Branding: Don't Give Your Self Away. • New Tricks
 In Branding

Fast Company 1997 cover on the Brand of You.

Work hard for others, but don’t forget about the Brand of You!

A few months ago, I read an article in Forbes about Millennial Women working so hard that they were burning out in their jobs by age thirty. I immediately sent it off to my daughter, a 25 year old, self-described, “go-getter”,  doing PR and marketing for two restaurants in Washington DC.

I have watched my daughter and her friends jump into their jobs and give it their all, plus some. They are excited and totally consumed,  working long hours with single minded devotion.  I have watched the promises made by their companies not come through as the wheels of bureaucracy are slow or company priorities change. They work at full throttle and then every so often when the pace drops off for a bit, or  I have seen the crash that comes after the high.

Just last week my daughter’s boss presented her with a contract to work twenty hours a week each on two restaurants and also be floor manager for two shifts per week which added up to about 80 hours.  At least in this case she did point out to her employer that that was impossible.

They are given more and more responsibility and run with it which sets expectations for the next time since they have not practiced saying in nice terms, “Hell no, I can’t do that!” These young women can do it in the short term. But then the short term turns into the long term and the precedent is hard to change.

At that point they feel stuck. Their total absorption with their job has not left much time for a social life or networking. They have been working for their company, building it’s brand but have not focused on themselves. This is a huge mistake.

My advice to a young woman in this situation would be to slow down a bit as your career is a marathon, not a sprint; set reasonable limits with your employer, they will keep taking if you are offering;  and most importantly, don’t give your “self” away. Make an investment in yourself and spend some time each week building and buffing your own brand.

Building Your Personal Brand

Personal Branding is the process of determining what are your most important core attributes and communicating them with consistency. Whether you realize it or not, you are always communicating things about yourself. How you dress, your handshake, your sense of humor, your work ethic, your subject matter knowledge, your past history, your birth order, the car you drive, your ethics all together make up your unique brand and set you apart from the next person. With the options we have today it is possible and relatively easy to define yourself and make sure that this image of you is what people see across every possible medium.

While it may feels as if you don’t have one spare minute in your week, to invest in your future, you should:

  • Start and keep up a social media presence. Have your own Linkedin and Twitter account that you keep up to date and are active on. Don’t worry that your employer will think you are looking for another job. If they see you building an online presence they may well worry that they might lose you, but let them worry.
  • Start a blog about something you are passionate about. This is where you differentiate yourself from others. This is where your brand really shows up. Someone coming to your site should get an instant impression of who you are and if they are intrigued they will stick around and read what you are writing. This is where you can write about things that show your work and work ethic. Back in the day people used websites to tell people what they did. Now you have the tools to show people who you are and what you can do by writing about them. Tell stories, share relevant information.
  • Develop your List (Your list is the new Rolodex). By doing the above things you can develop a following of people who want to hear what you have to say. Put an e-mail opt in form on your site. Collect names and e-mails and send something out from time to time. Your list is precious. It is job insurance. It makes you valuable because your list can come to the rescue should you ever need it to.
  • Dominate a Google search. When someone searches for your name, you want to be the one that comes up on every entry on that page of search results. Your blog posts, your Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter accounts, your YouTube videos,  your slideshows on Slideshare, your awards, your photographs and images.  Get yourself out there.

Be Consistent

Do the things above and do them consistently. You will be more valuable to your employer. The contacts you make will cross over and help you in your current job and then heaven forbid you find yourself out of a job, you do not have to start from scratch. You will have built up a strong network that will see you through and parlay you to the next great position.

Overcoming Your Fear of Being “That Person”

There is a fear that building a personal brand is too narcissistic. You don’t want to be that me, me, me person. You know the one I’m talking about. But I am here to tell you that most of you don’t need to worry about this. You could go way out on that limb before you would ever be that person. The key is to be truly helpful on-line. Eighty percent of the content you put out there should benefit others in some way. Do you have a skill that you can share? Do you have opinions that people would find helpful. Do people ask you questions in your job? Do you have a knack for finding relevant articles and sharing them? This is the fodder for blog posts. Whether it is on your blog or on Twitter, be the person that shares valuable information and connects with others and connects people to each other. The other twenty percent of the time,  you can share your own posts. If you follow that rule of thumb you will be sought after, not avoided. When you are interested in others, people find you very interesting!

Take Care of Your Self

When you are taking care of your self you are not being selfish. Not doing so is being self less and that is not any way to be whether in a relationship or a job. When you feel the support of a network and see that you are valued outside of your primary employment or relationship it is easier to value yourself and not feel desperate and needy. When you do this you realize you have options and choices and will feel empowered by them.

Do It Now

Don’t wait until you “need” to do it becasue you have lost your job. Do it while you feel good about yourself. if you need some help doing this,  get it. Read some blogs, find someone else that you admire how they show up online and use them for a model. But don’t put it off.  If you get in the habit of documenting your projects and successes and opinions and how you overcame challenges this will continue to help you know and define yourself and get feedback and reinforcement for who you are and what you can do. That makes for a valuable employee and will lead you to the next right step.

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  • @lisarobbinyoung

    Hey Judi!

    You are SO spot on about this. When I'm working with clients, especially millennials, the thing I have to remind them is that the days of company loyalty, sadly, are long gone. There are some exceptions to this rule, of course, but in general, you can give and give to a company, and they'll be glad to take everything you give and more. If you're not setting down healthy boundaries, you'll run yourself ragged.

    I like to remind people that you train others how to treat you based on what you're willing to tolerate from them. This holds true in family relationships as well as in business. Women put up with a lot more "stuff" I think in part because they want to be liked. That's important to them. Instead, we need to be a bit more honest with ourselves about our real contributions to the world, and not be afraid to celebrate them. Tools like a blog/website or social media presence give us a platform to let our own unique voice be heard – regardless of our place of employment. That voice is incredibly necessary and valuable in today's world.

  • Judi

    Hi Lisa, Thanks for checking in. I know you know how important this is and you have done an amazing job of branding yourself. Thanks for being a role model.
    My recent post Branding: Don’t Give Your Self Away.

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