Do you ever find yourself holding back when it comes to speaking up about your accomplishments? Does the mere thought of self-promotion make you feel a hint of nausea creeping in? Rest assured, you’re not alone. Many of us shy away from opening up about our abilities due to the fear of appearing phoney or overly self-centred. We’d rather remain silent, hoping that others will recognise our value on their own.
But here’s the thing – in today’s noisy world, staying silent won’t get you very far. If you’re truly determined to succeed in your professional journey, it’s time to break free from that silence and embrace effective and authentic self-advocacy.
Navigating personal branding and finding your identity
When you’re still figuring out personal branding and trying to establish your own brand, it can feel like you’re losing touch with your true self. After all, brands are often seen as these manufactured, polished entities created solely to control how people perceive us. It’s no surprise that many of us are like, “Nah, not my cup of tea,” when it comes to personal branding.
Reframing personal branding
What if we looked at personal branding from a different angle? Instead of thinking of it as creating a phoney persona, you can see it as a chance to express yourself and genuinely showcase your values and skills in a way that adds value to the lives of others. It’s not about faking it or pretending to be someone we’re not. It’s simply about leveraging your unique qualities to stand out in a competitive job market and bring something special to the table.
Healthy advocacy versus bragging
If you still find the idea of promoting yourself a bit uncomfortable, don’t worry. It’s completely understandable. But let’s take a moment to distinguish between healthy self-promotion and plain old bragging. The key lies in the mindset and intention behind it.
When you engage in healthy self-promotion, your focus is on serving others. You genuinely believe that what you have to offer is valuable to them in some way. It’s about showcasing your skills, expertise, or products with the aim of benefiting others. You’re basically saying, “Hey, I have something that can make a difference in your life.”
On the other hand, bragging is all about feeding your ego. It’s about seeking validation from others and boosting your own image. It’s less about adding value and more about showing off. And let’s face it, people can sense when it’s all about someone’s ego rather than genuinely helping them.
That’s why healthy self-promotion draws people in, while bragging turns them off. It’s about putting the needs of others first and offering something that genuinely benefits them.
How can you showcase authenticity while building your personal brand?
As noted by Suzanne Muchin, an award-winning lecturer at Kellogg School of Management and co-host of the inspiring podcast, The Big Payoff, many people have this lingering worry that self-promotion means being inauthentic. But guess what? That couldn’t be further from the truth! Muchin believes that true authenticity is the secret sauce for successful self-promotion.
According to Muchin, one powerful way to showcase authenticity is through the stories we choose to share with others. These stories have the incredible ability to communicate our values, beliefs, strengths, and aspirations — the very essence of who we are.
You might wonder, “Why do I need to promote myself? Isn’t it enough to let my work do the talking?” While quality work is undeniably important, it can get lost in the noise if you don’t actively share your story. Self-advocacy is not about being loud or seeking attention; it’s simply about telling your story authentically. It’s about sharing your journey, all the challenges you’ve overcome, the meaningful work you’re doing, and the vision you have for your future.
So, whether you’re an entrepreneur with big dreams, a job candidate ready to make an impact, or an advocate for a ground-breaking idea, mastering the art of storytelling is an essential skill to set yourself apart. It’s through compelling storytelling that you can captivate your audience, leaving a lasting impression that truly reflects your authentic self.
From stereotypes to substance: moving beyond generic attributes and showcasing your life experiences
Muchin brings up an important observation – many of us fall into the trap of relying on generic lists of attributes when trying to promote ourselves. It’s like we’re all following the same old script: “driven”, “flexible”, “creative”, “organised”, “good leader” – the same worn-out nouns and adjectives that everyone throws around.
These overused terms fail to truly capture our essence and uniqueness. That’s where the power of storytelling comes in. It’s not enough to simply claim you possess certain qualities; instead, it’s about vividly describing the life experiences that have shaped and demonstrated those strengths.
However, cultivating a strong personal brand goes beyond showcasing professional strengths alone. Muchin suggests asking yourself a couple of pivotal questions, including the following: “What is my unique value proposition to the person sitting across from me? What promise do I make when I step into the room?” And perhaps the most poignant question of all, “What do I want to be remembered for?”
These thought-provoking questions dive deep into what makes you truly unique and can help you uncover the stories that truly define and differentiate you.
Embracing self-advocacy means embracing discomfort
It’s not just about being sociable and putting yourself out there; it’s about having the courage to dive into your own history and getting to the aspects that make you truly unique. It’s a journey of self-discovery, peeling back the layers to reveal your authentic self and embracing what sets you apart from others. It may feel uncomfortable at times, but it’s in those moments of vulnerability that you uncover your greatest strengths and learn to confidently share your story with the world.
Now, keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you have to spill your deepest secrets. You just need to choose the parts of yourself that resonate with others on a professional level. Honesty may require a bit of vulnerability, but you don’t want to overshare and make people uncomfortable.
It’s all about finding that sweet spot where you can connect genuinely without crossing personal boundaries.
The bottom line – your voice matters
In a world filled with endless noise, silence isn’t the answer. Your voice, your story, and your unique journey deserve to be heard. By engaging in healthy and authentic self-promotion, centred on serving others and adding value, you build trust and establish meaningful connections that will undoubtedly propel you forward in your career.