Personal branding – showcasing your professional strengths – is one of the most important aspects of building a resilient career. However, if you’re an introvert, the idea of telling others about yourself can be unnerving at best, nausea-inducing at worst.
So what if your “elevator speech” generally consists of a muttered “which floor do you want?” The good news is that you’re living in the right era, because these days you can do a major portion of your brand-building online.
In fact, resources like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter offer an invaluable opportunity for those of you likely to be hiding your light under a bushel, if not in a cave. These social communities and communication sites allow you to connect with the world without actually having to talk to it. Blogging or creating a personal website is another great way to get the word out, as are the online communities of professional associations.
LinkedIn. The fastest way to get your professional brand visible is via LinkedIn, the online professional community that enables people to create profiles (basically, your resume on steroids) that highlight areas of expertise and interest.
In addition to the standard information about your current job, you’re able to not only create a showcase for past projects and engagements, but also provide a summary of your most outstanding career highlights, areas of expertise, and “specialties.” In the Experience section, you can post information about previous jobs and/or projects, but then can enhance that information via “recommendations,” statements about the amazing wonderfulness of your work posted by colleagues, bosses, clients, etc. You may need to request these from your contacts, but most people are happy to oblige (and of course you’ll do the same for them).
What if you’re a student just starting out in your career and don’t have a lot of job experience to list? Then look for other evidence of your potential value to a prospective employer. Are you doing interesting projects or research in one of your courses that relates to your career interests? Have you volunteered with an organization in a way that lets you point to leadership skills or personal initiative or community impact? If you find that you don’t have any items to describe that indicate your value, then you’ll know this is an area you need to focus on.
Also, whether you’re a working professional or still a student, consider joining the LinkedIn groups that relate to your field, and posting a helpful comment or question now and then. You may never be one of the people who are contributing all the time, but even occasional participation will help establish your professional presence.
Blogs and websites. Blogs and websites can be a great way to let the world – or at least potential employers – know about your areas of expertise by writing about them. You might want to comment on key trends you’ve read about in your profession, or on books by industry thought leaders. Or, if you’re a student, you could discuss interesting aspects of what you’re studying in your courses or research/assignments you’re working on. The point is to demonstrate your engagement with your chosen field, and your enthusiasm for exploring and contributing at a professional level.
In addition – or as an alternative – to having your own blog, you can identify and monitor the best blogs in your field and then post thoughtful comments about the ideas or information being blogged about. Again, this helps to establish you as an individual who is interested in your field and its issues.
Associations. Joining the key professional association(s) in your discipline will not only help you stay current, it will also help you build your career network and can provide you with an opportunity to connect virtually and start building your professional brand via the group’s online community if they have one (most do).
Although you may be tempted to “lurk” rather than participate in the discussions, try to start contributing questions, answers, or resources after you’ve gotten used to the flow and format of how people communicate. Remember, everyone now contributing to the conversation was a newbie at one time, too.
In her wonderful, wise, and empathetic book Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead (McGraw-Hill, 2010), author Nancy Ancowitz notes “While the inward-facing nature of introverts can be a source of strength, if we neglect to reach outward, we miss out on the richness that human interaction can bring – not to mention the career advancement associated with our increased visibility.”
Start easing into that “outward reach” by using online tools to let the world – and potential employers – know how terrific you are.