Hype Yourself! You’re Worth It!

This post was written by Aashni Shah and Sam Hazell based on our Jan 16th talk with the same title for a Girl Geeks hosted by the Square/Cash App office in Kitchener. You can find the slides here.

The idea for our talk started as a casual conversation over dinner. We were trading stories about our career struggles as females in tech and engineering, and sharing some tips and tools that we each use to help overcome some of the career hurdles we’ve faced – particularly when it comes to personal branding, and being able to openly and confidently demonstrate our accomplishments.

It turns out that we weren’t alone in our struggle. Research shows that women face some unique challenges when it comes to advancing in our careers. Two of the biggest challenges we face include developing a personal brand and proving our value to overcome the unconscious (and let’s be real, sometimes very conscious) biases that unfortunately still exist in many industries and workplaces today.

At some point in time in your career, you will have to prove your value, whether it’s to get a new job, a promotion, or simply recognition for work you’ve done in the past. It can be very hard to talk about your accomplishments without either underselling yourself, or feeling like you’re boasting.

Hopefully we can help you overcome these hurdles by sharing some proven tools to help you hype yourself!

Personal Brand

If you’re on LinkedIn or any other social media. You’ve probably heard of the term “personal branding”. Buy maybe you’re wondering what that really means – what is a personal brand? and more importantly, why do you need one?

A personal brand can be best described as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Basically, it’s a reflection of how you are perceived by the world around you. When it comes to personal branding – it’s not a question of whether you have a brand, but whether you consciously choose to guide and develop your brand, or let it be defined for you. Too few people effectively manage their personal brand, but it is something that is too important to leave up to chance.

So how do you develop and manage your personal brand?

First, you need to figure out how you want the world to see you. Your personal brand should clearly show the unique value you provide to the world. When creating your brand, identify your uniqueness by thinking about your core values, your strengths, and your passions. Each of these aspects of your life helps guide you and your actions – your YOUnique value is where these three areas intersect.

Next, do a brand inventory. Start with some BRAND-storming. Think of three adjectives that describe you. Write them out. Reflect on why you chose those three words. Then, talk to people from different circles in your life – friends, family, coworkers. Ask them to pick three words that describe you and explain why they picked those three words. How do the results compare? Do the people around you see you the way you want to be seen? If yes – great, you are doing a good job of living your brand! If not – that’s okay, at least now you know, and you can work on closing the gap.

Experience Maps

Once you’ve defined your personal brand. You need a way to share it. Experience maps are great for visualizing your brand so that you can tell your brand story. It’s a great tool to help you quickly identify your brand when working with new people – be it a new boss, mentor or co-worker.

It’s important to note that your experience map shouldn’t just list your education and professional milestones – that’s what your resume is for. Your personal brand is more than any one success or experience. It’s a collection of all your experiences, passions, strengths, successes and even your failures!

Some key tips for making the most out of your experience map:

  1. Include a timeline with all the milestones that have helped define your personal brand – these can be educational, professional, personal – whatever is important to you!
  2. Consider including some personality insights. This is a quick and easy way to highlight some of your key traits to help people understand and communicate with you better.
  3. Use a fun facts section to subtly showcase your favourite skills. For example, a fun fact about your most persuasive moment can lead to a conversation about your stellar negotiation skills.
  4. Don’t forget to include a section on “what’s next” to help identify your goals and what you’re working towards. This is especially important when using your experience map in a career or mentorship setting.
  5. Make it fun. Your experience map should be a reflection of who you are and what makes you unique.

Once you’ve created your experience map use it to help you share your personal brand, but avoid sharing it without giving some context. Experience maps are best used as a visual to help you tell your brand story. Use it to engage in a conversation about yourself, rather than just sending it out like you would a resume.

If you’re interested in more information on Experience Maps here’s a worksheet on how to identify your brand and some guidelines for creating one.

Hype Docs

A Hype Doc is not meant to be a resume, self evaluation or a vision board. Each of those serve their own person, but are different. Instead, a Hype Doc is a living list of your achievements and your accomplishments. You use it to track the small and big impacts that you’ve made.

You may have the best manager in the world, but in reality your manager doesn’t know about all the work that you’ve done, and especially what work you are proudest of. Having a Hype Doc gives your manager a quick and easy list to use for reference. It also makes your life easier if you ever have to write a self evaluation.

In the context of creating an Experience Map, a Hype Doc works as an excellent back end to keep track of your achievements. You can then look through your Hype Doc and use it to update your Experience Map in the future.

What does a Hype Doc Look Like

The Hype Doc structure is really flexible – you need to create a style that works for you so that you stay committed and continue updating your Hype Doc regularly. The two most popular styles are using a list in a word document, or turning that list into a spreadsheet so you can add some descriptive filter tags or sort by dates.

The general idea with your hype doc is that if you’re proud of some work, it should go in. Here are four categories of achievements you can include in your Hype Doc – but there are always more!

  • Work related to Projects you’ve shipped, like design documents or code changes
  • Cross team collaboration, where you’ve helped other team members review their code or design docs. Additionally, when you’ve helped other teams outside of who you normally interact with
  • Invisible Accomplishments such as doing code cleanup or implementing a new testing suite, as well as other things you do outside of the scope of your job such as plan Women Engineering events for your company
  • Extracurricular activities, which includes things outside of work. These can be related to your job, such as speaking at a panel or writing a blog post, however they can also include the other accomplishments in your life that you’re proud of, such as getting a Scuba Diving license

Hype Docs and Goal Setting

Hype Docs are a great resource at evaluation time. One of the outcomes of evaluation time are setting goals for you to work towards, whether for personal growth or to work towards your next promotion. You can use these goals as a way to organize your hype doc, either by separate pages or filter tags for each goal. As you check in with your manager, you can then quickly identify areas that you’re growing well in, as well as areas you should spend more time focusing on.

Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Hype Doc Updated

Having a Hype Doc is awesome, but keeping it updated is a habit you need to form. Here are a few tips to get you onto the right track.

  • Set a recurring meeting in your calendar to update your Hype Doc. The more frequently you update your Hype Doc, the more you remember to put down, so doing it once a week is a really good strategy.
  • Update your Hype Doc with friends or coworkers. This helps keep you accountable, as well as gives you a chance to share some of your achievements
  • Go through your Hype Doc with your manager about once a quarter. This gives you a chance to identify areas you’re excelling in, and areas to spend more energy well before your next evaluation roles around.

If you’re interested in viewing some sample Hype Docs, here is an example using a spreadsheet format, and here is an example using a word document.

Conclusion

Voila! You’ve now got some proven techniques of building up your personal brand, sharing your experience and keeping track of your achievements.

Do you ever sometimes get into a funk and question everything about your skills and abilities? Because we are human, we are more likely to remember all the bad decisions and mistakes we make, and less likely to remember the good. Your Experience Map and Hype Doc are here to change that! So next time you’re feeling a little down, crack open your Experience Map or Hype Doc and remember why you’re awesome.

As Marie Chatfield once said, You are your best hype person, and you deserve it!