5 Personal Branding Mistakes You Should Avoid
According to Amanda Miller Littlejohn, a Washington,DC – based personal branding coach and creator of The Branding Box, a personal brand home study system designed to help individuals clarify their message, position their expertise and increase their visibility, “This is a great time to be a Black woman.”
“Women are embracing their natural hair, getting into shape and shedding generations-long bad eating habits. It’s like a renewal. We are embracing digital tools, starting websites, and expressing ourselves,” says Littlejohn. However, are you ensuring that the brand called YOU is clearly defined? Can it be leveraged to bring you new opportunities?
We spoke with Littlejohn about some of the personal branding mistakes she’s seen individuals make over the years. Check out the blunders she identified as well as her tips on how you can turn these mistakes into successes and starting building your personal brand today.
1. Having an “Employee Mentality”
Amanda Miller Littlejohn (AML): Many are comfortable marketing and promoting the company or person they work for, but have hesitation when it comes to promoting themselves. They think of self-promotion as braggy, obnoxious or self-serving, when in fact they would do the same thing, if not more for their employer, especially, if they are in a marketing role. People who go out and decide to do their own thing and start their own business can still suffer from that mentality when they don’t want to step out of the shadows. They might want to promote the work of something bigger, instead of promoting their own brand. They sometimes forget that they are the bigger brand.
To fix this, embrace the spotlight. Speak up when people ask you questions. Step out when you are invited to speak. Look for opportunities to share what you know. At the end of the day, your brand may be all that you have in the next fifteen years.
2. Waiting Until The Last Minute To Build Your Brand
AML: Many times individuals may wait until they are ready to switch jobs or get new clients to start building a brand. A lot of people come to me in that situation. They need to start building a brand immediately because they need an opportunity. That’s a backwards way to go about doing it. Building your brand steadily is more authentic. Opportunities will come to you.
College is a good time to start building your brand. Work on your Linkedin profile (and build your experience) during your undergraduate years. Collect recommendations from advisors and professors. Build the social proof that you need to create credibility around who you are. Although most people won’t be able to look at your college transcript, they can look at your Linkedin profile and see if you are highly recommended, dependable, punctual, etc. Nowadays, everyone is previewing Linkedin profiles before they hire you. That’s a really easy place to put positive information about yourself.
3. Not Being Proactive
AML: It’s a great thing to get opportunities that come your way. A better thing is to go after opportunities. The best thing to do is to create opportunities. For example, an example of me waiting for an opportunity would me waiting for you (the reporter) to reach out to me to schedule an interview. Me being proactive (or going after the opportunity) is me calling you up and [pitching] my expertise directly, and saying, “ I know you write for MadameNoire, would you like to interview me?” Me making an opportunity would be realizing that you may not be interested in me at the current time, but [deciding] to create a blog and write something that is reflective and fills a need for the audience I am trying to attract.
People have to be more proactive now because the barrier to entry to create have fallen drastically in the last 15 years. When I was in high school, if you wanted a magazine, website, or newsletter, you had to go to people to make that happen for you. Now, anything you want to do is within reach. If you want a TV show, you can create a YouTube channel. If you want to write a book, you can type it up and submit it to Create Space. This is a response to the technological advances we are experiencing. There are no excuses for the person that has something to say and wants to create a platform.
4. Using social media only to “be social”
AML: A lot of people use social media for recreation and as a way to keep in touch, but don’t use it as away to make it work for them. I love seeing funny things on Instagram, but are you also putting out your expertise and services? Are you making it for you? I use Instagram to create more awareness around my brand, what I’m doing, what I offer, and what I can do for a new client. I am building an audience. If your social is just fun and games, it’s like you are working for it. It’s not working for you. I don’t think people think strategically. Everyone doesn’t have to use social to create new clients or new business opportunities, but you should be thinking about how social can help you get the things that you want. How can you use it to connect with people across the country or around the world? Use it to create for more credibility for yourself. Your biggest fan might become your biggest customer.”
5. You don’t invest in your brand
AML: In the next 15 years, people who have taken the time to make sure people know who they are and what they can do are going to have a much bigger advantage over those who haven’t. The work world is getting leaner and more efficient. Companies are getting smaller because we have all these tools. In the workplace, questions that test your proficiency with WordPress, digital photography, page layout, video or sound editing will be commonplace. It’s because tools are universally available, inexpensive, or even free. If you don’t know how to use them, you will be behind the times. It may get more cutthroat as far as where opportunities go. For people who are creating opportunities and building their brand, they will have a big advantage over others who are waiting for things to come to them. Investing takes time, thought, and sometimes money. Don’t be afraid to take courses and fill in some skill gaps. These are investments that appreciate. Once you have knowledge and understand how to position and promote yourself, your career always benefits. We invest a lot in how we look, but how are much are we investing in how we “look” in the perceptions of the marketplace? How much are you investing in your reputation and how you come across to other people?