Heather Lloyd-Martin, ACC
Gen X Women: It's Time to Build Your Personal Brand. Here's Why.
Do you know it’s time to build (or refresh) your personal brand, but you’re not sure why you should bother?
Here’s why personal brand building is crucial for Gen X women, even if you work in-house.
I knew it would happen someday. But it felt so strange when it did.
A few years back, a “history of SEO copywriting” article on Twitter caught my eye. Curious, I clicked the link and noticed a significant omission.
My name wasn’t mentioned. At all.
In fact, the article implied that the industry started around ten years ago. My contributions from the late 1990s and early 2000s were erased.
Forbes may have called me “the pioneer of SEO copywriting,” but according to that article, I never existed.
I heard people emailed the author sharing the mistake. In the scheme of things, it was no big deal. At the same time...
…that’s when I realized how easy it could be for 22+ years of work history to fade into the sunset.
We go from being disrupters, changing how the world communicates and interfaces, to dinosaurs, with people forgetting our contributions because they were pre-Instagram (heck, pre-MySpace).
We may feel it’s inevitable that the younger generation will stake their claim, and we will get pushed out of the way and become invisible.
I’m not ready to let that happen.
In fact, many of you are revving up rather than slowing down. I’m reading DMs from Gen X women who are starting businesses, switching jobs, and trying to “future-proof” their careers.
You’re sharing how you’re so used to feeling invisible that promoting yourself feels weird and inauthentic.
Yet, you know you need to do something to stand out and to showcase your expertise and relevancy.
(If this sounds like you, I completely understand your hesitation – especially if you were trained in old-school sales techniques from the late 80s and early 90s.)
Others realize that it’s harder to leave a legacy without having a clear sense of who you are and your core values (which may have shifted over the years). You’ve lost the signal to your inner GPS, and you sense that your personal brand is tied to this “new you.”
You just haven’t met her yet.
People don’t tell you that personal branding is more than having good Google positions and a reader-focused LinkedIn profile (although that’s helpful).
Doing personal branding the right way means going inward and getting to know the amazing woman you are TODAY – the woman who gives fewer fucks, smiles at her smile lines, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of George Michael songs. In fact:
Reason #1: Personal branding in your 50s is being authentically you.
It’s digging into your purpose, determining what lights you up — and sharing your unique brilliance with the world.
Many of you struggle to balance your “corporate” persona and your regular life. You’re not sure which “persona” to show the world, so you default to what you think others expect and will accept.
I used to struggle with this too. I was a good little corporate girl for way too long, feeling like my brand persona was a watered-down version of the real Heather.
I was successful, but I was afraid of coming across as “full of myself.” I was smart but didn’t want to come across as “unapproachable” or “bitchy.”
I was continually pretzel-ing my real life and brand persona into what I thought would help get people to like me. It’s not like I didn’t have a purpose, but it was mixed up with lots of “shoulds.”
I don’t have the energy for that kind of weirdness today. If you met me in real life, I wouldn’t be different from what you read here. I am who I am, and I navigate life by my core values. It’s how I roll.
Yes, I’ll use my voice patterns and nonverbal cues in specific ways to demonstrate credibility or approachability. I definitely have a “speaker’s persona.”
But who you read in this newsletter is who you get.
One way to spark discussions of purpose and personal branding ideas is to consider your brand archetype.
For instance, if your goal is to leave a legacy and prove your worth, you may resonate with the “hero” archetype. Or, if you want to share information with others, the “sage” archetype may appeal to you.
Digging into your purpose and your brand story may take time. We’re all dealing with layers of conditioning that make it easy to dim our lights and to stay small unconsciously.
Plus, this stuff doesn’t come naturally to most of us — and we need an outside perspective to connect the “who am I now” dots and find the personal branding throughline.
It’s okay to ask for help to figure out your brand story. (Many people do!) Especially since…
Reason #2: If YOU don’t tell your brand story, people will tell their version – which may not be accurate or showcase your wins.
No matter who you are or what you’ve done.
Because here’s a hard truth: Your work doesn’t speak for itself.
You have to do it.
That means doing the hard work, diving into your hero’s journey, and outlining your accomplishments.
Many of us were conditioned to keep our heads down, work hard, and shut our mouths. When we accomplished something extraordinary, we were told to keep it to ourselves so we don’t look like we have a “big head.”
The hidden message? Talking about our accomplishments is unladylike and shows you’re “trying too hard.”
Besides, we’re told someone will eventually recognize our efforts and share our success with the world.
Sigh. If only.
If you feel uncomfortable sharing your wins (and many of us do), consider how you could make the process easier and feel more authentic.
For instance, learning the art of storytelling can make even the most boring B2B statistic sound fascinating. It moves the conversation from sounding “sales-y” or report-like to an engaging story dovetailed with facts and figures.
Sharing how you’ve built a career that’s taken some twists and turns can motivate others and help them connect with their deeper purpose.
Reason #3 Boosting your online personal brand can open doors and provide options.
I know this from personal experience. When I was choosing new speakers for Direct Marketing Association search marketing events, I considered the following:
Have I heard of them?
Have they spoken at conferences before, and which ones?
What can I find out about them in a 10-minute Google search?
Unless a trusted speaker vouched for them, it was hard to take a chance on someone with a skinny LinkedIn profile, few Google search results, and no evidence of their writing or work.
A “yes” decision was easier when I could review something they’d written, watch videos, read a robust LinkedIn page, and check out other interviews.
I felt like I could “trust” the outcome more.
This is especially true if you’re planning a pivot, going out on your own, or looking to change jobs. If you want people to know, like, and trust you, that means making yourself visible and sharing your expertise.
Think about it. Who would you rather work with: someone you’ve followed online, who has made you think, and you know you vibe with? Or a stranger with a so-so LinkedIn profile?
If you Google your name and nothing comes up — or it’s not what you want — know you have a huge opportunity.
You can fix this, and you don’t need to feel like a sell-out to do it.
Plus, you don’t need to be everywhere.
It’s easy to look at some thought leaders on Tik Tok, Instagram, and LinkedIn and think,” I don’t have time for any of that.”
The key is to learn where your audience hangs out and get in front of them. If your audience isn’t on TikTok, don’t worry about having an active presence (unless it’s fun for you).
For most women reading this article, LinkedIn is a primary platform. There may be industry groups where you can provide advice.
Public speaking is often a fantastic way to share your knowledge— whether an internal lunch-and-learn, a local trade event, or on Zoom.
The more people know your brand, the more you can future-proof your career – and pick and choose from new opportunities.
So as we go into 2023, consider how you’d build (or refresh) your personal brand.
I think 2023 should be YOUR year. Don’t you?
Now, what are you going to do about it? Share your plans in the comments!
Do you want to explore working together in 2023?
Contact me! Let's talk about a baby-step strategy to take you from feeling invisible to being cited as a recognized subject matter expert.