Most of the conversations about personal branding today teach us to look at ourselves from an outside perspective looking in. By that I mean that women are being told to create their images and brands in response to society’s ideas of what we should be. The outcome of that is a personal branding movement that is teaching women to mold themselves in a way that meets society’s expectations of who they should be. To me, that is not personal branding.
Personal branding is an intentional exercise in which we look inward first to get a clear understanding of who we are, what we want to achieve, and why we want to achieve it. Nothing else matters unless we are clear on those things first. Once that work has taken place, we can use branding techniques such as our image, communications skills, behavior, and digital media, to share who we are with the world.
Personal branding should happen from the inside out. I believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice when we allow our own brands to be directed by our external environments.
My goal in creating this blog, is to share with other ambitious women my best advice for creating an authentic personal brand that is aligned with who you really are and your goals for the future.
This blog is not for everyone. But if you are still trying to figure it all out, I hope you will follow along with me as I share my own experiences, how I got where I am today, and my best advice for you as you create your own personal story of success.
In this post I share a few things no one told me about being a new entrepreneur, along with a few strategies I use to manage the overwhelm.
Last Spring, I officially transitioned from my corporate job to life as an entrepreneur. A friend recently asked me if my “new life” was what I expected. My answer was yes, and no. I work part-time so that I can also stay home with my young son. This plan was by design and I wouldn’t change it for anything, but that doesn’t mean the transition has been easy. Even though I was prepared in theory for the transition, nothing really prepared me for the transition emotionally. Here are a few of the challenges I experienced over the past year as a new entrepreneur and “stay at home” home.
The loneliness. I love working from home and giving up years of awful commutes to work at home on my own schedule was a dream come true. I have never been as focused or productive as I’ve been now that I can work on my own time in the way that suits me best. The downside? The day to day of my business life can get very lonely. Because I was spending hours commuting into an office every day my social life was built around the convenience of being in a city, away from where I live. I failed to realize how difficult it would be to see friends who now had different schedules than me. And the local mom friends I thought I would make taking my son to regular toddler activities? They didn’t come as quickly as I expected either. It turns out it’s a lot harder to have a meaningful conversation when you’re keeping one eye on your little one at the playground. (Who knew, right? ;-0)
After a few tearful conversations with my husband that generally went, “You don’t understand, you go to work and talk to grown ups all day while I talk to a toddler about trucks and baseball…” I finally realized it was up to me to go out and make some new friends to compliment my new routine. It’s a work in progress, but it’s comforting to know I have awesome women nearby I can lean on when I just. can’t. take. another. tantrum that day.
Saying goodbye to a regular paycheck is hard. Intellectually I already knew this and we planned for it. But it is still challenging to adjust emotionally. It’s one thing to give up my designer handbag purchases for the sake of building a business I love. It’s a whole other thing to realize that giving up my regular income meant I was reliant on someone else to provide for me. This was a big emotional trigger for me that I had completely forgotten about. Once upon a time after a difficult breakup, I swore I would never rely on anyone else again. And then I worked for over a decade to keep that promise to myself. I have the most supportive and wonderful partner in life. But that did not make it any easier for me to face those old triggers.
My brain will not shut off! I didn’t think I could ever be as tired as I was when I had a newborn. Then I chased my entrepreneurship dream. Obviously, it’s different now. I’m sleeping and I’m not recovering from childbirth. But mentally? I’m exhausted. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I am thinking about some aspect of my business and what I want to do next. It’s exhilarating to care so much about a business that I cannot stop talking to myself about it; but I also had to learn how to protect myself from mental burn out. It’s a serious juggling act and I’m still working on solutions.
By doing so many things on any given day, I often feel like I am doing nothing. Seriously. I spend my day juggling my health and fitness quest with spending quality time with my son and husband, creating a business and executing on my ideas; along with managing my household, caring for my home, exploring other intellectual and personal pursuits; spending time with friends and family; volunteering; planning epic trips for the future….you get it, I’m doing a lot. As I know anyone reading this is, too. My problem is, I often feel like I’m failing at it all. My solution? I coach myself to practice what I teach every day. I focus on the highest priority tasks, I organize my time and minimize distractions, and I check in with myself frequently to make sure I’m pursuing the right goals. I also lean on my husband, my girlfriends, and an occasional weekday Netflix binge to keep myself sane.
Imposter syndrome is real, and it’s rough. Because of how I sometimes feel (see number 4 above) it can be hard not to fall into unproductive thought cycles. The ugliest one is around the belief that I don’t yet have everything in my life and business running perfectly, so how could I help others? This is nonsense and I know it; intellectually. But if I let that little voice of doubt creep in, it can become crippling. When I get stuck in a negative thought pattern I remind myself why I do the work that I do. I remind myself that I have already helped so many people, and I know I can help more. I talk to myself instead of listening to myself. And sometimes I take a break. I ignore the internet and social and all my “I should be’s…” and I just let myself be. And when I give myself that space and grace to be comfortable in who I am, I find myself again ready to embrace the possibility of what I can achieve if I just take that next actionable step to move my goals forward.
There have been some surprises along the way, but that keeps things interesting. I can’t wait for the year ahead.
What about your entrepreneurial journey? I want to hear about your experience. Can you relate or are you considering a change now? Let me know in the comments!
At the end of the day the point of having a stellar personal brand is to love the life you’re living. Not just your business or career, but your whole life. Today I’m sharing some of my favorite strategies and tools to help you manage your brand and your life, with intention.
Building your brand and designing your life is not a solo endeavor. If you want to make sure you’re showing up as your best self in everything you do, you need to make sure you have at least one trusted confidant. I’m talking about more than someone who will keep your secrets. Make sure you surround yourself with people who always have your best interests at heart, even when showing up for you means they have to speak the hard truth you might not want to hear.
The best way to make sure you have these people in your life? Make sure that you are showing up in your relationships in this same way. Not every friendship is going to withstand this test, and that’s ok. But no one succeeds in life alone. Make sure that you have the support system you deserve.
Commit to an organizational system. I still love an old-fashioned planner, but the system you choose to use doesn’t matter. Your goal should be to figure out what works best for you and your lifestyle, and then commit to the habit of planning your time and managing expectations accordingly. In addition to my business calendar, I also manage our family calendar and our childcare schedule. It’s taken some trial and error, but I found a method that works for everyone, and that’s the key. I have a wall calendar for our family schedule and childcare needs that everyone can easily make notes on, while I use my phone for meetings and appointments and a planner for business tasks and strategic plans. This might sound confusing, but this is the best method to encourage everyone I need to stay in sync with to stay involved. Anything else just doesn’t last.
Identify a few simple tools that will help you stay organized and then put them into action now. The more you use them, the more natural it will feel. Overtime you won’t even think about the habit bur you will feel better knowing you are organized.
Create a kick-ass self-care routine. This is SO important to loving your life. If you are not taking some time to care for yourself, how are you going to have enough to give to anyone else? I’m sure you’ve heard this message before, I’m here to encourage you to take it to heart. It took me decades to embrace this belief. Learn from my mistake and make sure you are making yourself your number 1 priority. Wondering what I do to make sure I’m taking the time I need?
Here are my favorites: I exercise every morning while my family is sleeping; I’m learning to meditate (key word is learning), I prioritize meal prepping on the weekend to make sure I have healthy options during the busy week, and I make sure to spend quality time with my loved ones (admittedly it’s a juggling act!) Oh, and bubble baths, a lot of bubble baths!
Create a signature look that you can throw together in a flash. If you’re anything like me, you feel your best when you are happy with how you look. This isn’t about what others think of me, I’m talking about how I feel about myself. I am happier and more confident when I’ve taken a few minutes to get dressed and “polished” in a way that feels best for me. I like a little make-up and I attempt to style my hair. During this stage of my life this doesn’t happen every day and I’m ok with that. But it’s still important to me that I stay connected with my most authentic self, and do what I can to honor her every day.
Focus on community. Think about how you can give to others and dedicate some amount of your time or resources to helping your community. How you do this is up to you. I do this in many ways, from volunteering with Dress for Success, to donating items we no longer need to local charities, to being real on social media, to reaching out to people I know who are in need of some extra encouragement or advice. Think about things that are meaningful to you, and then make an effort to do something every day that benefits others in your community.
Creating a life that you love and a brand that you are proud of is a long-term proposition. This is a marathon, not a sprint. The best thing you can do for yourself is to commit today to enhancing your brand and building your life with intention. I recommend small, repeatable steps that you can do daily to help you achieve your goals. When you manage your life in achievable increments, you’ll be in awe of the progress you’ve made by this time next year.
What are some of your favorite tips?
5 Simple Steps to Help You Create Your Brand Name with Ease
So, you’ve made the decision to finally launch that business? Congrats! But now it seems the hard part is figuring out what the heck to call it. This is a question I get a lot. Sometimes the choice is more obvious, but not always. If you’re struggling to decide the best name for your new offering, I’ve got a few tips for you.
- Brainstorm with a pal. When you’re stuck in your own mind for too long, finding a solution you feel confident in begins to seem impossible. Ask a trusted friend or family member to help you think of new ideas. A fresh perspective is so helpful in overcoming our creative hurdles.
- Chat with your ideal customer. Do you know someone who fits the profile of your ideal customer? Your target market is the perfect sounding board. You don’t have to go big here, just checking in with a few of your potential customers can help you find your answers. Share your business or product idea with them and then listen to the words they use when they talk about it. The more you can talk about their pain points in their own words, the more meaningful the brand name will be.
- Think about the future. Even if you’re just dipping your toe in the water right now, as a business owner it’s imperative that you think long term. If you are too narrowly focused on a single product or service offering, you might struggle to evolve your brand as your business grows. Don’t stress about this too much. If you want to start your online business with a domain in your own name, go for it. There is value in that branding approach, too. Make sure you have spent some time thinking about scalability and your goals for the future before you invest too much time and money in creating your new brand.
- Thoroughly research your chosen name. Before I get too attached to a brand name, I make sure to check and make sure that there isn’t already a trademark or copyright on the name I like. The same goes for domain names, and social media channels. Even if the exact name you want is available, think strategically about the potential for any brand confusion. For example, I recently came up with a brand name for a project that I LOVED only to discover that a bogger in Australia was using the same name for a service he was offering. Even though the domain name and social channels were available, he used the phrase a lot in his blog and as a result there were a lot of search engine results for that particular brand name. I decided that it was not worth running the risk of brand confusion and chose instead to come up with a different brand name.
- What’s in a name anyway? I will spare you the brand strategy lecture and instead point out that your chosen brand name doesn’t have to already have a meaning because you are going to give it one. Think about it, Google, Xerox, Kleenex; none of these brands meant anything until some talented marketers gave it a meaning. Now we say “Google it” instead of search for it, “Xerox it” instead of make a photocopy, and we ask for a Kleenex even when we know it’s a generic brand. Do you see my point?
At the end of the day I encourage you to make sure that you love the name you choose for your brand. Just like in naming a pet or child, you’re going to be saying the name a lot, so you better love it!
Are you stuck trying to come up with your next big brand name? Let me know!
Clients often ask me how to start the personal branding process. Usually people come to me because they know they would like to change something about their brand, but they don’t know how to get started. There’s no shame in admitting you need some help. In fact, I applaud anyone with enough self-awareness to recognize there is still some work yet to be done. I’m right there with you.
If you’re also wondering where to begin, here are a few simple steps to start today.
What do you want to achieve?
Everyone always has several answers to this question. It’s great to be ambitious, but I want you to prioritize one thing that you want to achieve above everything else. I say this because it is so easy to get overwhelmed by everything that you want to accomplish and get stuck in the minutia of how you will manage everything.
Overwhelm is the enemy of productivity. Take the time to identify the one goal that is most important to you and start there. Don’t over think this step either. Give this question the consideration it deserves, but then commit to your goal and move on to achieving it.
Why do you want this goal?
There are a few important reasons to answer this question. First, there will be times when you will want to give up. The mountain will seem too high, you will feel defeated. During those lows, you need to focus on your why. If your reason for doing something isn’t meaningful enough to you, you’re not going to fight for it. If you want to be successful in achieving your dreams you have to be willing to fight.
How will you achieve this goal?
Now that you have taken the time to clarify your intentions and your motivation, you can get to work on how you will actually pull this thing off. A comprehensive strategy will get you there faster, but if you find yourself going around in circles, pick just one action you will take to get yourself started. This can be one social media channel you will focus on, one aspect of your business you need to understand better, or one sales call you need to make. Whatever you choose, commit to mastering this one thing. Once you’re feeling good about this one action, add another, and another; and eventually you’re working a full plan that once felt overwhelming.
Remember that personal branding is not a “one and done” type of deal, it is a process. Be sure to take time to enjoy your journey and reward yourself along the way.
Still have questions? Contact me for a 20-minute complimentary strategy session.
I’m afraid to define my brand, what if I want to change it?
I often hear versions of this concern from my clients. They are hesitant to define their brand because they are worried, they will be trapped by their own definitions. What if I position myself as a thought leader in one thing, only to change my mind down the road?
Regardless of whether you’re playing big or small with your brand, it’s ok if it changes. In fact, you should evolve your brand over time. Stagnation often leads to boredom, disillusionment and apathy. I advise these clients that evolving your brand is never a wrong choice if your evolution remains authentic to your core values and goals for the future.
This is the beauty of living and communicating your authentic brand. If you build a relationship with your audience based on your real values and vision for the future, they are more likely to stick with you as your passions and interests evolve over time.
Now, if you take a sharp turn from say, building a platform on the life changing effects of clean eating to singing the praises of eating fried food every day, you’re likely to surprise, and possibly anger, some of your fan base.
Does it matter if you do anger people? No.
Yes, it might create business or professional challenges. Yes, you might lose paying customers in the short term. Yes, you will have to work harder to reframe how people know you in your career. But I repeat; honest, authentic communication is never a mistake when it comes to building your brand.
Don’t let your fear of greatness hold you back from getting started. Don’t let the “what if’s?” distract you from the opportunities before you. Take the time to define what you value now, and where you want to go in the future and work that plan every day.
When the “what if’s” start to creep in, promise yourself that when the time comes to evolve your brand, you won’t hide from the challenge. When the time comes, you will build a new plan for your brand. Then quiet those nagging questions and get back to work on building the brand that excites you today.
If you buy hair care products from one of the largest beauty companies in the business, then there is a good chance that you’ve encountered the work of this inspiring lady.
In today’s interview, we talk about what it takes to be a successful female leader, why a personal brand is critical to your success, and how the beauty industry is changing. Read on for our full conversation below.
My goal with this blog is to create an online world that reflects the relationships I have with other women IRL. This blog is a place where I share some of my best professional advice with you as your brand adviser. It’s also a platform for me to share real conversations that reflect the conversations I have with my friends, family, colleagues and clients in my day to day life. No BS, just the truth about what it takes to achieve brand success, how to build and protect a meaningful brand (name) for yourself; and the challenges that come with sustaining your success over time.
Some of this advice is tactical, some of it is aspirational, and sometimes I just want to inspire you by sharing the success stories of women whom I admire.
Today’s post is the first in a series I’ve created for you. I’ve interviewed women who are kicking butt in their careers to talk about their experiences, professional challenges, and how they have achieved their version of success.
People rarely talk openly about the downside of professional success. This downside is often an uptick in social isolation. As people advance in their careers, they are often surprised to find colleagues they once thought of as friends suddenly grow more distant. Perhaps they become subordinates, or even competition. This can be especially isolating for women because there are unfortunately fewer female executives in corporations, and just as few female leaders in the science, medicine and engineering fields.
It is my hope that in sharing our professional challenges and triumphs with each other, that we can push each other to be the best versions of ourselves; and hopefully feel less alone in the process.
Today’s interview features one of my favorite people, who happens to be a very talented brand marketer and product developer, Juliana Rochelle. Keep reading to learn how she has overcome obstacles in her career, where she finds inspiration, and what personal branding means to her.
BI: Hi Juliana, thanks so much for joining me today. Will you tell our readers a little more about yourself?
JF: I am originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I currently live in Mexico City, Mexico.
BI: I know that your job takes you all around the world and you’re living in Mexico City now because of your work. Will you tell us a little more about your job?
JF: I work for a global beauty company where I´m the head of new product development for LATAM & the Mexico region.
BI: Your job is so interesting; you know I love to hear about the different products that you’re developing! What is your favorite part of the work you do?
JF: I get to study consumer behavior and translate these trends into tangible beauty products. I just love giving life to their desires.
BI: What is the most challenging thing about the work you do?
JF: The complexity that is involved in running a global brand with a transversal vision while remaining relevant in each local market. Today consumers want customization more than ever before, so it’s really hard for global brands right now.
BI: That’s such a great point. Consumers really do expect customization on a very personal level, I know that I do. And yet I still often turn to my go-to global brands like yours for the products I need most. That is a real challenge for large companies serving such diverse markets.
BI: Can you share a challenge that you have overcome that you are proud of?
JF: When we started targeting men in the beauty market. That was hard! They´re driven by completely different archetypes and a very different tone of voice. I still remember my first consumer study where they laughed at my insight and said, “a woman wrote this, right?” You can´t take it to heart, you need to understand where the tension is coming from and work from there. But the challenge of learning from zero and getting to a point where you become relevant to them, is what drives me.
BI: That’s funny, but I also can see that being very intimidating. Having to admit you don’t know your target consumer and really start from the beginning to build that knowledge is not an easy task. But it’s a valuable lesson to apply in so many aspects of our professional lives. I’ve always admired your passion and knowledge of the products you create, even before you were creating them. I have no doubt you overcame that hurdle too.
BI: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
JF: Travel and explore all the natural beauty this world offers us.
BI: Yes, my favorite pass time too, as you know! Tell me something about yourself that people would be surprised to know.
JF: I have serious stage fright. Everyone assumes I´m so good at it because I´m outgoing and very social, but it’s my biggest challenge nowadays. I panic when I have to present to a big audience.
BI: And all in English, which, if I might add is not your first language. That is not an easy task! But your passion really comes through and outshines any signs of stage fright. You’re a natural, but you’re not alone. A lot of people get nervous before presenting to a large audience.
BI: What do you think are the biggest challenges women face in your job field and/or industry?
JF: I think the lack of representation can be grueling. I struggled a lot in the beginning to understand how to find my voice and how to be perceived as a strong and capable leader without running into the cliché of aggressiveness to get my point across.
BI: That’s a tough one, women really don’t have enough role models in senior leadership. It’s a shame that we’re still figuring it out ourselves. Let’s talk about personal branding. What does personal branding mean to you?
JF: Personal branding to me is the mark I´ll leave behind. It’s what people will remember me by. Not just in the long run, but the main impressions I leave on the people that are with me on a day to day basis.
BI: How have you used it to achieve your goals personally and/or professionally?
JF: By staying true to who I am and to those around me I was able to build a very trusting environment. This, in turn, has allowed us to take risks because we know we have each other’s backs. This environment ended up propelling a lot of innovation and worked to our advantage. I truly believe that innovation only happens when you have a trusting environment, when you´re allowed to take risks without the fear of losing your job if it doesn’t pan out like you had hoped for.
BI: That’s such a great point that you just brought up. I don’t think that companies put enough focus on the value of the quality of the relationships of their employees, especially those that are working to drive innovation and profit and propel the company forward. Without open communication and authenticity, there is no trust. You’ve put it beautifully.
BI: Along those same lines, what is the worst mistake you have seen someone make with their personal brand?
JF: Pleasing someone else by trying to match their perception of a strong leader or good employee – even if it is not linked to your beliefs and natural ways.
BI: Name someone who you think has a great personal brand and why.
JF: Michelle Obama. Sorry, I know its cliché, but it’s true. She´s always been a strong woman, and even when it felt like the whole world was expecting a certain personality from her, she stayed true to who she was. That authenticity has allowed her to form a strong bond with people. Nowadays, with so much propaganda coming at us, authenticity is one of the strongest assets to your personal brand.
BI: Totally not a cliché, you’re so right. Authenticity is so important to your brand, and Michelle Obama was really a trend setter in that way amongst public personalities.
BI: What is your best professional advice for other women?
JF: Find mentors. It doesn´t have to be a person you know; it can be through books or following strong female personalities. I truly believe it’s part of our nature as women to question ourselves. So there´s true power in listening to other women (that have already established themselves) talking about the same struggles you face and sharing their stories on how they pushed through it.
BI: I couldn’t agree more! As an established, successful professional, what advice would you give your younger self?
JF: BE YOU. Be true to who you are. That’s your power. Period. And if where you are right now is not being appreciated, look elsewhere. Somewhere it’s gonna fit.
BI: What other female professionals do you admire? Why?
JF: So many! I am blessed to work with very strong and incredibly smart women who inspire me daily. But one person that really impacts me is Sara Blakely. She´s the CEO of Spanx and I love how vulnerable and transparent she is on her platforms. She often talks about what “smart” looks like and offers inspiration on achieving what you want by being exactly who you are…without the need to check the pre-established boxes laid out for us on what success looks like. Success doesn´t have to be you in a black power suit, success can be you, being goofy and funny.
BI: Great answer, I love that message.
Last question, what is your favorite fashion or beauty trend right now?
JF: Natural beauty. I love how consumers have impacted the industry by asking for what they want and inventing ways to get it when the industry didn´t react fast enough. It truly shows our power to create the reality we want in the world.
BI: What an inspiring way to end our interview. Thank you, Juliana, for sharing your experiences with our readers.
You don’t have to take a break from growing your brand just because you’re on vacation.
If you like to unplug on vacation like I do, you might not want to hear this, but…a vacation is the perfect time to work on your brand.
Taking a break from your normal routine is a great way to get your brain in creativity mode. When we remove ourselves from our everyday stressors, we often remove those mental blocks that sometimes drain us of our energy without even realizing it.
Here are a few easy things you can work on while in vacation mode.
Daydream – Hopefully you have at least a few quiet moments to yourself on vacation. Why not use them to relax and let your mind wander? When I’m on vacation, I forget about my everyday realities and suddenly anything seems possible. When I’m not worried about the practicalities of say, a long commute or family responsibilities, I find that my mind takes me to new places I wouldn’t dream of during my daily routine at home.
When you’re relaxed and your mind is free, daydreaming can help you crystallize your ambitions and help you trouble shoot new solutions. Let different scenarios float through your mind and pay attention to how you feel. Are you excited? Happy? Anxious about a possible change? Keep a phone or notebook nearby to jot down any new ideas that come to mind.
Research – You’re probably already scrolling through your Instagram feed, right? You might as well take some of that time to think about your brand. Do you love someone’s particular style? Are you always drawn to the same types of posts? Create a brand folder and save anything that catches your attention. I have a folder called “inspiration” where I save anything that interests me creatively or gets me excited to try something new.
Get yourself in the habit of thinking about your brand while you scroll and make a point to keep track of what interests you. It’s simple and over time you will have a catalog of compelling ideas to help you shape your own brand and interests.
Read – This one is obvious, but still I’ve gone on many vacations with a long queue of books on my Kindle only to come home with barely a book completed. Make a point to read those books, blogs, or magazines you’ve been meaning to get to. Reading is not just entertaining and educational; it makes new connections in our brains which allows us to create all kinds of new opportunities for ourselves.
Talk to people – Networking isn’t just for business meetings. New surroundings mean new people to get to know. Chat with the other patrons waiting for drinks at the pool bar or in that long line for ice cream after the beach. Take a few minutes to socialize and get to know the people around you. You don’ have to force it, in fact you can usually tell very quickly if someone is open to a conversation. If they are, get to know a little bit about them. Be sure to have a few talking points ready about yourself that clearly communicates your brand.
Take a brain break – Allow yourself space to think. Sometimes just taking a break from an idea you’ve been working on is enough to help you identify a solution. If you’re out enjoying the outdoors or exploring an amusement park with your family, take the time to enjoy the moment. And don’t be surprised if some new ideas appear. When they do, be sure to make yourself a note and then go back to having fun.
Vacation is about enjoying new experiences and taking a break from the ordinary. I encourage you to take a few minutes out of your day to get creative with your brand, and then set an intention to get to work on your new ideas when you are back to your daily routine. This way you can really enjoy yourself and know that you’ve made good use of your time when your mind is at its best.
I often ask other women what career advice they would give their younger selves. I love hearing about other people’s journeys of self-reflection and the wisdom that comes with experience. Of course, I’ve also spent a lot of time reflecting on my own journey, professional and personal, and I’m never shy about sharing my own thoughts with others.
But recently I’ve come around to a new sound bite that just hadn’t occurred to me before.
Stop taking everything in business so seriously.
Work hard? Yes. Educate yourself? Yes. Find your genius zone and stay on top of your game? Heck yes. But if I could give my younger self only one piece of advice it would be this – chill out a little.
Conducting business is important. Building your career and perfecting your craft is important. Earning an income to fit your lifestyle is essential; but none of that means that you need to take your career so seriously all the time.
How many people are actually having fun when they go to work every day? I don’t mean the fun that comes from a happy hour after work or a structured team building day. I mean that spontaneous type of exhilaration that comes from doing work that you love, despite its challenges. Not many people.
Younger self, my best advice to you is this:
Be serious about your commitment to your growth and your craft, be serious about your commitment to the businesses and people you serve; but cut yourself some slack. It’s ok to be unsure about what you want to do from time to time. In fact, I applaud you for being honest enough with yourself to recognize when something you wanted at one time in your life is no longer serving your interests and needs. It’s ok to “fall down,” because you will always get back up and when you do, you will be an even better version of yourself than before.
Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Every time.
Never hide the parts of yourself that are unique. A flower shrouded in darkness only withers, it does not bloom.
You will be told to stay quiet. You will be told not to challenge the norm. You will be expected to be a templated version of someone else, because to be anything else will be seen as a threat to those who went before you. You are right to fight against those expectations that do not feel true to who you are.
But none of that even matters. Because my single piece of advice to you is now this – relax a little. You can build a serious career without taking everything quite so seriously.
I think this is important advice because the greatest gift you can give yourself in your career is to take more risks, accept more challenges and ignore any self-doubt. You need to allow yourself the confidence and freedom to explore every opportunity in your professional growth. It is difficult to do this when the stakes feel too high.
So – enjoy the process and lighten up – just a little.
Looking for some new inspiration? These ladies always keep me coming back for more.
In honor of Woman Crush Wednesday, I am sharing some of my favorite resources for ambitious women; created by women whom I think are pretty inspiring themselves. No matter how busy my week is, I always make time to check in with these ladies. If you’re looking for new ways to stay informed, motivated and inspired, keep reading for my top picks.
You already know about the gender pay gap. You’ve probably already heard the news that working women still do 2/3 more unpaid domestic work than their male counterparts. But what do we do about it? Financial literacy is key to building self-confidence, and empowering women at home and in their careers. Ellevest doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but the digital magazine includes informative, action-oriented advice from the company’s CEO Sallie Krawcheck that will have you thinking more critically about how to manage your money with confidence.
If you’re not already following Boss Babe on Instagram you need to, stat. I’m a sucker for those inspiring quotes you want to send to all your girlfriends, and Boss Babe never disappoints. Behind the crush-worthy Instagram feed is a team of smart women who are building an impressive business by providing like-minded ambitious women with useful business advice and lifestyle tips you actually want to read about.
While Sara’s podcast targets moms, you don’t have to be a parent to be inspired by the meaningful conversations she shares with her listeners. There is no topic she leaves uncovered, and I love her for what she shares with her listeners. Her podcast is a must-listen for anyone wanting to push themselves out of their comfort zone.
Tone It Up is a fitness company with an inspiring community of women focused on body positivity and living their best lives. Tone It Up’s co-founders, Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn, are pioneers in body positivity and women supporting women in the fitness industry. I used to dread workouts that used negative self-talk and fat shaming to sell you products, but there weren’t many other options. Not with these ladies. I love their message of empowerment and self-acceptance, and their workouts are simply the best.
Lauren has created the perfect mix of lifestyle, fashion and beauty advice that never feels overwhelming. Her posts always leave me feeling inspired to try something new without feeling like I have to spend a fortune. I also love that she is a working mom who doesn’t pretend to have it all figured out. Her site offers easy tips for staying on trend with minimal effort. Always a win in my book!
I love hearing about new trends. Who do you love to follow?
Low self-confidence and limiting beliefs are barriers to achieving your goals. But they can be overcome.
Even when we are aware that we are holding ourselves back because we lack confidence, it can be difficult to transform our thinking in a meaningful way. Low self-confidence is a real barrier for many women when pursuing their goals.
If you suffer from self-doubt, you are not alone. Everyone struggles with insecurity from time to time. But if you are feeling like low self-confidence is holding you back from reaching for more, then it is time to make a change. You deserve to achieve everything that you aspire to, and it is possible.
There are many useful strategies you can practice to shift your thinking. Today I am sharing one of my favorites with you. This is to create a persona (“alter-ego”) for yourself, that embodies the person you want to become. For many people, this is the person you know you are on the inside, but you’re struggling to share with the world for fear of how you will be received.
The idea behind this approach is that by creating a persona that embodies the characteristics of the person you want to be, you are giving yourself some mental distance between your private insecurities, doubts and fears, and your aspirations. By taking your insecurities out of the equation and thinking about yourself as a character you want to play, you can transform the way you think, create, and behave. While this persona still needs to be authentic to you, it can help create the distance you need to forget your insecurities and focus on your strengths; on who you know you can be.
Performers often use this strategy to overcome stage fright or the overwhelm of fame. My favorite example of this strategy being used effectively is Beyoncé. In November 2008, Beyoncé appeared on The Oprah Show where she talked about her alter-ego, Sasha Fierce.
“Beyoncé says she crafted her stage persona to help her overcome challenges and give the best performances she can. ‘It’s kind of like doing a movie. When you put on the wig and put on the clothes, you walk different,’ she says. ‘It’s no different from anyone else. I feel like we all kind of have that thing that takes over.’
Sasha Fierce usually appears right before Beyoncé is about to take the stage. ‘Usually when I hear the chords, when I put on my stilettos. Like the moment right before when you’re nervous,’ she says. ‘Then Sasha Fierce appears, and my posture and the way I speak and everything is different.’
Your mind is your most powerful tool in creating the life that you want. You only have to get out of your own way to achieve your deepest desires. Beyoncé’s experience with Sasha Fierce is great proof of this. Over the years, as the pop star’s list of accomplishments and accolades grew, she presumably grew more comfortable with herself, and said goodbye to Sasha Fierce.
In 2010 she said:
“The thing that’s interesting is I don’t need Sasha Fierce anymore, because I’ve grown, and I’m now able to merge the two. I want people to see me. I want people to see who I am.”
When you are consumed by doubt, worry and insecurity it can be difficult to take the bold steps necessary to achieve your goals. Because when you are too critical of yourself, you limit yourself from thinking and doing the big things that create real change in your life. Don’t let your self-doubt become your prison.
The first step on this new journey is to allow yourself to dream big. Don’t be afraid to create the person you know you are meant to become. Then take that big leap (or channel Beyoncé and step into that stiletto) and live your vision for your future self, even if you need to create your own Sasha Fierce to get started. When you live your vision long enough, it will become your reality. Once you have consistently pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone, you too will feel ready to retire your self-doubt and say goodbye to your “Sasha Fierce,” your insecurities, and your doubt.
When I talk with people about their personal brands, I often hear the same things come up over and over. Most professionals have enough self-awareness to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. I also hear a lot of people saying that they would like to work on their personal brands, but they’re not sure where to begin.
If this sounds familiar, keep reading to learn a few of my proven steps to get you focused on building your brand with purpose.
Know who you are. The key here is to take the time to reflect on your past experiences and where you are now in your life. What were the defining moments that shaped who you are today? What do you want to carry with you into the future and what is best left in your past?
Part of understanding yourself is accepting that we all have flaws and limitations. Some of these limitations, such as a fear of public speaking, you can work through. But sometimes the best path forward is to accept what you cannot change and let go of the expectations that do not serve you in creating your best self.
Clearly define your brand goals. Set realistic goals for yourself and create a step by step plan to help you achieve them. One of the most important parts of setting realistic goals, is to take the time to consider any potential hurdles you might encounter. You can then make sure you have the right tools and support at your disposal to help you on your journey.
Understand how other people perceive you. This is a tough step for many people. One of the greatest threats to your success is to assume that people see you the way you want to be seen. This is not always the case. Be sure to take the time to really understand how people perceive you in various situations. I know this can be an intimidating endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. Remind yourself that this is a valuable step in your personal journey of self-discovery that will help you achieve your goals.
It is helpful to enlist trusted friends, colleagues and family members in this process. I find it useful to write a script, this way you can be confident that you are clearly communicating your values and goals for getting the feedback you need to grow. When you are asking for help, be sure to clearly define how you would like feedback and what you plan to do with it. If you’re not comfortable having these conversations directly, you can use email or a free online survey tool like Survey Monkey to collect this feedback anonymously.
Examine your behavior. Does your behavior clearly demonstrate who you are to the world? When people engage with you, do they walk away from those encounters with an understanding of who you are? Your values? What they can expect from you?
As you go through your week, keep these questions in the back of your mind. Check in with yourself periodically and evaluate whether you are demonstrating your brand values through your behavior. Are you late to every meeting? Do you spend more time staring at your phone during conversations than looking at the person you’re speaking with? When you take the time to go through your week more conscientiously you might be surprised by some of your patterns of behavior. Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, get to work immediately on strategies to resolve these discrepancies between your real behavior and your intended brand.
Communicate your brand. Don’t be shy in communicating who you are with the world. When we talk about brand communication most people think about their verbal and written communication skills. These skills are important, but don’t forget there are many other ways to communicate your brand. These include body language, your physical image (such as your style and personal grooming choices), and your listening skills. Take the time to work through each of these areas of your brand. In what ways do you think you communicate well? Where do you think your brand communication needs some improvement?
Don’t forget that our digital world is still real life. I know it sounds obvious, but I am still surprised by the number of professionals who manage their personal brands well in person only to stray from their brands online. A good example of this is how you use your social media accounts. I don’t care what your social media privacy settings are, if it’s online, it’s not private. Don’t fall into the trap of believing otherwise.
Make sure that the words you use and the images you share online (and that includes what you like and comment on) are really aligned with your values and the goals you outlined above. Nothing has the power to derail your reputation faster than an off the cuff comment online. Don’t let your future self be the victim of your carelessness today.
Show up consistently. If you want people to really know who you are then you better show up consistently. When you behave inconsistently you erode the trust you’ve built with others. We all know someone who we dread having to work with because we don’t know how they are going to behave from day to day. Make sure that person is not you. Stay clear on your personal values and then make sure that you are living them every single day.
Love yourself, love your brand. I realize this might sound trite but self-acceptance, and self-love matter. This looks different for all of us, but the principle remains the same. Before we can share our authentic selves with others, we must be comfortable with ourselves. We all have weaknesses. We all suffer from self-doubt now and then. And we all fail at some point in life. These things make us human.
Creating a personal brand is not about creating a false image of perfection. Why? Because there is no such thing as perfection. Creating a personal brand is a journey of self-discovery. It is a process in which you reflect on who you are, what matters to you, and what you want to achieve in life. And then it is about going out into the world and letting people know – unabashedly – who you are and where you are going.
There are many ways to talk about the same business challenge we all face in today’s connected world. This collective challenge is how to maintain control of your organization’s brand and your marketing message when you are relying on a countless number of stakeholders to deliver the message for you.
Organizations are often siloed, frequently with conflicting priorities. Oftentimes, a brand or marketing team owns the central marketing message, while a corporate communications team owns the message to employees, sales teams own the message to customers, and human resources owns the message to prospective talent. Does this sound familiar?
When companies are structured in this way, it often makes it challenging to instill ownership and a sense of responsibility for the brand across so many groups.
Here is a situation that I have seen many times.
A new product is launching within a company. The brand or product management team is responsible for the launch, which includes educating internal and external audiences about the new product. Because the product team doesn’t own the various channels they need to use to communicate their message, they collaborate with the key groups that own those channels. Typically, this is a mix of sales teams, corporate communications teams, HR groups, distributors, and public relations teams. These groups typically put together a launch plan and get to work on distributing the workload across the various teams, usually with the bulk of the burden being carried by the product team.
The big day arrives, and the launch plan is executed smoothly – employees are rallied, the media is engaged, sales teams receive new messaging, everyone gets some new branded swag – and launch day is soon just another checked box on everyone’s to do list.
If you have experienced this situation, as I have, you might be thinking…what’s wrong with that?
What I have learned through my experience is that there is a gap between these traditional programs and employee’s own individual interests. Why is this important? Because every one of your employees has a personal brand – and their individual brands matter to your business success.
Not only that, your employee’s understanding of your corporate brand, your mission, the products or services you offer, and your organizational culture all matter to your business success. This becomes an issue when you are trusting that your launch program was effective and that all your employees now fully understand the product message, what is expected of them, and how to execute on your organizational goals.
What is missing from these programs is a focused effort to educate and empower employees at an individual level. Every one of your employees has the power to build your brand or destroy it. This is because how your employees manage their own brands – their communication and people skills, their image, their social media profiles – matters to your business.
For organizations that spend millions of dollars a year on marketing and advertising, employees are a brand asset, as well as a reputational risk, that should not be overlooked. This is because your employees must understand your marketing message; accept your culture; care about your mission; feel prepared to deliver your message; and, feel incentivized to deliver on your brand promise to customers. And they need to feel motivated to do all of this for you while also doing the difficult work of identifying their own professional goals, remaining focused on their individual performance, and ensuring that they are investing their time and energy at an organization that is best aligned with their needs and lifestyle.
When I talk about empowering employees at the individual level, I am talking about not only educating employees on your organizational brand, mission, and values; but taking the time to help employees understand the power of their personal brands. When you help employees identify their own mission, vision and values, and coach them through the process of aligning their values and goals with your organization’s, you help them connect the dots between organizational value and their own. This helps them understand how they can contribute value at the individual level in a way that is meaningful to them.
It’s common these days to see organizations trying to answer the big question for employees – “what’s in it for me?” Why not take some time to help your employees understand the value they offer and why that matters to your organization’s success?
If you have responsibility for financial performance or other business metrics at your organization, I hope you’re thinking about this issue. Personal branding is a valuable professional development tool for individuals at all levels of their careers. But it is also a valuable brand management tool that can help organizations engage their employees, empower their sales teams, educate the marketplace and mitigate risk.
Personal branding is not just a concern for your employees. Making sure that your employees effectively manage their brands is just good business practice. When you think about your business in this way, you must take the time to ensure that every one of your employees understands your vision, your mission, and your brand values.
If you’re interested in managing your brand with the help of your employees, here are a few steps to get you started:
- Evaluate the current situation within your organization and identify any potential gaps that should be addressed.
- Take the time to engage the different groups who have ownership of the brand to discuss the value of personal branding at the employee level.
- Create a personal branding marketing strategy for employees. Identify opportunities to coach them on developing their own personal brands. Create educational elements to ensure that they understand and have embraced your brand at the organizational and product levels.
- Provide training programs that allow front line employees to practice your marketing message, as well as their own. Be sure to offer useful feedback to help them improve their delivery.
- Create metrics to help you demonstrate the value of these programs to your various constituents.
- Track your organization’s progress. Survey clients and prospects where possible. Build evaluation criteria into your employee assessments that motivate employees to effectively represent your brand.
- Be sure to properly incentivize and reward your employees.
- Share what you learn with others. Help more people understand how to effectively create personal branding strategies for their employees in their own organizations.