As far as personal brands go, “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” is a pretty good one. Everyone knew who James Brown was and why he was so good at what he did. And it helped that he had his own personal hype man, Bobby Byrd, who would tell everyone James’s many titles and sterling attributes before, during, and after his songs.
Unfortunately for you, though, there’s no hype man following you around who will brag about your professional track record. And we don’t hype ourselves, either. We don’t let our network know about our strengths, experiences, and the successes that we’ve had. This comes back to haunt us when we reach out to find a new job, build a client base, or advance our careers.
Share your Personal Brand
Because even though we can’t directly control our personal brand, it’s worth trying to influence others’ opinion of us. We want to ensure that our colleagues, contacts, and clients view us positively. It’s the same reason that large corporations spend millions of dollars a year trying to brand themselves. Can you imagine a company building an advertising campaign that doesn’t highlight what make them stand out? We do exactly that when we don’t share our value with our network.
We run into a problem as individuals because we have a strong instinct to not “toot our own horn”. It’s a common social norm in our culture that you shouldn’t brag, and that it’s unseemly to mention what makes you great. People who do are seen as obnoxious, and none of us want to be the person in the room who is full of themselves.
If you want others to talk positively about you, you have to be able to start the process. You have to share your value because no one else will. Here are a few ways to add some swagger to your personal brand without being a jerk:
- Focus on specific examples. Instead of saying, “I’m a hard worker” you could mention how your dedication enabled you to get a specific project done early. If you run a small business, you can highlight the way your customer service skills have made your customers happy. Use stories in which your strengths shine through; they are more believable because there is evidence and it’s an indirect plug of your skills.
- Avoid superlatives. It took a lot of swagger for James Brown to be the “hardest” working man in show business. You don’t have to be the best for others to understand your value. It’s much more powerful (and believable) to say you’re “one of the top” instead of the “top”. You’re not trying to beat people over the head with your accomplishments; you just need them to know what you bring to the table.
- Let people congratulate you. Because many of us have been taught to shy away from praise, we downplay our successes. For example, if you are an attorney who was selected as a “5 Star Attorney” by a local magazine, don’t dismiss someone’s congratulations with, “it’s not a big deal”. Say, “Thank you, I’m pretty excited about it.” Accepting others’ praise is one of the easiest ways to add some swagger without looking obnoxious, because you are just agreeing with what someone else.
- Ask about others’ strong points. One of the easiest ways to share your strengths and successes is to ask people about theirs first. This is especially useful when you are first developing a relationship with someone. Instead of leading with your value proposition, ask about them. Questions like, “What do your clients like best about working with you?” or “What have been your best successes lately?” give them space to brag on themselves a little. It’s natural for the conversation to turn back to you at some point.
- Understand the spectrum of personal brand swagger. Do you want to constantly talk about yourself and what makes you special? Of course not. There’s a spectrum: on one end are the egomaniacs who think that they are the best thing since sliced bread and on the other are the shy, retiring flowers who can’t look anyone in the eye. When it comes to our personal brand, most of us are closer to the quiet side. The goal is to find your way to the middle of the spectrum. You don’t have to overwhelm everyone else with your awesomeness! Simply share your strengths and successes with your network in a way that lets them spread the word, so that they can help you “toot your horn”.