Think about the last time you were looking for a person to join your project. Who were the people you thought about calling first? Were they the ones you already worked with before and knew would make a great team? Or perhaps it was someone who came recommended by those you trust? In any case, it was likely someone with a reputation of being competent and reliable.
In many cases, I find, reputation is closely connected to a personal brand you cultivate, both offline and online. Just a few weeks ago, when I found myself in a similar situation, I reached out to someone whose work I have been following on social media–not to someone I’ve met in person.
That is why personal branding, especially online, is one of the key elements of growing our professional careers. However, there are some inherent challenges to women and their professional paths.
We hesitate (and fail) to take ownership of our successes
As I grew up, and especially when I started working, I realized how fortunate I was to be raised by a mother who encouraged me to be my unique self, to be stubborn if needed and go after what I want. I can imagine how difficult it was for her, as a parent, to deal with a headstrong child, but it served me well in life and at work. Perhaps that is why I struggle when I see some of my female colleagues downplay their achievements, or at times, even fail to recognize them at all.
You need to be your own loudest cheerleader. You deserve to have your contribution recognized, but you have to do it yourself first.
Do this by celebrating work done well–by yourself and with others. Next time you go on a work trip and do a great job representing your company, make sure to communicate it with your peers offline and online. If you have a professional opinion on current happenings in your industry, make sure to share it. And, if you are raising kids, finishing school, and growing a career that’s a success, these things should be on your résumé among your greatest achievements.
We hesitate to talk about our passions and hobbies
Often, when I am at a conference and talking about personal branding, women come with the uncertainty of how much to share online. They want to know whether it is acceptable to share the things they are personally passionate about or will make them appear unprofessional. I never have men ask me that.
An important factor in the hiring process is figuring out whether a potential job candidate shares the same values as your company and is likely to fit into your culture. As I often interview potential hires, I look at the cultural fit even more than skills. You can teach skills. You can’t teach values and beliefs.
So, next time you are doubting whether to put your love for bouldering, tango, or chocolate cake on your website, just do it. Your potential employers or clients will appreciate getting to know the person behind the résumé.
We don’t have an elevator pitch ready
We all need help with this one, not just women.
In all likelihood, you’ve heard about the elevator pitch. It’s a two-minute (maximum) description of your startup, product or–in this case–you. Crafting a good elevator pitch is not that difficult, but it requires you to take a good look at yourself and ask: What do I have to offer? What is that unique thing I can do to solve their problem?
It’s important not to try to say too much or lose focus. Be as concise as possible. Practice with your friends until you manage to get your pitch under the two-minute mark. Then, next time someone at happy hour asks you what you are working on, you will skip generic phrases and deliver a prepared statement that will faithfully reflect you.
Not liking the response? Luckily, you can change it with a bit of work on yourself. Now you at least know where to direct your focus.
We fail to update our résumés or personal websites
Updating your personal website or résumé may seem unnecessary, especially if you have been working at the same company for a while. But you never know when an opportunity that requires you to send your updated biography might come up. You certainly don’t want to be doing this at the last minute. The more you rush, the greater the likelihood you’ll forget to include something important.
Your personal website can also be a great reason to check in with yourself once a year. Take a look back and note the things you completed and those you left unfinished, things that filled you with energy and enthusiasm and those you’d rather skip in the future, things you’re proud of, and things you aren’t. When it comes to so-called failures, as long as you have learned something from them, they, too, can be an important item on your résumé. The only problem is when you have nothing to add.
Working on your personal brand is precisely that–work. But it pays off with interest. There are bound to be hits and misses along the way, but as you’ve seen so far, the biggest misses come down to self-sabotage in the form of doing nothing at all. So, take a chance. The only risk is appearing human and relatable, and that is never a bad thing.
Natasa Djukanovic is the CMO of Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain “.ME.” She’s spent her entire career at the intersection of social media, leadership, and technology, and is constantly trying to figure out the secret to being in three different places at the same time.