Hi, my name is Claire, and I’m an introvert. Despite being passionate about marketing and loving the challenge of telling other people’s stories, I struggle with the fundamentals of marketing myself.
Here are two related facts:
- Introverts don’t like being the center of attention, promoting themselves or standing out in a crowd.
- The career research is in: Personal branding is valuable. If you’re interested in becoming a leader in your field or landing your dream job, you need to set up and maintain a digital presence that tells people who you are and why you’re special.
For an introvert, these two truths can cause a lot of anxiety. How can I have a brand if I hate drawing attention to myself?
True, it’s rarely simple enough to declare that extroverts are self-promoting machines and introverts are digital wallflowers. But veering away from the spotlight can pose some challenges when you want to be seen as a thought leader or find work.
When I first started freelancing, the thought of asking total strangers to read my work or tagging a brand in a tweet for exposure felt very "not me." As a result, early interviews for gigs became exercises in frustration. Most of the time, I was undone by a quick Google search that turned up my bare-bones LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account with years-old tweets about what I ate for breakfast. I had no way of conveying to anyone what great content and marketing work I could do for them.
And that was a hard lesson for me to learn: I couldn’t opt out of marketing myself, just because it wasn’t something I enjoyed or had a tendency toward. You have a personal brand whether you realize it or not and whether you work on it or not (not having an online presence is a form of personal branding too—and not in a good way).
The snapshot of you that people glean from your online presence is your brand. People will make assumptions based on your Internet search results and any snippets of your social accounts they can see.
But this truth is also empowering. It meant it was up to me to build out a digital presence, and I decided to do it the introvert’s way. Here’s how:
Don’t rush in all at once. First, figure out what kind of presence and what profiles are important for you. Ask yourself:
Where will potential employers look? If your dream job description includes working with the company’s Twitter handle, you better make sure your own Twitter account reflects a competent user.
How much can I do time-wise? Be honest with yourself about the level of commitment you can give and plan accordingly. Not interested in updating or posting daily (or more)? Focus on making sure your website or LinkedIn displays accurate information and dealing with alerts once a week instead.
How much can I do emotionally? It’s not easy to suddenly start being more active online. It’s not easy to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. There’s no shame in understanding your own limits.
Marketers create personas to help focus their efforts on their prototypical customer. I created a professional persona to help distance the anxious introvert in me from the act of putting myself out there. "Professional Claire" is a little more confident than "Real Claire" (and she has fewer hang-ups). She embraces the necessity of networking online and showing her work.
It sounds odd, but it’s a tried and true behavioral therapy trick, and having that layer of disassociation can really help you stop feeling as self-conscious about setting up your personal marketing effort.
Practice makes perfect. Repetition tones your self-marketing muscle and dulls the sharp, anxious edges of not blending in.
If you’re starting slow and easing yourself into this whole personal branding thing, create a gradually escalating plan. Starting with just one or two profiles can help you prevent burnout.
For instance, I started out focusing on just putting information on my LinkedIn. Then I added the same information to a personal website. Then I slowly added in Twitter, first by following a lot of relevant people in my industry and just consuming content. Later, I started to tweet and engage more. None of this has to happen overnight.
The world can sometimes feel tailor-made for assertive extroverts and those who identify as a "people person." Looking at influencers and leaders with prolific content output, constant guest speaking gigs, podcasts, books with their faces on them, insanely active social accounts, and a highly defined personal brand can be intimidating—even off-putting—for people with an aversion to self-promotion.
I still don’t like working on my brand, but it’s more fun now than it was a year or six months ago. It’s even easier than it was yesterday, because every day I learn to more comfortably embody both Professional Claire and Real Claire. So take it from me, it’s absolutely possible to be introverted and establish an impressive online presence that’ll help you snag an awesome gig. You just have to put in the work in a way that works for you.