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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

4 Personal Branding Lies You Should Stop Telling Yourself (for Your Reputation's Sake)

When I was a kid I hated pizza. I told myself that it made me sick, a lie I blindly clung to until I was 12 years old. Then I tried a slice and it was, of course, delicious.

I was instantly annoyed with myself for getting in my own way for so long.

As a personal branding coach, I hear people tell themselves lies all the time. Real whoppers that keep them from where they’re going. Want to make sure you’re not your own worst enemy? Wipe these lies from your brain space:

1. “I’m Not the Kind of Person Who Needs a Web Presence”

This is the lie I hear from my clients most frequently. It’s usually paired with the mantra “I’m really kind of a private person” or “I hate social media.” The worst case I’ve run into was a super talented woman targeting a digital marketing job—and she was doing it without an active Twitter feed. Yikes!

The truth: You can have an active web presence without baring your soul.

If you’re in any vein of technology or marketing these days, you have to be active on more than just LinkedIn. But you don’t have to be the type of person who shares pictures of your lunch or tweets every thought you have to build your brand on the web. You don’t even have to churn out lengthy blog posts to start branding yourself as someone who’s engaged in an industry.

All you have to do is select one to two social platforms that work for you and engage with content that’s relevant to your area of expertise. Simple shares and comments every other day or so.

That’s it. Crazy simple, right?

2. “I’m Already Branded as [Insert Job Title] and It’s Too Late to Shake Things up Now”

While the thought of rebranding yourself may seem only slight better than a kick to the face, it’s not impossible. Does it take some strategy? Sure. Can it be time-expensive? Kinda.

But rebranding yourself isn’t impossible.

I’ve seen folks make some pretty far-fetched career changes. A museum curator who found her true calling in fundraising and development. An executive turned hypnotherapist. It’s never too late to turn your brand on its head, especially if you’re feeling frustrated, stuck, or unfulfilled in your current career.

Sure, some leaps are easier than others, but in most cases a regular dose of microchange—whether it’s in the form of volunteer work, side hustles, new certifications, or some shameless authority marketing—can help you flip your brand around in no time.

Stop kidding yourself and take steps toward what you love.

3. “If It's Not Broke, Don't Fix It…”

Let’s say you’re about to launch a job hunt and you Google yourself to high heaven. You test various spellings of your name, along with different job titles and company names to be safe, and the top 10 results are consistently squeaky clean. No random snapshots from college. Any Yelp reviews you’ve written aren’t too snarky. Your LinkedIn profile pops right up. Think your work is done?

Think again.

While having a web presence that’s free of digital dirt is a terrific start, it’s not enough. If you really want to up your chances of being hired you’ll want to add some flash and band to your positive search results. Publish articles that demonstrate your subject matter expertise on (free!) platforms like LinkedIn Pulse and Medium. Or, pitch yourself as an expert and write a guest blog for a high profile site. Participate in industry activities that up your chances of getting mentioned in the press. Contribute fresh ideas to online discussions and blogs.

Not broken and not boring are two different qualities.

4. “My Credentials Stand on Their Own”

It’s easy to get caught up in the me-me-me aspects of your brand. After all, you’ve put endless hours into leveling up your skills and bagging some amazing achievements. Here’s the thing: Your degree and the timeline of accomplishments on your resume won’t do all the selling for you. Unless you can explain how all of your me-me-me stuff can benefit potential clients or employers, you’ll have an extremely difficult time creating the traction you want.

That, and pitching your value isn’t just something you should do in interviews.

If you’re not hustling a little on a near daily basis, you can consider your brand half-baked. Sure, your brand is made up of your business cards, razor-sharp interview skills, and a string of online branding channels, but it’s also built on relationships. And in the long run, it’s relationships that support your career growth. Send thank you notes. Jump in to help without being asked. Wow clients and build others up along with you.

Be quick on your feet and use every word and action to reinforce your reputation for value and all-around awesomeness.

It’s time to face the truth: Branding yourself today is a career must and demands a dynamic approach. In fact, the worst personal branding lie you can tell yourself is “I’ll work on it later.” Build and refine that bad boy over time! The best personal brands capture who you already are.

Photo of bored person courtesy of Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/Getty Images.