When it comes to excelling in your career, you likely know that building and growing your personal brand is a key piece of the puzzle.
But, here's the thing: The very thought of pasting on a smile and a name tag, shaking the hands of a bunch of strangers, and reciting your elevator pitch makes you nauseous.
You consider yourself an introvert. Now, contrary to popular belief, that doesn't automatically qualify you as someone who's painfully shy or dislikes people altogether. Instead, as Myers Briggs explains, you get your energy from a more internal source—like your own thoughts, ideas, and time for reflection. In contrast, extroverts feel most energized by activities and groups of people.
But don't worry if the thought of mingling makes you super uncomfortable. Personal branding isn't all about schmoozing over cocktails at a networking event—in fact, that's only a very small slice of it.
Here are a few ways that you can build your personal brand, without having to pretend you're an extrovert.
1. Leverage Social Media
Social media is an incredibly powerful tool for personal branding—for both introverts and extroverts. But, for those who prefer a little more alone time, leveraging social media can be particularly appealing.
Start by ensuring your profiles are all up-to-date. That way, they can tout your skills and accomplishments for you, without you so much as saying a word.
After that, try joining LinkedIn groups or Twitter chats to participate in discussions relevant to your industry and connect with fellow professionals. Post interesting articles or updates you find to your own profiles. You can even write and publish your own content on platforms like LinkedIn or Medium.
All of these tactics are far less anxiety-inducing than needing to strut up to a stranger at a networking event. Plus, they all reinforce your qualifications, keep you visible, and even establish you as a thought leader in your field—all without having to leave your computer.
2. Focus on Relationships
As an introvert, you'd much rather have a one-on-one conversation. You're focused on meaning and might dread the thought of working the room to have short, surface conversations with everyone there.
So, don't pressure yourself into thinking that you need to be the center of attention, speak with a large audience, or speed date as many connections as possible in order to foster a solid reputation.
If you continue to build one meaningful relationship at a time with the people who actually matter to you, by setting up informal meetings or coffee dates, you'll actually end up with a stronger personal brand (and more beneficial network!) than those people who fly around networking events engaging in endless conversations about the weather.
3. Expand Your Qualifications
Expanding your skills and expertise is a surefire way to solidify and improve your personal brand. However, many fail to actually take the steps to do so.
Fortunately, this is a perfect option for introverts in particular, as it typically provides the opportunity for more reflection on your own ideas and even some more quiet time to learn a new skill.
Take that online course you've been meaning to get around to. Read that book that's been collecting dust on your shelf. Or, pursue that certification that you've been telling yourself that you'll get one day. You know the one? It's been bookmarked in Chrome purgatory for the past three years.
Once you complete your extracurricular, make sure to post your new certification on your LinkedIn, your resume (if relevant) and your personal website to cash in on the branding payoff.
Investing in yourself is always recommended. It'll strengthen your resume and your qualifications, but typically won't require time spent in the spotlight.
4. Create a Plan for Networking
Even if you consider yourself an introvert, you know that in-person networking is still unavoidable. Whether it's at a conference, an awards dinner, or any other sort of professional event, you're probably going to find yourself in a crowd of strangers every now and then.
Listen, this can be intimidating for even the most outgoing among us. So, don't beat yourself up for feeling nervous or anxious—that's perfectly normal.
However, if you're aiming to strengthen your personal brand, you're still going to want to use this time to your advantage by engaging in some conversations and making a few key connections.
One of the tactics that can be particularly helpful for introverts is to have a plan—before ever even wandering into that sea of people. Are there any specific attendees you're hoping to chat with? Great. Think through ahead of time how you'll approach them and what you'd like to talk with them about. You can even arm yourself with a few conversation starters.
Knowing that you have a plan in place will help to boost your confidence and make that event a little less overwhelming. Plus, if you can keep your focus on having those one-on-one conversations that you know are most beneficial to you, it'll be that much easier to forget you're in a jam-packed room.
Oh, and if you reach a point where your energy feels totally depleted, don't hesitate to step outside or head to the bathroom for a brief reprieve and a little time to recharge.
Building a personal brand can feel daunting for anybody—but it's especially tough for introverts. Focus on doing a few things that could really elevate your brand, rather than overwhelming yourself with all of the options that are out there.
Get started by giving these tactics a try, and you're sure to strengthen your network and your reputation—with as little anxiety as possible.