It’s okay to touch. Handmade figures on display at a restaurant in Korea. © Carey Beam 2010

Shameless (not really) Self-Promotion

In my last article, I revealed my anxieties about striking out on my own as a freelancer. Since writing those six points, I don’t think I feel any less anxious. But, I have been encouraged to press on by my very gracious coach to keep the writing practice going through self-exploration in hopes that others will identify and possibly find solace in knowing they are not the only ones facing the great unknown. This time around, I’m going to delve into point number one on my list of angst: I am a humanitarian, not a business person.

As I wrote before, I can promote the hell out of good causes, but I have a hard time promoting myself. Something as simple as putting up a LinkedIn profile has eluded me for years. I just couldn’t bring myself to design, print, and wave my own flag when there were other ‘more-deserving’ causes and characters out there for me to draw attention to. For the past ten years, I have relied on the other social media platforms that allow me to go incognito and use non-descriptive handles to provide me with the access, yet afford me a bit of insulation so I wasn’t so vulnerable with my ‘true’ self being put on the line. Not that I’ve given up on this ideal completely, but it was as if I needed to shield my naturally-birthed identity from a bottom-feeding sea of anonymous avatars and aggravating trolls. Well, the walls are tumbling down and my nets are cast out wide. I’m now on LinkedIn with a shiny new profile so I can deliver a virtual introduction as a ‘real’ person. Care to connect?

It pained me greatly to actually go through with it and put all my vitals out there for critical eyes. How could I possibly describe ‘me’ and all that entails to give both old and new connections an accurate picture of what I can bring to the high-profile social network? It’s an exercise that I am well familiar with in promoting the good works of others, but to turn the mirror on myself was something I typically tried to avoid at all costs. After mustering up the courage, I picked through all the highlights of my personal and professional life — things that I felt a personal pride or sense of accomplishment in, things that I could embellish with a good story upon request — and amassed a tapestry of description that truly only hints at the person behind the profile. During this process, I openly criticized my own accomplishments while alternately thinking that people can just f- right off if they don’t like what they see. Maybe I take this stuff way too seriously, but I keep asking myself, “What is it exactly that we are trying to convey when we publish a public profile for networking purposes?”

There are tips abound that often overstate “it’s not about YOU” when creating profiles. But, it is. Really. That’s the point, right? We make these profiles to effectively promote ourselves. Yes, deep down we all want the world to be a better place and we can all work to make that happen by expanding our networks… Yadda-yadda. The reality is that we have to dress up and put out in order to gain access to the resources that can make our dreams come true. In answer, I internalize the objective for these profiles to strike a balance between achievement (to spark interest) and humility (to make personable). Yes, I know well and good the argument for drafting your own personal elevator pitch and brand statement, but that just seems so Cracker Jack tacky and insincere to me. While it’s so easy to lean on the tenet that we need to take ownership for our attributes and how we present ourselves to the public eye, I feel like to do so really smacks of the classically consequential Emperor’s New Clothes (or the more modern Kylie Jenner identity crisis) — If I define myself only for others to see me, than I might just lose sight of who and what I actually am.

So, LinkedIn placed me in the ‘All-Star’ category for profile strength, but I’m still somewhat concerned with what you don’t see… Even though I feel like I put it ‘all’ out there, there is still a lot to be left to imagination and speculation. I keep thinking about what it is that people really want to know that can’t be captured in the summary and experience section? Is it important to share that I am quite cynical, a pretty snappy dresser, kind of a pack rat, and really good at untying knots? I am also an INFP or ENTJ, depending on the day. Oh, and I am a heavy user of text emojis. Would any of this matter on the outset more so than my alma mater or preferred charities? The humanitarian in me believes we should all be connecting on a deeper and more personal level beyond the logos altogether, but it’s the business that is prodding me to light up this screen in hopes that I find the right channels to take my skills so that I can continue to promote the good works of others and truly help to make this world a better place for us all.

There you have it… I’m available for freelance writing and communications support, specializing in STEM and sustainability. Hire me?