Note to Self: It’s not #Bragging. It’s “#PersonalBranding.”

Standing out in a digital world means showcasing your strengths to get noticed. Here’s how to shout “Look at me!” while keeping it classy.

World Land Speed racer Craig Breedlove and I standing next to the Spirit of America.

As a young, female, public relations professional working in the male-dominated industry of motor sports back in the mid-90s, I found myself — as many women did at that time — walking a tight rope of acceptance. I was aware that men would perceive me differently and discovered that some of them had no interest in dealing with a young woman professionally whatsoever, although personal interactions were often welcomed.

Determined to succeed on my merits, I adapted certain techniques to ensure I was always perceived as being professional. I cut my long hair to a respectable shoulder length; I dressed appropriately at all times; made certain that my communications with men could not be misconstrued; and referred to the older men who were flirting with me as “sir,” as that tended to put distance between us.

I took pride in the manner in which I conducted myself, while acknowledging the inherent unfairness that no man would face the same burden. What that time taught me was that making myself less visible was the key to my professional success.

Now that I’ve re-entered the PR world 20 years later, all that has changed, and quite frankly, the new landscape is challenging for someone perplexed by the “selfie culture” and who is inherently uncomfortable putting herself front and center.

As a student of social media, I’ve learned the importance of “personal branding,” yet now find myself in another balancing act: becoming more visible while not appearing self-centered.

According to 36Creative personal branding is a form of marketing that an individual uses to create a uniform public image that demonstrates his or her values and overall reputation. The key word being “individual,” which is where I’ve had to shift my thinking.

In the past, my responsibilities as a PR professional were to make others look good, not myself. Although making others look good is still the main job of anyone in PR, it’s generally understood that given the fluidity of today’s workforce that both employees and employers must be prepared to move on quickly when necessary. Employees with a strong personal brand provide value to the reputation of their employers while maintaining their own marketability should new opportunities arise.

Additionally, inherent to the practice of social media is being social. It’s expected that communications be personal and authentic. Today, however, personal interactions often don’t involve being in person. Digital communications such as texting, tweeting, direct messages, chatbots, etc. are becoming the preferred method among customers of reaching companies with which they do business, which is why many of these communication tools often include a person’s photo and lighthearted touches like emojis and gifs. They are virtual ways to make a personal connection in a digital world.

A person’s digital presence — what they look like online — is how companies now determine a potential employee’s value. No longer is a standard one-sheet resume sufficient. Job seekers now have the ability to not just state their qualifications but showcase them. Links to a portfolio, professional recommendations, testimonies of customers, and photos and video of a person’s work in-action, paint a more robust picture and give a broader scope of one’s capabilities.

Creating your own personal brand is imperative for today’s digital workforce, so if like me, you’ve struggled to embrace the transition to this new online reality, here are a few tips to get you in the right mindset to craft a personal brand that will get you noticed:

  1. Check your ego at the door! — Personal branding has nothing to do with what you look like. It’s about your professional qualifications and getting noticed in an increasingly saturated digital world. Photos of yourself are necessary to build trust when dealing online with people you may never meet in person, so just shut up and smile!
  2. It’s not about you! — Don’t think in terms of how to list your many accomplishments, but how those accomplishments can help others achieve their goals. Thinking about what qualifications or personal attributes you offer that a company may find useful will help you find the right balance between bragging and branding.
  3. Be your real, authentic self — Show your personality. Being unique and creative is what will set you apart online. Just be you. Those quirks you think hold you back professionally, may be just the thing you need to stand out in the digital world.

I’m a storyteller who writes through a personal lens, yet welcomes the opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes. Thoughtful commentary welcomed.

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