Branding Coach Amanda Miller Littlejohn On How To Build Your Personal Brand
By Crystal Tate
In this day and age, your personal brand is just as an important, if not, more important than your professional one. Regardless of whether you consider yourself to have a personal brand, everyone has one even if it’s simply a LinkedIn or Facebook page. We spoke to personal branding coach Amanda Miller Littlejohn to find out the major keys to building your brand and how to discover your passion. Keep reading to learn her story and get life-changing career advice.
How did you get started in your career field?
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: I started out in print journalism and worked for the Washington City paper in Washington, D.C. It coincided with the change in content and digital, and everything was shifting. Right when I got into the industry, the industry started changing. All of the newspaper advertising was beginning to be usurped by Craigslist and free and lower cost online advertising so I was planning my exit strategy. It also coincided with the birth of my first son so I knew that I needed to make more money. I started to look for other ways to use my talents. I knew I was a strong writer as a print journalist so I first set out to package myself as a writer. I quickly saw there was more value I could add to my clients beyond writing so it became full blown public relations, speaking engagements and event strategy. I always volunteered to do more and before I knew it, I was doing full blown PR, and I had built up this reputation and had clients. It just kept growing. In the beginning, I wasn’t being strategic but now I have a better understanding of my skills and I’m grateful it played out the way it did. It only played out that way because I was open to any and everything. I realized there were a lot of individuals reaching out to me for help and I realized I was more passionate about individuals than larger organizations, and that’s how the coaching was born. I knew about social media and how to promote yourself so the coaching started as an offshoot of my main business. However it became the thing I was most excited about. PR was 80% of my time and revenue, and coaching was taking up 20% of my time and revenue and I told an associate that I wished it was the other way around because I get so much joy from helping people and seeing the difference my work is making in this person and their business. I put it in the universe and I started working towards it and then it began to happen and I began to brand myself as a coach. I still do PR work but I focus on experts and individuals. I did the coaching one on one for about three years before I started a blog and then a podcast. Last year, I launched the group academy. I still do one on one, but the academy is a way to build the community into the coaching. There’s a whole mental component to putting yourself out there especially if you’ve never done it before.
If you’re still in college or a recent graduate and trying to figure out your passion, how can you jumpstart and discover your passion sooner?
AML: I think this economy and way of working has really evolved since I was fresh out of college. There are so many more opportunities to get experience now than there were ten years ago. The name of the game is testing and trying things out. You find out what you like and what you’re good at by doing it! You find out what you’re passionate about by testing different things and seeing what fits, where you can grow, and taking on challenges and stretching yourself. For me, I was fortunate enough to have clients who saw my potential and saw the way I attacked my work, and they had faith in me that I’d bring that same level of excellence to whatever I tried even if I didn’t have previous experience. What you can do as a young person is really shore up the intangible and make sure people understand that you are worth taking risks on. When you don’t have experience and trying to figure out your passion, you have to get experience and you have to try things out but you have to have some sort of canvas or platform to get that experience. In order to get someone to give you a chance, you have to show you’re worth taking that risk. You do that by being professional and showing up on time. If they ask you to do something small, you kill it! You show them you have the potential to do even more. You don’t show up and disgrace their business by being unprofessional. You show them you have potential and express interest in taking on more challenges and new experiences. Hopefully your brand will be synonymous with doing good work and being pleasant to be around and they’ll be willing to give you a shot.
If you want to do something along lines of content or journalism, start a blog or write for a site like Upworthy. Put yourself out there by building something and getting practice. If you aren’t finding opportunities through other people’s companies, create your own! Not enough young people recognize and activate the power of equity and putting in work and giving what they have which is time, talent and the ability to work in order to get a foot in the door. Once someone sees how you work, especially if they aren’t paying you, they’ll make an opportunity for you. And if not, hopefully you’re taking notes and learning, and then can create your own.
What are the keys to building your own brand especially when you’re first starting out?
AML: I think a focus on the intangibles is critical especially when you’re first starting out. If you become known as someone who is difficult to work with, isn’t easy to get along with, isn’t punctual, doesn’t turn in assignments on time, and more of those soft skills that we don’t talk about, but they are talking about behind closed doors, it will be hard to get opportunities whether it’s client opportunities or promotions. I hear all the time about people who are getting passed over for promotions or getting laid off because their brand is damaged. Those back channels make their way to conversation. Here are three key ways to build your brand:
1) Be consistent—You have to make sure you’re treating people well and doing what you say you’re going to do.
2) Take control of your digital footprint—Even if you aren’t into social media, you are still being searched for and judged based on what’s out there online. The careers of 2017 and beyond want to see someone with an established digital presence. If nothing else, get your LinkedIn profile together. That’s typically where people start when they’re trying to find out more about you in a professional context.
3) Don’t wait for permission to build something that you want to see in the world—The barriers to entry are basically zero at this point. If you want to write a book or have your own radio show, start a podcast. If you want to have a magazine, you can start a blog. If you want to start an organization, there are so many platforms you can use to connect people around the world.
Make it a habit of trying to figure out what have I learned, what do I know, who needs it and how can I share it. It may start out as mentoring younger students now that you’ve graduated from college.
Can you talk more about the barriers that successful women tend to face?
AML: I wasn’t expecting people to have reservations about promoting themselves. I understand people who don’t believe in self-promotion but people who express that they want to learn how to tell their story and you tell them how to do it, and then they still struggle! You then run into these internal struggles about worthiness. Who am I to be more visible and seen? Do I have something meaningful enough to share and promote? Are people going to listen to me? So there’s this entire mental conversation that you also have to deal with. There’s a catch-22 because most high-achieving successful women get to where they are because they have extremely high standards and push themselves very hard. The other side of that coin is the constant self-abuse because your standards are so high that the amazing things you do barely register as good enough for your own standards so you rarely celebrate the amazing things you’re doing or you’re comparing yourself to someone else. Our Package Your Genius academy program is a hybrid of branding and telling your story and getting yourself out there but we’re also encouraging you, reassuring you and teaching you about the different ways in how your mindset affects your level of success, your comfort with success and your comfort with sharing your success
Crystal Tate is the editorial manager of The Life Currency, and a freelance editor, writer and stylist based in New York City. When she isn't sitting behind her laptop, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling and inspiring young women to shatter glass ceilings. Follow her on Twitter at @CrystalDenise and see more of her work at Crystal-Tate.com.