Today, I want to share a story from Slush Helsinki. A context: I have been covering Slush in Helsinki for the past three years as a media practitioner.
Recently, I spoke to this lady “K” who worked as the Head of Productions for Slush Singapore 2016. I have been rather impressed with her vast networks and diverse experiences in the Singapore start-up scene at a relatively tender age. Yet, I was puzzled because in spite of this, she has not given any public talks to share her professional experiences and many interesting stories.
Me: You do know that giving public talks will accelerate your career progression, don’t you? Doing great public speeches is excellent for your personal brand and bigger vision.
K: I think there are people with better stories than myself…
Me: How do you define “better”?
K: Well, I think “better” implies “stronger” stories. I’m actually not after fame, you know…
The above conversation reminded me of the Dunning–Kruger effect, whereby high-ability individuals tend to underestimate their successes and competence. They might also subsequently assume that tasks that are easy for them are of low value to others.
Therefore, exceptional professionals who are affected by the Dunning-Kruger effect do not want to take the limelight because they assume that only people who are confident should take it. This assumption unfortunately, is not always true—sometimes we end up with overconfident people who talk nonsense.
Many talented Finns I have met during my studies and career in Finland do suffer from this Dunning-Kruger effect. In addition, being perceived as “boastful” is not a good thing in Finland. How can skilled professionals invest in their personal branding, then?
What exactly is “personal branding”? For the purpose of this blog post, let’s adopt the definition by Chris Ducker:
“Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”
It might therefore be useful to also consider what is not “personal branding”. And here are three of the most popular myths about the topic.
It might be true that a narcissistic person tends to be more concerned about his personal brand than the average person. The converse however, is not true—that personal branding is only for narcissistic and boastful people.
Everyone has his or her unique personal brand. There is no such thing as a vacuum when it comes to personal brands—everyone has an opinion about you, even if the opinion is “she is average”, “there is nothing special about her”, or “who is she?”
If you don’t define your brand, someone else will. Therefore, invest in and take control of your personal brand today.
There are actually two parts to personal branding.
The first part is internal. Ask yourself—what are your passions and skill-sets?
The second part—which I will argue to be more important—is external and all about what your target audience values.
How do you make your skillset relevant and useful to your audience, so as to make a compelling impact on their lives?
This consideration towards your audience is the key to building a strong personal brand.
Personally, I call this the “I’m not good enough” syndrome. Again, this stems from the mistaken belief that personal branding is all about you.
It really isn’t.
When we develop a strong consideration towards the needs, wants and pain points of our audiences, we can then find out how our personal brands are relevant to them.
In addition, people with perceived “compelling stories” might not be into the causes you are into. They might be busy with other priorities in life. If you don’t promote the cause you are so passionately into, then you might miss out on the many opportunities to connect with and change the lives of people who will benefit from what you have to offer.
Therefore, don’t be afraid. Be authentic and speak up. You never know how many lives you can impact forever just by doing that.
Why did I write this blog post today to briefly talk about “personal branding”?
The reason is simple—I wished that everyone could appreciate and invest in their personal brands more to make the world a better place.
Everyone has something concrete to offer, just as he/she is. Don’t disqualify yourself because you think you are “not good enough”. As skilled communication professionals, we have a lot to contribute to the world!