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Why you need to tell your story

bltcommentarywebI remember NOT being selected a Top 100 Woman over a decade ago.

My application was OK, but it didn’t stand out among the hundreds of other stellar nominees. It didn’t matter that I was the first one in my family to earn undergrad and graduate degrees (summa cum laude each time!) that I was the top performer in the country. That I ran an organization representing 54,000 businesses. And I led a mentoring group of 11 students and their mentees.

I didn’t win because it wasn’t enough but because I didn’t tell my story. I was reserved and conservative. Which is expected and acceptable.

But it’s not.

I don’t need a parade.

I know what I am worth.

I know what I have earned.

But it’s a lot easier when the doors are opened a bit. When your reputation precedes you. When your leaders, partners, clients receive validation that you are exceptional.

But I learned.

In 2007 I earned the prestigious honor of being named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women.

In 2010, I was honored again. And in 2012, and with this third time I was inducted into the Circle of Excellence.

This column isn’t about boasting and tooting my own horn, so you all celebrate me. I’m writing because we need to lift as we rise. We need to open the doors and create the paths so others can do more than we could.

So, sisters (and brothers, I will address you next, hang tight!) tell your stories, share your accomplishments, remind the world why you are uniquely perfect.

How do you do that without alienating or rubbing people the wrong way? Without being “too girly,” “too much,” “too cocky,” “too bitchy”? Unfortunately, your audience (whoever you are dealing with, whether a client, courtroom, kids, etc.) should be able to focus on your value proposition without the distraction of the package.  But sadly, that is not how the world works.

So, tell your story by:

Become a subject matter expert

Whatever your field of knowledge, showcase this on panels, interviews, workshops, articles, etc.  Sharing your knowledge validates that YOU DO KNOW YOUR STUFF.

Get your recognition

Don’t be shy or humble.  If you are presenting on a panel (typically this is a pro bono gig) request your credentials, bios be accurate so you can share the activity on your social media platforms and cite it on your CV or bio. We, as your friends/colleagues, don’t always know how smart or accomplished you are — so seeing a post on LinkedIn about your international presentation in Dubai or your latest book exposes us to another dimension of you.

Social promotion

This bears repetition: Share your activities/events/accomplishments on your social platforms — not in an ostentatious “LOOK AT ME, I’M AWESOME!” way. Rather, explain why this event/thing is important to you and why your audience should care: “I presented at Patterson High School in front of 25 girls — this is our future. So thrilled that by sharing my journey about being a Latina who launched a company that translates and facilitates trainings, they can hopefully be inspired to pursue their own dreams.” We are living in a digital era, and our relationships are furthered and cultivated online. So, share!

Support others

Although I’m writing this column, I am not comfortable self-promoting. But I am mindful of celebrating and acknowledging others. I do take time to nominate folks (especially those who fly under the radar) and to toot their horn loudly. I will admit that it is a bit self-serving; I’m truly joyful to see their happiness and pride at being recognized.

Your homework

(Brothers, this part is also for you.) Invest some energy reviewing your sphere of contacts. List the unsung heroes who work magic without any expectation of glory or pay. Honor them: with a genuine note of appreciation (super private), a Facebook or LinkedIn post (semi-visible), or a nomination to an honor (super public and visible).

If we all spent a little energy celebrating others, then the news would be a bit more positive, more encouraging … just better.

And your homework, part II: #TellYourStory. Appropriately, subtly, loudly, in Spanish or English, in video, on Facebook, with your sisters, in the car … anyway you can. In ways that suit you and your personality.

Amigos, remember, the world IS watching and would gladly celebrate you.

Veronica Cool is founder of Cool & Associates LLC, a business management firm specializing in financial wellness and diverse segment marketing. Her column appears each month in The Daily Record and online. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @verocool.