I attended a networking event recently where the speaker, Justine Bloome, an expert in social media from The Village Agency (http://thevillageagency.com/) discussed Imposter Syndrome and how this can have a potentially limiting impact on our careers, and particularly the careers of women. Imposter Syndrome is not a distinct personality trait but a behavioural reaction to certain situations. When people feel like imposters or frauds, despite external evidence of their competence and successes, they are unable to internalise their accomplishments. Feeling like a fraud can lead to some destructive — not to mention career limiting — behaviours like passing up a promotion because you feel you’re not worthy, unnecessarily pointing out mistakes in your work to bosses or colleagues, running yourself down with self-deprecating humour, and standing on the sidelines while — in many cases — less qualified male colleagues just dive in and fake it till they make it.
Now, while taking time out occasionally to do the odd sense check on your capabilities and career is certainly a healthy way to ensure you are keeping true to your goals and values, and having some reservations about your capabilities can assist you to strive to improve yourself, allowing feelings of being an imposter and not owning your accomplishments and successes can only lead to a poor personal brand.
What is Personal Brand anyway, and why is this so important? You might have noticed in recent years the concept of a personal brand and the management of such has emerged as a growth industry. But what is it really? In many ways it is a more palatable form of self promotion, of cultivating an image of yourself that is readily accessible to colleagues, friends, current and potential employers, and even partners. It’s the new way of ‘faking it until you make it’ in that putting a personal brand out there helps you to become the best possible version of yourself.
So how can you cultivate your personal brand and overcome the imposter syndrome at the same time? Bloome tells us to first off, define your brand. Who are you? What do you want people to think of when they think of you? Challenge yourself - do others think, “when someone needs X, think of Y?” (Y being you!) If not, how can you clearly define who you are, and what unique skills and abilities you bring to the table? Can you ask others – what do you think of when you think of me? What am I good at? (and not good at?). Making a list of words that describe you, and that you can take ownership of, can help you define your brand. Position yourself as the go-to-person for a specific skill.
Now you need to leverage who you are. How can you inject this brand into everything you do? Bloome mentioned she is a fan of the colour green, she wears green, her business cards are green, when people see green, they think of her. How can you add the unique parts of your personality into your brand?
Use social media to get your brand out there. Employers will Google you before they invite you into an interview. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? Do you have a picture on your profile, and is it the same one on all of your social media accounts? That way people start to recognise you and your associated brand. Make sure you also have your own personalised URL on your profile, blog, website, resume, business card etc. The objective of the URL is to have something you can freely promote and that people can remember.
These are small but significant steps you can take to fostering and developing your personal brand. If you own your brand, you have defined who you are and how others see you. If you own who you are, you can then own your achievements and successes and rather than faking it, perhaps you will be making it.