Google the phrase “personal branding,” and you get over 300 million results.
Not too shabby for a marketing term about promoting yourself and building a reputation.
Yet, wisdom about this popular phrase is not plentiful.
Much of the guidance is cliche-ridden and generic. And not geared for Baby Boomers.
Boomers and Branding (or Not)
Actually, most Boomers are not rip-roaring fans of personal branding, and it is unlikely they are actively searching for information about it.
In fact, discretion, not attention-getting, has been a Boomer motto. For Boomers like myself, credentials, talent, and resumes speak for themselves.
Who needs to promote themselves? Are accomplishments not enough?
However, thinking that way is a big mistake today — unless you want to take last place in the career race.
Thanks to the Internet, you now have an easy platform to create a personal brand. And if you are not active online, you are likely to be viewed as non-existent. Or, at least, out-of-date and unimportant. The millions searching for the term know that.
In today’s global marketplace, you are literally competing with the world. You need a personal brand to distinguish yourself if you want to stand out. Otherwise you will be lost among the masses. Unknown and forgotten.
The Worst Boomer Branding Mistakes
If you are leery about personal branding, it is understandable. This column will help you get your personal branding legs. And to do it so it feels comfortable. Let’s begin by ensuring you’re not veering off course.
To help you stay on track, here are 5 personal branding mistakes it is easy for Boomers to make. And what to do instead.
1.Pretending to be younger than you are.
I know I have been guilty of this. After all who would not want to do photographic Botox, instantly appearing 20 years younger? No doubt you have done a double take of some people’s LinkedIn’s photo — snapped so many years ago the person is almost unrecognizable.
You damage your brand when you pretend to be someone you are not. People want authenticity and to connect with someone real. After all, who wants to connect with a fake person?
Focus on showcasing your strengths. What are your skills? Your passions? What makes you get up in the morning? What can you share based on a lifetime of accumulated smarts?
Get people excited about your interests. This will rebound to your credit more than any pretense will.
2. Underselling yourself.
Typically, Boomers are not natural self-promoters unlike Millennials. We think our credentials will sell themselves.
Yet, most people do not care about what school a 50+ person attended or that you grew revenues at a company 25 percent. The facts of your career, while important to you, do not get others salivating, especially if they are not aware of them.
Show off your personality while focusing on the other person’s needs. As in any relationship, it has to cut both ways.
Demonstrate how you can help people and express passion, not chest thumping.
Build relationships by tying your passions, dreams and expertise to how you benefit others.
For example, if you’re a marketer, talk about your passion for turning an unknown product into a name everyone knows and wants. Share your love of devising campaigns that turn a static business into a money maker.
3. Dismissing content.
Content is the currency of online behavior. It is what differentiates you and showcases your personality and knowledge. Without content, you are like someone who does not exist. Unrecognizable and forgotten.
If you are not a natural writer, record a podcast or create a video — whatever will put you on the map. You can also curate content, adding your spin and personality to other people’s content.
Of course there is no point in creating content unless it is compelling and not self promotional. People want to know how you can help them and not hear how great you are.
Where do you post your content? Think your website, LinkedIn, and Medium. Post links to your content on social media. And remember: Do not be a once-and-done content creator. Post consistently.
4. Flying solo.
You may think that you know yourself best and don’t need to discover what others think about you. But if you talk only to yourself, you will get a distorted view of how you are perceived by others. It is hard to see outside yourself.
Seek input from others. Do not feel that no one will care. People like to help. This could be friends, family, colleagues, or a firm that specializes in personal branding.
Have questions that require more than simple yes or no answers. Ask people:
- What are my strongest qualities?
- Where could I improve?
- What is not clear about what I do?
- What qualities should I emphasize more?
5. Overselling yourself
Now that I cautioned you not to be underselling yourself, remember it is equally important not to run commercials for yourself. People do not want to hear how smart and accomplished you are. That type of boasting is a turn off at any age.
Others want to know how you can help them and add value to their lives. Be helpful, gracious, and engaging.
Focus on your audience’s needs. Let others praise you. Do not praise yourself.
The Bottom Line
If you are a newbie to personal branding, or hesitant about doing it, remember that it is not a boasting contest. Personal branding is about making yourself engaging, likable, and helpful. Let people know who you are, how you can benefit them, and why they should care. Who would not want to hear that?
More About Boomer/Fifty Plus Job Search
- Personal Brand: Today’s Success Requirement
- Beating the “Too Old” Bias: Being Visibly Up-to-Date
- Beating the “Too Old” Bias, Learning New Skills
- Goal Setting for Success
- Job Search Advantages of Being Over 50
About the author…
Wendy Marx is a personal branding and reinvention expert for baby boomers. For many years, she ran a PR and marketing firm where she turned virtual unknowns into industry icons through personal branding. Wendy is the author of Thriving at 50 Plus about finding more meaning and purpose in your life at 50 plus through rebranding and reinvention. Connect with Wendy on Linkedin and Twitter. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit ThrivingAt50plus.com.