How to Come Out of Hiding & Build Your Personal Brand
What to do when obfuscation has been your entire career history
Two and a half years ago, I made the decision to start … something online.
I didn’t really have a plan. In early 2020 I’d been laid off from my IT job, which was (to be honest) more or less something that I’d wanted to happen. And additionally, of course, we were all caught up in a major paradigm shift, AKA The Pandemic.
All at once I was left to my own devices, having been granted some severance pay … and more time than I really understood what to do with.
My career hasn’t been all that spectacular, if you look at it from a LinkedIn perspective. I was a waitress (and occasional bartender) for a few years in some really good restaurants. I worked in a tiny IT company for a couple years after that. I freelanced on the side and made a few websites for some nonprofits, participated in some art shows, and ran Chicago-based art and music events with my friend Rae Bees. I also helped run the late and once-great Black & Brown Babes Collective, but we’ll talk about that another time.
So when I decided I wanted to do “something” online, I had to also face the fact that I wasn’t sure exactly what I could talk about, career-wise. But I knew I had these skills:
I was a pretty good writer
Not bad, right? A lot of people would also like to know how to do these things. But I didn’t know how to put them together. Also, there was another problem:
I wasn’t especially good at filming myself
I had no idea how to take decent pictures of myself, either
I wasn’t sure that I had to do either of these things.
And of course the big one:
I still had no idea what I wanted to talk about, really.
And if I’m being honest here:
I still don’t really know what I want to talk about. (But at least I know where to start)
However, three big things have happened since then. Two of them are global, and the last one is more personal.
The pandemic is now mostly over.
There are still people who are going around wearing masks, but no one I know is seriously concerned about COVID anymore. We’re all still grappling with what happened, but at least we’re grappling with it, instead of being rocked around by it.
AI happened. I’m sure you’ve heard about it.
A couple of days ago, Google announced some updates for Bard, and the AI enthusiasts are still pulling it apart. We’ve been happily messing with ChatGPT and Midjourney for months at this point, but now that Google has entered the chat, shit’s getting real(er). I’ll be exploring these possibilities in more detail in future posts, but I do want to say that it’s my opinion that this is at least as fully important as the pandemic itself, and I want to understand it as best as I can, in the context of building a personal brand.
I’ll be coming at it from a layperson’s background, albeit a decently informed one, and I’ll do my best to explain and experiment with it in immediately useful ways.
I sold all my stuff and moved to Bangkok with my cat. Was I too late? Are you too late?
Obviously, this is the personal one. And honestly, it was a long, long time coming. It kind of deserves its own post (at least one!), but I think you’ll agree that the pandemic spawned a trillion new, different futures for so many people, most especially through the sheer disruption of our daily lives.
Here’s what I mean by that.
We were all on our own little train tracks. We were reasonably sure where we were going. But then our trains got derailed (some of them crashed) and we were ejected from our predictable, circular routes and forcibly installed into a sort of strange, timeless twilight.
Now that we had nothing to do, what were we going to do?
Was there time? All of those people who weren’t at the mercy of their jobs were lucky, we thought.
The people online, the people on YouTube, the ones whose business took place entirely on the Internet: They were doing fine, weren’t they?
What if we learned to do that? What if we could be online, too? What would that even look like?
How could we possibly catch up?
I’ve now met multiple people who worked hard and changed their lives in the three years since the beginning of the pandemic.
Three years is a long time. It’s plenty of time to make a significant dent in your career progress. For me, it was enough time to do a bootcamp (for motion design), start a blog, do two road trips (no regrets!), and make the big move to Bangkok, Thailand.
You can still read the original blog that I started back then. I’ve archived it all. And while I’ve grown and learned a lot since I first took it down, and I’m grateful that I did start it … I wish I’d stayed with it.
Because who knows where I’d be now, if I’d just kept at it?
How much further along would I be?
How much money would I be making now?
So here’s my game plan.
I’m going to develop, step by step, my personal brand. I’m going to do it publicly, and I’m going to show you how. I’m going to make mistakes. I’ll hopefully have (a lot of) successes, too.
And the reason for this is because I genuinely think we need to start developing our personal brands now.
AI is coming … and our job market is about to get a lot more competitive. It’s not just AI we have to compete with. It’s everyone in the developing countries, too. It’s everyone who can’t speak perfect English, who can now simply have AI translate for them. It will affect our lives in myriad different ways that we haven’t even thought of yet, and we need to be prepared, okay?
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