It’s a brand new work and business world. And we do mean “brand.” Today, branding occurs at the individual level. But do you want to make a woman feel uncomfortable? Just ask about her strengths and value. It’s no stereotype: Studies show that women are notoriously bad at promoting their personal brands. One study, from employee search firm ISR, attributes this trait to the high value women place on relationships and communities. Women don’t speak about their strengths, the reasoning goes, because they don’t want to alienate people who are less successful.
Whatever its cause, this hesitance to self-promote hurts women’s careers. In today’s competitive world the people most vocal about their accomplishments are the ones most likely to get ahead. And by downplaying their accomplishments and deflecting praise onto others, women act like their own worst enemies.
As a professional speaker, coach and personal branding strategist working with many women business owners and professionals, I see this behaviour all the time. I’ve also heard countless excuses for why women avoid communicating their own personal brands. Another expert, Kelly Watson, identified the following four excuses which she dubbed as the four myths of self-promotion:
1. The Bitch Myth – “Self promotion will make me look arrogant.”
Not all self-promotion is shameless. Sometimes it’s essential to a successful career, whether that means reminding a boss of your achievements or publicizing the 10th anniversary of your business. But many women have trouble making the distinction between shameless bragging and smart promotion.
2. The Princess Myth- “If I’m good enough, people will hear about it.”
This myth originates from fairy tales where the princess waits for her knight to arrive and sweep her off her feet. Generations of girls have heard this story. Many grow up believing it’s true. If you work hard and wait patiently enough, someone will eventually notice.
Unfortunately, this only applies to fairy tales. In the corporate world most people are juggling too many responsibilities to notice what others are doing well. This goes double for people with the authority to give promotions and pay raises. And for business owners, simply waiting for the right customers to appear is a recipe for failure. The world is too full of competition for businesses to stay solvent without good promotion. Survival depends upon taking action to get noticed.
3. The Friends and Family Myth – “Others should talk about my accomplishments, not me.”
Some women assume that others with promote them by spreading positive word of mouth. While word of mouth is a great form of promotion, relying word of mouth without influencing the key messages can be counter productive.
Let’s face it- no one is more passionate about your work than you. No one else knows the depth of your experience and expertise. And no one can elaborate on your unique skills as convincingly as you can. By delegating promotion of your personal brand to others, you’re taking away your best opportunity to demonstrate your value.
4. The Martyr Myth – “You can’t control what people think anyway.”
When promoting your personal brand makes you feel uncomfortable, it can be tempting to take a “why bother?” attitude. After all, people form their first impressions before you even say a word, so there’s no sense trying to change their minds … right? Wrong!
The Bottom Line
The myths you believe often mask a deeper insecurity about the value you place on what you have to offer. If you don’t fully believe in yourself, you’ll naturally resist stepping into the spotlight. This resistance, plus generations of conditioning to be humble and stand on the sidelines, has left many women unprepared for today’s ultra-competitive business world. To discover and communicate your brand is not about being fake…it must be genuine.