A few days ago, Amazon Web Services invited me as a panel member for the Building Personal Brand discussion for their CloudU program participants.
I plan to share my talks with you shortly, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share the Q&A portion of the event. I hope my answers to the questions would give you some insight into my take on personal brand building.
Just to give you a context for these questions and answers: the audience was mainly IT people who work for organisations as employees.
I know I need to put myself out there, but whenever I want to put myself forward [for a project]/voice my opinion [at work], I feel like a bonehead**. What should I do?
First of all, it is possible that where you are currently isn’t the right place for you to put yourself forward. It is entirely possible that the place you work isn’t conducive for you to build your brand or voice your opinions. If that is the case, you’ll want to transition out and find a place where it is ‘safe’ to put yourself out there.
More than likely, however, it is merely your limbic system trying to talk your way out of it. Your brain is essentially trying to protect you there. Probably, someone in the past verbally abused you for something innocuous such as a smart comment or about work that you were proud of. Since the response you got was less than positive at the time, your current reaction (of feeling like a bonehead) automatically kicks in when you want to initiate something, thereby preventing you from being called any bad names.
Two possible scenarios here. First, if you do get ‘shut down’, what you’re finding out is the fact that the company doesn’t have your best interests in mind. That means, when you express your desire to contribute, the ideal response will have to be (even if you’re deemed unqualified) to consider your offer/opinion or at least acknowledge without value judgement. Secondly, the more likely scenario would be that you’d be given a task of investigating further (to prove your opinions) or ‘give it a go’ in which case you actually have to do the work.
The hesitation and the feeling of ‘I’m a bonehead’ will pass through your system in 90 seconds if you do act at that very moment. Or if the result is ideal, it will pass almost instantly. But if you do not act and keep it to yourself, that feeling remains in your psyche and becomes another missed opportunity to speak up.
Each time you exert yourself (calming down that voice in your head calling you a ‘bonehead’), the voice will become less and less. It gets easier, but only if you take the steps instead of giving in to that voice.
**The guy who asked me the question used the word ‘dick’. Well, I thought of replacing it with ‘douchebag’. I ended up with ‘bonehead’ with the hope of not offending too many people. Now you know.
How do I balance where I currently am (introverted, no brand to speak of, etc.) to where I want to be? I’m confused.
First of all, I suggest gaining more empirical data of where you are currently instead of merely feeling inadequate.
Take necessary assessments – strengths finder, personality profiling, 360, etc. From there, create a matrix of where you want to get to in order to create something measurable.
It gets confusing when we are talking abstractly about brand building with a bunch of words without a concrete plan.
Once you can identify precisely what you’ll need to improve upon, you’ll have a plan of attack based on your goals in each area of your work/life in the context of branding.
I often feel like nobody. What should I do?
The mere fact that you can ask that courageous question in a room full of people indicates that you’re not a nobody.
To address that question, I’ll have to ask you how you’d define a ‘somebody’ (the opposite of nobody). It is often easy to compare ourselves to some impossible measures and simply slap on a label such as ‘nobody’.
Also, when I hear ‘nobody’, I get the feeling that you could be relying on non-specific validations from other people which you cannot reasonably control.
Instead, I’d challenge you to take responsibility for what you mean by ‘somebody’ and start taking actions to be the person that you can reasonably define (not defined by someone else).
No matter how many times other people might have told you that you’re special if you’ve bought into the story of “I am a nobody” you’re not likely to hear what others say about you. In that case, it is on you to clearly define what it is that you want to see in yourself and then go about creating it.
The big question of How to build a Personal Brand answered. A step by step guide to building your Personal Brand