While a lot of young professionals and entrepreneurs are no stranger to the necessity of self-promotion, a lot of us have difficulty with the language of self-branding. Does building a brand make us inauthentic? Are we thinking too much of ourselves? And then there's the dilemma of whether or not to protect our social media accounts if we want to share personal details.
I'd argue that we should shift our thinking to a different business concept that lives behind the brand: strategic planning.
We don't blink an eye at the idea of creating goals and plans for a new organization or business venture, so why not break it down on the micro-level? Leaders like Daniel Horgan of the D.G. Horgan Group suggest exploring your defining moments and top five peer influences to assess your future potential, and organizations like MindTools provide Personal SWOT Analysis frameworks and other tools. In tangible ways, these folks are reminding us that strategic planning of the self need not be a complicated process.
At the end of the day, we all want to be mission-driven. There are communities, causes, and people we care about. We want to spend our time wisely and maximize the impact of our efforts. Using the strategic plan framework to set goals can make these desires a reality.
So the next time you're groaning as you consider what keywords and hashtags to include in your Twitter profile or who to follow, try these steps instead:
• Check your gut: What's important to you? Where do you want to make an impact? Do the ventures you're involved in match up with your values and beliefs?
• Make connections: Who's out there to mentor you or give you advice on how to reach your goals? What aren't you aware of that might be a key opportunity?
• Get to work: Don't put your energy into too many projects at once, even if they all align with your core mission. People notice when you do one thing well – they also notice when you do three things poorly.
In an age of self-directed careers and seemingly infinite opportunities, it's hard to decide where we should spend our energy. But checking in with ourselves is an important first step in decision making – whether we're wondering if we should apply to a job or educational program, or taking first steps toward that book or business venture we've been thinking about for a few years.
And don't forget – consistency (or a lack thereof) in our thoughts and actions is what gets us noticed.