,

  • It means being performant with your direct job responsibilities but also contributing to team dynamics, supporting organisational goals, and being an advocate for positive change.


How? It could involve leading workshops, participating in cross-departmental projects, or mentoring junior team members, to name but a few.


External Personal Brand: 

Externally, our personal brand in talent acquisition refers to how we are perceived in the wider professional community, by candidate prospects, and other recruiters, leaders, etc. 


  • It is about establishing ourselves as thought leaders and influencers in the field, 

  • It involves sharing insights, participating in industry discussions, and building networks beyond our immediate professional circles,

  • A strong external brand not only enhances our own professional standing but also contributes to your company’s employer brand,

  • By engaging with candidate communities, we showcase the organisational culture and values, making our company more attractive to potential talent,

  • Networking with other talent acquisition professionals helps us stay informed and up to date with the industry trends + elevate the overall standard of our profession.


How? For example, writing articles, speaking at conferences, or being active on professional social networks (engaging with and supporting others). Mentor people, make time to give your knowledge away for free, like you, one day, wished someone would have done for you.


Some challenges you may face?


  1. You are inconsistent with your activities: 

  • This is not to say that you have to have the same level of content output day-in-and-day-out. However, not being involved, present, not sharing, not contributing for a prolonged period of time and all of a sudden surfacing and being overly-engaged feels inauthentic.

  • Better to do things in snippets rather than having large inconsistencies in your engagement levels.


  1. “My work speaks for itself” false belief:

  • Not quite. Realistically, how big is your network? According to “Dunbar’s Number Theory”, there's a limit to the number of stable relationships one can maintain, which is typically around 150,

  • How many of those individuals understand the complexity of your day to day job?

  • How many of those people have learnt something from you?

  • Your work may be fantastic but if nobody knows what it is, chances are that you will have a hard time building a brand,

  • Maybe you do not have 1 subject of expertise – that is still fine – you can cover more things. Nobody asks us to limit our interests or knowledge areas. Remember to be authentic though, try not to oversell.


Personal Brand Model Stefano Principato
Personal brand model from Stefano Principato


Where do I get my content from?

The WWW is full (too full) of regurgitated content. Over and over again, the same things, written now by ChatGPT or Perplexity.ai


Am I the only one feeling like a lot of times it lacks any kind of substance?


I personally curate my content for a large number of sources. It’s like watching the news, one source is no longer sufficient for informing an objective opinion.

It is a win-win situation – I learn and have content to build my brand, at the same time.


  1. Follow Tech Journals and Blogs: reputable tech websites or blogs provide updates on emerging technologies, product launches, and industry trends.

  2. Join Professional Networks: online platforms, forums, groups, or associations relevant to your field offer opportunities to connect with other professionals, exchange information, and access resources

  3. Read Publications & Reports: magazines, journals, newsletters, blogs, or research papers provide in-depth analysis, data, and forecasts for your industry

  4. Experiment: trying out new tools – usually they have a Ffee trial, products, or services relevant to your industry can help you stay updated. 

  5. Follow Start-up news feeds

  6. Subscribe to domain-relevant Blogs: they cover the latest updates and changes in the search industry

  7. Follow Industry Leaders on Social Media (ahem 😊).

  8. Read Industry Reports: they provide in-depth analysis and data on the latest trends and changes.


It’s more than “content curation” – it also informs your career progression. 

For example, understanding the latest tech trends can help you identify the skills you need to secure a job in the future. You can use the information gathered and become a stronger advisor to the business, etc.


Networking

Does this not go hand in hand with your Personal Brand? 

Of course, it does! But there’s more 😊.


I want to Introduce you to some more Technical Constructs, Frameworks if you will, and also explain how they can be applied in your work.


The Power/Influence Matrix:

  • This is essential for identifying and understanding the stakeholders within our professional network,

  • Classifies contacts based on their level of influence and interest in our career progression,

  • Recognising where each contact falls within this matrix allows you to tailor your networking strategies effectively (simplistically - those with high influence and interest, for instance, require more engagement and nurturing, etc.).


Dunbar’s Number Theory:

  • “There's a limit to the number of stable relationships one can maintain, which is typically around 150”

  • In the context of networking, this suggests a focus on quality over quantity, maintaining deeper connections with a limited number of individuals rather than spreading oneself too thin across a larger network.


Weak Tie Theory: 

  • This concept highlights the importance of 'weak ties' or acquaintances in networking, 

  • These connections are often more valuable in providing new information or opportunities compared to 'strong ties' (close friends and family), as they bridge different social circles, companies, communities, etc.

Stakeholder Network Mapping:

  • Chart out your professional network in a way that visually represents your connections and their interrelations,

  • This map shows the direct and indirect relationships, enabling you to identify influential individuals you might not have considered and to spot potential networking gaps.


When we want to grow in our career, we really, really, REALLY, cannot only rely on “my work will speak for itself” or “my manager sees my work and they told me that they will support me in getting a promotion”.


Networking has a positive impact on your career development. It helps you gain visibility, recognition, and influence in your field. It can also help you find mentors, sponsors, and allies who can guide, advocate, and support you. Moreover, it can help you access and create opportunities for learning, collaboration, and advancement. Here is a very good article describing the different power dynamics in our networks.


How I used these networking “structures” to help boost my career (a walk-through):


I started from drawing (literally) the map & relations for the people in my immediate business network, at work. 

Then, who are they connected with in the wider organisation and who has more “power” in that dynamic, between the two of them


  • I then built a little “target” team – people with whom I made sure to nurture the relationships.

  • This does not mean that you: 1. ignore others, 2. are manipulative or 3. are opportunistic (in the bad sense of the word). 

  • All had various and very senior roles in the organisation – these were people whom I made sure to always keep close – informed and to “give them something without asking for anything in return”.

  • It is important to understand what matters for them, and feed that knowledge (for example, market data about the Data Science population in Berlin, etc.)

  • Maintain open lines of communication - (I was never brilliant at “coffee chats” so honestly, did not do many of those. I did maybe a lunch a quarter, instead.)

  • When approaching the performance review (1-2 months before), I asked all these individuals for meetings, to discuss their feedback on my work and our collaboration.

  • In the same meeting, I presented my results, overall, and I presented them with the Career Framework for my level of role. 

  • I openly shared that I seek sponsorship for being promoted to the next level.

  • I had a clear idea of what “sponsorship” looked like – for example, they would bring my name in discussion behind closed doors, when topics in relation to Talent Acquisition would come up, or they would proactively nominate me for project managing some of the talent related topics in their business unit, etc. 

  • Another ask I had – was for them to provide me with official feedback in the performance rounds and, if they are comfortable, to share their observation – that I operated on the level above (I shared with them the career framework). 


During this whole time, I was also paying attention to the “weak ties” (I don’t like this term) – eg. A team lead, potential hiring manager, who would be reporting into the director whom I was trying to influence, etc.

They would support me by feeding upwards feedback about our interactions.

And again, I was always supportive of their internal initiatives and so on.


Nurturing your network (internally and externally) is paramount.

And the beauty is that when you do so – you also build your Personal Brand. Win-Win.


A Challenge to pay attention to?

Being passive or reactive with your network. 

Some professionals may think that networking is only necessary when they need something, such as a job, a referral, or a favor. However, this can be seen as opportunistic, insincere, or rude by your contacts. (it still ties back to Personal Branding).

 

Emotional Intelligence


Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves, emotional intelligence quote
Emotional Intelligence Quote

Some will find it interesting that I write about Emotional Intelligence (EI), as I have been accused in the past of having low EI.


After learning and working with a professional, certified coach, I can, quite confidently say, that I got much better at it.

Also, I can say that you may find yourself in environments which are potentially toxic, or where your values are completely misaligned with those of the people around you. And if that is the case, your emotional intelligence is not lacking, it is purely a mismatch.

Give yourself grace while also learning how to get better at it. Here are some of my observations, plus some theory.


  • 5 key components and how they show up at work

  • How to develop more empathy, plus relevant study resources

  • How to increase your emotional intelligence


Emotional Intelligence (EI) is grounded in the psychological theories developed by scholars like Daniel Goleman. Goleman's model outlines 5 key components of EI: self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and social skills.


In talent acquisition, these components play a critical role in understanding both oneself and potential candidates and stakeholders, fostering effective communication, decision-making, and relationship-building.


Self-Awareness


Self-awareness is the foundation of personal growth and career advancement. 

It involves understanding your strengths, weaknesses, values, and how your emotions affect your actions and decisions. For example, recognising that you thrive in collaborative environments can guide your career choices and help you brand yourself as a team player.

Values – understand your values – cannot stress this enough, as I learnt about it way too late!

  • In personal branding, being self-aware allows you to craft an authentic personal brand. Understanding your unique qualities and how you perceive and are perceived by others is key to presenting a genuine and consistent image in professional settings.

  • In networking it will help you understand how you come across in networking / social situations. Are you approachable, confident, or perhaps overly reserved? 


Self-Regulation


This involves managing your emotions and impulses. 

In the workplace, this means controlling stress, staying calm under pressure, and adapting to changes without reacting negatively. This skill is crucial for maintaining professionalism and making rational decisions.


This was for me the hardest step – learning to understand that I am triggered, then managing the trigger, then taking note (literally, on paper) of what happened and what I think and feel. Then, sleeping on it. 

SLEEP – ON – IT. And then respond instead of react.

  • For personal branding, self-regulation contributes to a stable and reliable personal brand. People are more likely to trust and respect professionals who handle stress and adversity with grace.


Motivation


High levels of intrinsic motivation are linked to striving for success, setting and achieving goals, and demonstrating commitment and resilience. 


  • Personal branding: showcasing your drive and commitment can set you apart in your field and make you more attractive to potential employers or collaborators or simply, in your community.

  • When networking, motivation can be “infectious”. Demonstrating enthusiasm and a strong work ethic can make your interactions more engaging and memorable, helping you build stronger connections.


Empathy


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. 

In the workplace, it enables better collaboration, conflict resolution, and leadership. Understanding colleagues' perspectives and challenges can improve teamwork and productivity.


Empathy can also be trained, it does not have to only be innate: 


Some support resources:


1. "Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It" by Roman Krznaric

The nature of empathy and its importance in personal and social contexts. The book is a guide to cultivating empathy, with examples and strategies for application.

2. "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman

This offers valuable insights into empathy as a key component of EI, discussing how to recognise it in oneself and others and how to cultivate it.

3. "Empathy: Its Ultimate and Proximate Bases" by Stephanie D. Preston and Frans B.M. de Waal

This study provides an overview of the biological background of empathy and its evolution, helping understand it from a psychological and biological perspective.


Some strategies for further developing your empathy:


Active listening:

  • Practice active listening in your conversations. 

  • This means fully concentrating on the speaker, understanding their message, and responding thoughtfully. 

  • Make an effort to pick up on non-verbal cues.


Perspective-taking:

  • Make a conscious effort to see situations from others' points of view. 

  • This can be as simple as imagining yourself in your colleague's position or considering the challenges they might be facing.


Emotional literacy:

  • Improve your emotional vocabulary. 

  • Being able to accurately label emotions is a key part of understanding them in others. 

  • This also helps in communicating your understanding of someone else's feelings more effectively.


Feedback and reflection:

  • Seek feedback on your interactions and reflect on your empathetic responses. 

  • Ask trusted colleagues for their honest opinions on how you handle empathetic situations and reflect on how you could improve.


Mindfulness Practices:

  • Engage in mindfulness exercises to enhance your ability to be present in interactions. Mindfulness helps in managing your own emotions, allowing you to be more open to understanding others' emotions.


Social Skills


They include the ability to manage relationships, communicate effectively, and inspire others. These skills are crucial for career advancement, particularly in leadership roles.


  • For personal branding, good social skills enhance your personal brand by portraying you as a competent, amiable, and effective communicator, crucial for building professional networks and collaborations.



How to get better at EI (aka have more emotional intelligence)?


Becoming more emotionally intelligent isn't an overnight transformation. It's a journey similar to learning a new language. 


You start with the basics - recognising your emotions and their impact on yourself and others. 

Maybe not the impact of your emotions directly, but the way you behave when you act on these emotions, without reflection or with little self-control.


Self-awareness is not as easy as some may want to make it sound. 

And there is rarely something worse than an individual who strongly believes that they are self aware, when, actually, they are anything but.


Things that I have done, which may help you too:


1. Seek feedback from your colleagues, friends and stakeholders. Ask them to help you become better.

I found that being open about the fact that I want to get better and asking them for radically candid feedback, they were more open to sharing transparently.


2. Ask for feedback from someone you value (or is important for your career growth) when you come out of a heated or complex meeting.


3. Before heading into meetings, ask a person you trust to observe your behaviors and take notes. Do this a number of times.

After 1, 2 Months, come back and review their observations. In the meantime, strive to be better and better with each encounter.

Or, do it right after each meeting if you prefer. 


4. Recognise:


A practical example: think of  a tense meeting where opinions clash. An emotionally intelligent individual recognises their rising frustration (self-awareness), takes a moment to breathe and assess the situation (self-regulation), remains motivated to find a solution (motivation), understands the perspectives of others (empathy), and navigates the conversation towards a productive outcome (social skills). 

This approach not only resolves the immediate conflict but also strengthens professional relationships and fosters a collaborative work environment.


5. Seek mentoring, coaching or even therapy


My work with a business and EI specialised coach, has helped me tremendously. 

For 2 reasons:


1. You get practical – applicable – information and are able to apply it nearly instantly in real life. They help you “think”. Not give you “solutions on a platter” but help you reach healthy conclusions and then guide you in how to implement them in real life scenarios.


2. I discovered my own values and how to capitalise on them and my strengths, conjunctively.

Let me tell you - Sometimes, it really is not you!

It can very well be that the environment you are in is not optimal for you.

The sense of relief when you realise that, sometimes, that harsh feedback you have been given is actually not a representation of you, but rather that the environment is unhealthy, is great.

(don’t overcompensate here though! It is easy to fall in the trap of blaming everything on the “toxic environment” and not being accountable for your own actions).


 

Bottom line – we now have a series of 3 articles, through which I tried to present a variation of actions, thoughts, frameworks that helped me throughout my career so far.

The series is meant to be seen as both a “lessons learnt” and a support mechanism for others.

They offer a bit of a roadmap for professionals seeking to enhance their career trajectory but feel a bit stuck in the “but I work so hard” loop.


Short recap of what you will find in all of the 3 articles:


Importance of Sponsors

  • highlights the critical role sponsors play in advocating and guiding career advancement, especially for women.

Building Relationships: 

  • emphasises the need to build and maintain influential relationships for long-term career growth.

Growth Strategies:

  • strategies like embracing competition, developing a problem-solving mindset, and taking ownership.

Adaptability and Feedback: 

  • about the importance of being adaptable, seeking feedback, and balancing relationships with stakeholders and teams.

Personal Branding:

  • explores how to develop and leverage a personal brand to create a unique professional identity + how to

Networking: 

  • building and nurturing professional networks to open new career opportunities + useful business frameworks and blueprints.

Emotional Intelligence: 

  • explains the importance of emotional intelligence in professional settings, what it is and also provides tips for further developing it.


 

I hope that this last article also inspires you to apply some of the strategies to your own career development – regardless of the level you are at. Remember, career development is a lifelong and dynamic process that requires your active involvement, commitment, and effort. Give yourself some time and some grace and please seek support along the way.


Let me know your thoughts,

Andreea


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2 Comments


Unknown member
Nov 29, 2023

Love it this is insightful ,thanks for sharing

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Unknown member
Nov 29, 2023
Replying to

More than welcome, thank you for the feedback 😀

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