I'm sure by now, we have all had our fair share of afternoon walks along the same path, over and over, in our neighbourhoods. Passing the same trees each day, noticing how much they change from one walk to the next.
Nature is always reminding us that every living thing on this planet was made to grow. That our own purpose in life is to be born and then grow, grow, grow.
And when it comes to our careers? I know one thing for sure: there's no "arriving". If we're not chasing growth in our careers as well, we will probably die of boredom, slowly, in front of our screens.
Unfortunately, the only type of growth we’re sold is climbing the corporate ladder. Better title, higher salary, more clout. (And to me, that translates into: more stress, less freedom, and less doing the work we love.)
So what are we to do when climbing the corporate ladder is not the kind of growth we crave?
For us — the ambitious professionals who crave new adventures over following the beaten path — a personal brand is exactly what allows us to be multi-passionate (and have it make sense to the world).
Before we dive in, I want to be clear: I am quite possibly the last person you would expect to be preaching the art of speaking... and PUBLICLY for that matter. Let me paint a picture: when I was three years old, my grandparents honestly thought I didn't talk (thanks to how quiet and shy I was). It was only after one weekend, having agreed to babysit my older sister and myself for a longer stretch of time, that I finally graced my own grandparents with laughter, jokes, and the spoken word. What can I say, it took me a long time to warm up to people.
What I'm getting at is this: I am not an extroverted person who loves the idea of speaking to big groups of humans in public forums. In fact, I would probably put that at the bottom of the list of things I enjoy.
But you know what else? We acclimatize to these things. We get comfortable speaking with adults, we get comfortable standing in front of classrooms for school projects, we get comfortable going into interviews...
And showing up online? It becomes just another step in our journey. A step that no one pushes us into, and so, we can safely avoid. But I promise, it's a step that is not worthy of an ounce of our fear.
Over the past two years I've been actively building my personal brand on LinkedIn, Instagram, through podcasts and articles, and - most notably - hosting a weekly LIVE (read: LIVE!! *faints*) webinar series on Shopify Compass.
Now, this doesn't mean I have a massive audience. It does, however, mean that I've been able to build clout and respect from those in my circle, and even more importantly: from myself.
But it wasn't long ago that I, too, was lurking in the shadows of the online world. I wanted to show up and speak up, but the more content I consumed on personal branding, the more I noticed that it was entirely geared towards entrepreneurs. I've juggled this reality for a long time: consuming entrepreneurial-focused content and then hacking it in a way that works for my non-corporate professional career. Having spent so much time on this (and stressed over it for far too many hours), I'm hoping I can genuinely help you get started.
Here are the differentiators I came up with when trying to answer: "How do I show up online?!"
Entrepreneurs: They have a product or service to sell and know exactly who their ideal client is. This allows them to talk about the pain points and solutions of their offer and go all-in on a specific niche.
In my case, this is where I could brand myself as a project manager for online entrepreneurs. After all, it's the business I'm building on the side. But do I really want to become known as the best Asana organizer on the planet?! When I look at my current clients, they hired me because of my experience having worked at Mindvalley — the mecca of online marketing and personal growth — not because I post productivity tips on Instagram. My personal brand is bigger than the service I offer.
Professionals: They build reputations inside of a company or industry — becoming known as the expert of their craft, whether it be UX, Growth Marketing, Business Development, etc.
In my case, this is where I might brand myself as a Partnerships Expert. And truthfully, this is where I'm currently at. But do I want to become a renowned speaker on the art of negotiations? Only if I'm down for a future mid-life crisis (could be fun?! Hah!). After all, the reason I got into partnerships is because I have always believed in expanding the pie through collaboration instead of trying to do life alone... that with the right network and community, everyone can fulfill their life ambitions. Again, my brand feels more than this one expertise.
Multi-passionate Professionals: This is us! We aren't really selling a specific product, nor are we looking to become an industry maven.
I've sat in this space for a long time... wanting to build a personal brand, but not knowing which one of my passions to commit to. Slowly realizing that there's a deeper thread beneath everything I do.
Our "niche" (which every guru tells us to find RIGHT NOW) might actually be something that's not yet obvious to us. And in a cruel twist from the Universe, clarity over what that is will only come from speaking (not simmering in our own internal thoughts, which I would much rather prefer, thank you very much).
So then... how DO we start showing up online without this clarity?
Thankfully, I stumbled upon this article by George Kao and it truly changed how I think about personal branding. He says forget the niche or expertise (these come later). Simply focus on the people you want to be surrounded with.
For me? That's someone like you: ambitious and multi-passionate, someone who wants a richer life than what the norm is, craves freedom, and ultimately — refuses to settle for the status quo. I don't know what specific value I may be able to offer you just yet (maybe productivity tips? outreach for your new podcast? inspiration to build a modern career?), but I can finally stop obsessing over what I should be saying, and start caring about who I want to be talking with.
If we were sitting on a patio right now, with a charcuterie board and a bottle of red in front of us, I know exactly the type of conversations we would be having. Obviously, conspiring how to take over the world.
So on this topic of personal branding, I want to know: what's stopping you from showing up online today? What inner struggles are blocking your progress?