This month, several female employees from Vitalyst attended the ever-inspiring 13th annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women with over 7,000 attendees. With this series, we are sharing highlights and perspectives from some of the most powerful sessions.
We know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but, as humans, we all do—our unconscious mind is always hard at work, despite our best intentions. And, although we cannot entirely control how others perceive us, we can take steps to guide them toward a more favorable impression.
It’s called personal branding, and it was the theme of a panel discussion I attended as part of the recent Pennsylvania Conference for Women. Headed up by Shama Hyder, author and CEO of the Marketing Zen Group, “The Art of Branding: Positioning Yourself for YOUR Future” led to a robust discussion amongst a diverse panel of women who shared their unique approaches to personal branding.
Personal branding is the outward expression of our essential truth and the value that we bring to personal and professional interactions. If there’s a disconnect between what we are presenting to the world and who we really are, it can impede trust and the development of personal and professional relationships.
Paying attention to what we are presenting to the world has perhaps never been more important than it is today. We are living in a time where personal and professional lines are blurred because of how we use social media. Our actions on social channels can affect our personal brand, which can then impact our professional brand. Everything is connected.
Our actions on social channels can affect our personal brand, which can then impact our professional brand. Everything is connected.
During the session, the panelists provided sound advice. First, be yourself, and not the irreverent and self-sabotaging version, the one who thinks “If people don’t like it, they can …” Second, give yourself a chance. Before you can even think about your next opportunity you need to know who you are and the value that you offer.
As my career has evolved I have enlisted help from friends, mentors, and most recently an executive coach to examine the connections between my strengths, my personal and professional experiences, and my goals. Pushing beyond self-imposed boundaries is an ongoing process and one that I have come to find requires input from someone other than myself. Assessing yourself is an essential step in the personal branding process, but you will need help to reinforce what is working and to target areas where changes will be beneficial.
Towards the end of the session, an audience member shared that she was not sure if she should limit the years of her experience to prevent people from being able to pin an age on her and thus potentially limit her from the pool of candidates for consideration.
The topic of age and perception is a messy one, and is quite often an elephant in the room. Not in this room, however. The consensus amongst the panelists was that branding is not static, it evolves as you evolve. As you grow in your career, don’t downplay your years of experience. You are a product of your choices and experiences. The advice from this panel was to focus on what you can control and to “shine in your experience.”
It was evident that Hyder and the panelists, as well as moderator Marilyn Russell, host of Ben FM Mornings and Women of the Week, have invested in their personal brands, making changes as they evolve personally and professionally. They emphasized the importance of asking for and receiving help, of not downplaying strengths, accomplishments, and value, of “putting yourself out there” and “speaking to your own power.”
The question going forward is not if you have a personal brand. You do. We all do. It’s what remains in the room long after we’ve left. Rather, the questions each of us needs to answer are: What remains when we leave the room? Does it resonate with us? And what can we do to ensure we shine in our experience?