I’m a businesswoman and an entrepreneur, and I get excited when I meet other women who share my passion for business. I understand their desire for greater career success, the need many feel to prove themselves and the constant quest for progress.
I’ve also noticed, however, that many of these women struggle to find ways to differentiate themselves and demonstrate their value in the workplace, not because they lack talent or opportunity, but because women tend to fall prey to a few misconceptions about ourselves.
Here are three pitfalls that women are especially prone to in terms of personal branding and marketing, and how to avoid them:
Being afraid to speak up
As women, we tend to pride ourselves on being great listeners. Listening is one of the best business skills one can cultivate, but being a good listener doesn’t mean giving up the right to have an opinion.
The most effective personal brands are built by people who know both how to listen well and to express themselves in a real way so that they are heard too.
Women often hang back, instead of sharing their valuable insights. This doesn’t mean always having to be centre-stage – it could as simple as writing a white paper, dropping your boss an email with a well thought out proposal, or even asking smart questions during a meeting.
Underestimating the value of personal relationships
Women are sometimes criticised for being too relational in the workplace, and yet many women are gifted at making emotional connections very quickly, and this can be an enormously valuable skill at work. Women need to learn to recognise their own talents. It they are relationally wired, they should put that skill to use in building deep, mutually-beneficial networks.
Succumbing to the superwoman syndrome
Many women mistakenly think that building a personal brand means they either have to become a superwoman or pretend to be one. Actually, nothing is further from the truth. People are drawn to genuine brands, but can spot a fake quickly. Authenticity is the cornerstone of an effective personal brand.
Women need to build confidence in themselves and stop trying to be someone they’re not. By being themselves – vulnerabilities and all – they will be able to create emotional connections with others, which is critical to a stand personal brand.
Women need to begin to explore their unique strengths instead of focusing just on their weaknesses (or the “better” strengths of others).
Personal branding is not about “faking it”. It’s about being deliberate in cultivating how others see you by focusing on your USP (unique selling proposition), how you position yourself relative to colleagues and competitors and how you ‘package’ yourself in an authentic and noticeable way that makes you stand out.
Related: The Power of Focus
Personal branding is about self-knowledge – understanding what differentiates you from others with similar qualifications and experience. It’s not about being someone you’re not.