Heather Lloyd-Martin, ACC
How Gen X Women Can Harness Your Hero's Journey And Boost Your Personal Brand
You may have heard that you need to build your personal brand. Here’s why examining your hero’s journey can help you find your brand story – and remember your unique talents.
Think back to when your career started, and everything felt fresh and new.
Back then, you probably thought your career would enjoy an upwards trajectory. You’d succeed if you kept your head down, worked hard, and did (and acted) as you were told.
Chances are, that wasn’t your reality.
You may have made millions before the dotcom bust or Great Recession…and lost it.
You may have dropped out of the workforce to stay home with your children or to care for your parents.
You may have discovered the thing you went to school for left you feeling bored and trapped.
And over the years, the things you used to value so dearly – things like approval from strangers and feeling like you have to accommodate others all the time – fell away.
You had fewer fucks to give.
Like a well-written story where you’re the hero, your life (and your personal branding story) has multiple chapters.
In some chapters, you’re kicking butt, taking names, and on top of the world.
Other chapters are darker, immediately changing your momentum and trajectory.
You choose to close the business you love. You lose your job. You feel a lump.
You’re a different person coming out than you were going in.
It’s like what Joseph Campbell discusses in The Hero’s Journey. Over the years, you’ve been called to adventure, gone through multiple ordeals, and returned to a new “home.”
There’s a lot to your story.
I can divide my career into three phases:
My 30s were my competitive, career-focused phase. I was on planes three weeks out of every month and surviving on room service food. I loved the excitement, but my body hated the pace. Toward the end, my doctors warned me I would make myself sick if I didn’t stop. This phase lasted until the Great Recession when I lost all my e-commerce clients in the same week. Looking back, I can see how being forced to slow down was a blessing, But I was highly depressed for months and felt like I had run into a brick wall.
In my post-Great Recession phase, l built my online training and learned to help clients without hopping on planes. I got married, created a wonderful home, and felt happy – and a bit “meh.” I thought a career pivot was around the corner, and I was frustrated that I couldn’t see it.
And then I hit my 50s, and everything changed. My best friend died. My cat Cartman died. My husband got sick. My focus went from “dominating the marketplace” to “sharing my skills differently.” Do I still love SEO? Yes. But my focus shifted to helping other women in their 50s feel confident, supported, and seen.
You’ve probably heard that creating a personal brand story helps you position yourself and your authority. Storytelling “connects” with your target reader and “helps you seem more authentic.”
Although the marketer in me knows this is true, and I always encourage my SEO writing clients to “share their story,” the coach in me knows there’s a more profound benefit.
Uncovering our hero’s journey story is a powerful way for us to remember how brilliant we are — and boost our confidence.
We can look back at our different life phases and see how they led to who we are today – even if that “who” feels completely different.
Because I know I’m a different woman now than I was in my 30s.
Can we use this information to create a spectacular “about” page and develop our value statement? Sure. Often, processing our career story can help us find unique ways to showcase our value.
But that doesn’t have to be the point.
The point is celebrating your success and teasing out the throughline.
Pulling the intent away from “I’m doing this as a branding exercise,” and being curious about the results can also help overcome some natural stuckness when thinking about your story.
I’ve seen this stuckness manifest in three ways:
Some women minimize major accomplishments, especially ones that happened years ago. We think it’s “no big deal” that we won an award or opened doors for other women. If you had demanding parents who expected perfection and considered any achievement “par for the course,” you may have minimized a lot of accomplishments.
Some women know they’ve done brilliant things but have difficulty remembering their life’s various chapters and finding the common thread. They can’t quite see how their younger self, who rocked out to Pearl Jam and sported a spiral perm, has transformed into the woman they are today. Often, this feeling pops up when they’re feeling unsettled and can’t pinpoint the discomfort.
Finally, some women have a badass background, but something happened that shook their confidence and knocked them off their game. A toxic coworker made them question their capabilities. Their previously successful business starts losing money. Or, they wake up one day and realize they’re…bored. What turned them on before makes them feel “meh” – even if they’re outwardly successful. They can’t see their next steps, so they beat themselves up and wonder why they can’t think themselves out of their situation.
Feeling this way – or something similar – is normal. It’s the rare woman who has gone through her entire career feeling powerful, confident, and on track all the time.
In fact, going through those stuck times and coming out on the other side is part of your hero’s journey. It made you who you are.
Isn’t it time to celebrate it?
Here’s how you can uncover your personal branding hero’s journey.
Set aside an hour (or dedicated 10-15 minute blocks), find a comfortable place to chill out, and think back over your career.
Review old awards, articles, and progress reports and feel what comes up. Get yourself back in that 1990s and 2000s groove.
Some women may start chronologically and think about their first job. Others may chunk their thoughts into different career stages. It’s whatever works for you.
Now here’s the fun part.
Instead of writing down your responses, consider using your phone’s voice app to record what pops into your mind.
You could tell yourself a story…about yourself!
“Once upon a time, a woman named Heather was tired of answering phones while watching her boss play all day on this new thing called “the Internet.” She dreamed of being a writer and working for herself. So she quit her job, booted up her Apple Computer, and joined America Online with the handle HeatherL1.”
If you get stuck, you can prompt yourself with the question, “And then what happened?”
Or, you can do this with a trusted friend or coach and have them prompt you and ask questions.
Allow yourself to go off-topic and dive into related memories. They’re part of your history too – and sometimes, those “off-topic” memories reveal momentous achievements.
Here are four cool things about talking out your hero’s journey.
Talking it out instead of writing it down allows you to free associate without editing. It’s amazing what you’ll remember if you keep prompting yourself with, “What happened next?” If you’re a writer, freeing yourself from the urge to edit will help you process much more.
(Please be aware that there may be some not-as-happy memories in there too. Protect your energy, but know they're part of your hero’s journey.)
Plus, you can transcribe the recording and read (and re-read) the transcript. Reading your hero’s journey is a great way to pump yourself up before calls and remember your brilliance.
Not to mention, it’s incredible what themes we can notice when we get everything down on paper and out of our heads. We may find that we were never happy managing people. Or we miss the thrill of working in a startup.
Or, you may realize that you’re at the end of a chapter and feel anxious about launching a new one.
Finally, it’s important to remember how far you’ve come over the past 25+ years. To paraphrase an unfortunate old advertising slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
Isn’t it time to own it?
Yes, you can use your hero’s journey to tweak your LinkedIn profile and brainstorm ways to build your thought authority expertise. We’ll talk about that in future articles.
Having your personal brand story impress others is secondary.
Having a tangible piece of paper that reminds you of what a badass you are is priceless.
Do you need help finding your brand story?
Contact me and share what’s on your mind.