The Multicultural Center of the university that I work for puts on an annual “Women of Color Institute” in the spring for minority students and community members. I absolutely love this idea and was honored when I was asked to attend and present on personal branding.
This particular topic is one of my favorites because I love the fact that social media allows us to be our own publicists or PR reps, by giving us the resources and outlets to control our public image. Surprisingly enough, I’d never really considered of the importance or uniqueness of personal branding for women of color. Once I sat and gave it some thought, I instantly realized that if anyone should develop solid personal branding strategies, it’s definitely black and brown women! I created this presentation based on information that I wished someone had given to me earlier on, things that I do everyday to ensure a successful future for myself, and things that other professionals don’t always have the leeway to say to students of color. It was ugly; it was honest; it was funny; and based on the number of hugs and pictures that I got after I was done, I’m going to guess that it was pretty encouraging, too! Below are some of the major points I covered in my presentation:
- Personal branding is not acting or pretending; it’s being a better version of yourself, so that others aren’t skeptical of your inconsistency. If there’s a big difference between who you are on Monday morning and who you are on Friday night, no one will trust you. Find a happy medium.
- Promoting your skills isn’t just about you; it’s about how you make others feel and how your work impacts them. Don’t think of your personal branding as being vain, think of it as sharing your natural gifts to the world!
- Branding isn’t bragging; it’s reestablishing your credibility and reputation. If you don’t toot your own horn, everyone else will drive right past you.
- You are more than your degree or job title, and so is your brand. Avoid giving people the laundry list of accomplishments and talk more about who you are and what makes you special.
- You’re being watched. With every resume you submit, employers are Googling you to find out more. Be in control of what information they find by being strategic about the information you share on the web. Google yourself, see what they’re seeing, then do something about it.
- Developing an elevator pitch isn’t about rehearsing and reciting a personal commercial. It’s about being prepared to make a good first impression in an unexpected networking situation. If you bumped into the CEO of your dream company, what would you say to make a lasting impression?
- Don’t feel comfortable broadcasting in your brand? It’s probably because you don’t feel confident in what you know. Attend networking events, conferences, enroll in a MOOC, meet new people or make new friends. You are sure to learn something that will help you make your case on why you’re awesome. Lack of confidence often reflects a lack of preparation.
The concept of personal branding makes many people uncomfortable. No one wants to be the arrogant person that talks about themselves. But for women, and especially women of color, the risk of not talking about ourselves is much higher. Many women get labeled as bitchy, angry, irrational, confrontational, bossy, and much worse. If we don’t tell our own stories and redefine our image, we potentially give others permission to label us as less than we are.
A quick test for where you stand in your personal branding is to take a look at the “bio” sections of your social networks (Twitter, Instagram, etc.). These brief statements are found right below a very personal part of our image: our picture. What are you saying about yourself? What words or phrases are you associating with your own picture? Even these personal accounts can make or break our professional image.