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When this post was originally shared in 2015, it sparked a lot of great thoughts and conversation. This topic deserves to be examined regularly. Let’s take another look at how we, as women, build (and ignore) our brands; and what we can do about it.
I talk with professional women every day who don’t realize that they are a brand. Whether crafted, defined, articulated or neglected, everyone has a brand. The more you put your arms around the idea, the more you can embrace and feel good about who are. Your brand matters.
I think it’s time to stop defining 50+ women as “old,” “over the hill” or whatever less than attractive tags people use. I may be over 50, but I am not old or over the hill. My skills are relevant, of-the-times and in-demand. Why? I am a student in perpetual beta. It’s both a curse (it’s a lot of work) and a gift (I define my value through expertise and being current). It’s necessary for the times we live in. Letting others date you, or dating yourself, is silly. It’s old-fashioned, (another phrase we should probably ban).
Nationally, among 55 to 64-year-olds, women’s rate of labor force participation is expected to reach 66.6% by 2020. For women age 65 years and older, the rate of labor force participation was 8.1% in 1980, 14.4% in 2012, and is expected to be 19.2% in 2020 (Older Women and Work). There is no time to waste if you are among this group. From a 2015 article by Dorie Clark in “More” magazine:
“Your personal brand is the way your values and talents are deliberately expressed through your profession, skill set, online presence, communication style, even clothing. Your personal brand represents what you stand for in a way that both defines you and sets you apart.” -Dorie Clark
Set aside some time, reflect and focus on yourself, your professional story, your look. Take stock and refresh what needs refreshing. When we move from one season to another, we put away some clothes and take out others. We should do the same for the seasons of our lives. Whether moving from job to job, transitioning from mom to professional or from corporate to entrepreneurial, understanding the culture and dress code is important; your brand matters and knowing the code may unlock doors.
As someone who spends a great deal of time talking about how to create your brand on LinkedIn, I want to share suggestions and resources to help you think differently about the most important brand you know; you.
Of the 340 million+ members on LinkedIn (as of March 2015), 44% are female. The largest percentage are 40+ and many over 50. Often women in this group tell me they do NOT want a photo on their LinkedIn profile because of age bias. Much has been written on age bias and social media. This is a complex and evolving issue; one not solved through blog posts or books but by women actually influencing how relevant and important they are to the world. One woman at a time.
I have heard this repeatedly and understand how deeply it affects the psyche of women. We’ve been conditioned to think “young and beautiful.” It’s our time to change this and demonstrate we are smart and beautiful. (Let’s define this differently too…but that will be a different post).
Show your value, define your position, ask for more because you are smart and have the depth of experience necessary, because you are a perpetual learner and have taken it upon yourself to learn the skills necessary to be relevant. No one can take that away from you.
Your brand matters—consider these suggestions as you take on your personal quest to define your brand:
We have to cultivate an environment where we adjust our mindset and that is often best done through reading and filling our brains with new thoughts. Here is some reading material for you:
Buy Dorie Clark’s book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future. (Full disclosure: I have not yet read this book, but I’ve read several of Dorie Clark’s articles. She has valuable expertise on this subject).
The StartUp of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. I have read this book five or six times and think it should be required reading for students of all ages.
WilliamArruda.com. I did a 360° Personal Survey a few years back and, while some of the feedback was hard to swallow, it was completely enlightening and spot on.
LinkedIn’s Economic Graph: Learn what LinkedIn is really all about and how skills are the key to unlocking new opportunity.
Lay out your resume, your LinkedIn profile and all other professional work and begin to outline your professional story. Draft your LinkedIn profile to tell this story since LinkedIn may be the first place people land to learn more about you. (Example: Back in 2015, I read an article in MORE magazine by Dorie Clark. I then searched it on Google to find the digital version and from there I jumped over to LinkedIn to learn more about the author and realized this wasn’t just an article but a part of a larger body of work. This increased her credibility in seconds).
Your experience is key to your brand. Talk about it, describe it in a fresh and interesting way—be compelling. (Don’t just upload your resume; big mistake—rather boring and looks a bit lazy). In the end, your experience and the skills you bring to the table create your competitive advantage. Use this. They are, in part, who you are. Why relinquish them or relegate them to a back corner?
In a previous post, She’s Attractive—Connect. Accept., I share ways to set up your profile that might be helpful. And, by the way, young women also experience age bias.
Look at your photo. No, stop and study it. Does it reflect you in the best possible way? This is one of the easiest fixes. Style up with a great haircut and sophisticated makeup, choose your favorite outfit and/or jewelry (maybe even a couple of outfits, the simpler the better), hire a photographer who has professional lighting and then study the shots and choose the best ones. Hey, if you need a bit of softening, go for it; look natural and real, but a little softening never hurt anyone.
Ask someone else to review your branding with you. It’s hard to write about yourself (this seems to be especially hard for women) so ask someone else if you are capturing the essence of who you are. I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with many influential women on their LinkedIn profiles and for the most part they simply underestimate their roles and what they have accomplished. Why? They’ve lived it and so it seems ordinary. This is often true for women in supporting roles.
Assemble your in-person and digital brand, and since it embodies various aspects of who you are and what you do, you need to cultivate this brand into your every day. I’m thinking about women I know who do this well:
- A high-end interior designer whose sense of style and elegance resonates in every conversation, photo and impassioned blog post.
- An executive administrative assistant whose personal style reflects the style of her organization and the executive she supports. She naturally goes out of her way to help others with the small details, it’s her natural gifting.
- A salesperson who gives back to her community through her volunteer work and lives the “willing to give first” credo. Her clients sense this when they work with her.
- A marketing VP for a performing arts organization who speaks of the music as passionately as the musicians who perform it.
Build your network, bring them together in LinkedIn and start the conversation. Let others see the best you and your collective experience, both professionally and personally, (i.e. volunteer work).
You see, every woman can do this. It’s not just for the executives or the business owner. It’s for each of us because we contribute to our organizations, enrich our families and pursue big dreams of our own. Because we need to contribute and we can.
We’d love to hear your response. Let us know what you think.
This article originally appeared in Intero.