Wait a minute. What if you’re NOT an expert?
Many of us are talented in various ways, and very good at doing some things, but we’re not experts at them.
We toss around the word “expert” a little too easily. I call other people “experts” and I’ve been called an expert, but I don’t call myself one.
I don’t think there are nearly as many true experts as people who claim to be, or who are labeled as such.
Yet so-called personal branding “experts” often tell us that in order to truly brand ourselves, we’ve got to brand ourselves as experts at something.
I Googled the phrase “brand yourself as an expert” — in quotes so I’d only get results on that specific phrase — and came up with nearly 2 million results. That’s a lot of people potentially handing out misguided advice.
People have many misconceptions about personal branding. It’s not about calling yourself an expert when you really are not. And it’s NOT these things:
- A fancy word for narcissism
- Shameless self-promotion and self-packaging
- A sham. One thing can’t define you in all contexts of your life
- A passing fad, soon to be replaced by the next best thing
- Ego-stroking . . . an opportunity to brag about yourself
- A nifty tagline for a resume and email signature
- The way to become famous
If you’re NOT actually an expert in your field, you should never mislead people to that effect in your brand messaging. When push comes to shove, you won’t be able to live up to the expectation . . . you risk tarnishing your reputation by boasting inflated claims.
But if you really ARE an expert, branding is indeed a way to position yourself as such.
What personal branding actually is
“Personal branding is the best method to define, differentiate and communicate the unique combination of qualities and qualifications (driving strengths, areas of expertise, personal attributes, passions and values) you offer your target employers.
It is the combination of things that set you apart from others competing for the same kinds of jobs.
In a nutshell, branding helps you express your good-fit qualities for the companies and organizations you want to work for. It helps you zero in on the specific problems you’ll help them solve . . . and does it all in a way that will resonate with them.”
So if you’re NOT an expert at anything, does that mean you can’t brand yourself? Well of course not.
Branding is about defining the value you offer the people you’re trying to influence. And it comes from differentiating what you have to offer over others offering similar value.
In job search, you need to identify and target employers who are a good mutual fit . . . those who need your unique combination of qualifications, skills and personal traits.
You may not be an expert at any one thing, but you’re probably really, really good at doing a few things that will help your target employers meet their current challenges.
Branding is also about being authentic. Don’t put yourself out there as an expert if you’re not one. Tell it like it is.
The keys to a memorable personal brand
Although the concept of personal branding is simple, doing the work to define your brand takes time and reflection, and involves these things:
- Differentiation of your unique value proposition
Online presence and your personal brand
Finally, as you’re building your brand online, be mindful of your online reputation:
- Relevance – Stay on-brand and relevant while being visible to your target employers.
- Quality – Make sure no digital dirt tarnishes your brand.
- Diversity – Build a good mix of static online profiles/web pages and vibrant real-time content.
- Volume – Work on continuously building more and more search results for your name. This increases your number of diverse and accurate results on the first few pages.
- Consistency – Express the same personal brand message across all communications channels you decide to use.
Personal branding and the imposter syndrome
The opposite of branding yourself as an expert is actually BEING an expert but overlooking or minimizing it because you have imposter syndrome, described by executive coach Melody Wilding:
“An experience of intellectual phoniness first described by psychologists in 1978. Today, scientists estimate that up to 82% of people face impostor syndrome, which can include feeling as if they have deceived others into believing that they are more intelligent and capable than they really are.
A disconnect between a person’s self-perception and reality is at the core of imposter syndrome. While you may possess skills, training, degrees, and have a track record of accomplishments, you may struggle to attribute your success to your competence. Instead, you dismiss it and credit luck, timing, charm, or even good looks. In other words, people with imposter syndrome have trouble internalizing their successes. They have difficulty owning their accomplishments and integrating those experiences into a more positive view of themselves.”
She advises doing these things to overcome imposterism:
- Rewrite misconceptions about confidence
- Shift your explanatory style
- Accept compliments
- Start a brag file
- Broaden your definition of a win
Are you ready to define and build your personal brand? Then get my personal branding and job search worksheets.