Your social life is booming again. Experts say ‘take baby steps’ as you start to see people.

Many people are showing off vaccine cards or stickers on social media to wave a “hang out with me” flag – but what if the social invites become overwhelming? 

More than 246 million shots have been given out in the U.S., and upwards of 105 million Americans are fully vaccinated. As those numbers grow, your inbox may start filling up with invites to brunches, happy hours and dinner parties. And while the prospect of going out after a year of staying at home may be exciting, for some, these invites can also fuel anxiety.

Experts say one of the ways to get a handle on these feelings is to acknowledge your limits when it comes to in-person interactions – and know when to turn down an invitation. 

“It’s important to know yourself. What is enough socializing? What is too much?” says life coach Marilyn Fettner. “Notice yourself; notice your own reaction and how you’re feeling about getting back into a social life.” 

It’s normal to feel stressed when being social again

Nearly half of Americans say they feel uneasy thinking about in-person interaction once the pandemic ends, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Stress in America report. Experts say these uneasy feelings are normal and expected because of the nature in which we were isolated. 

Fettner says it’s important to take time to establish what your needs are before committing to a social obligation. As people start to socialize, they will have different levels of comfort with in-person interactions. 

Dr. Debra O’Shea, a neuropsychologist who works with adults who experience social anxiety, says to “start thinking about your comfort level.” Take “baby steps,” she says, “dip your foot in the pond slowly.” 

How to prioritize who to hang with first

According to guidelines released by the CDC April 27, fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear a mask outside, except in crowded setting.

The guidelines also listed several activities that are considered safe for fully vaccinated people to participate in without wearing a mask:

  • Walk, run, wheelchair roll or bike outdoors
  • Attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people
  • Dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple household

It’s exciting to finally expand the number of people who you can safely hang out with, but it can be difficult to divvy up your time and decide who to see first.

“Having to be confined to home made you really think about when you got a chance to spend time, who would you spend that time with,” says celebrity lifestyle manager Saunté Lowe. 

Lowe organizes the calendar of “Hidden Figures” and “Empire” actress Taraji P. Henson. She recommends that when sorting through daily invites, prioritize time with the people you weren’t able to spend as much time with during your more hectic pre-pandemic life. 

“Those (are) people that really freaking matter,” Lowe says. “Start with those people and work your way out.” 

O’Shea says it’s helpful to prioritize people based onhow familiar you are with them. 

“Find your group, your people who you’re comfortable with, and start socializing with them and then branch out,” O’Shea says. “You don’t have to see everybody right now.”

Sometimes, it’s best to just decline invitations

When your plate becomes too full or you feel uncomfortable from a safety standpoint, experts suggest you politely decline certain invitations. 

“I think everybody needs self care,” O’Shea says. “If you’re feeling bombarded or a boom of social invites, then maybe spread them out a little bit so you can do some self care.”

Research shows that saying no can be hard because of learned behavior and is even harder for women to say. 

“For many of us, what may look like ‘people pleasing’ behavior in our daily life was at one point a strategy we learned to stay safe in some way,” said Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “Even if saying ‘no’ may be a safe option for you in the present moment, many of us hold the memory of how this step has backfired or set-off others in the past.”

Lowe says it’s important to say no during this time. She says saying no brings serenity because life is not about being everywhere all the time, but rather is about “selectively picking those things that bring you peace and joy.”

Fettner says there are many techniques for declining an invitation to a social gathering you’d rather not attend.

 “Start with something positive; thank the person for the invitation,” she says. “If you feel that you need to say no, see if you can also include the possibility of maybe getting together next week or maybe in two weeks.”

O’Shea says if there are aspects of the gathering that make you uncomfortable, such as if the plan includes too many people, offer an alternative: “Decline the larger event, but maybe make a separate plan for just the two of you together.”

Lowe says the purpose of an invitation is to make a decision.

“They already know that you might not be able to come,” she says. “At the end of the day, you only get one life and you can only be at one place at one time.”

10 Golden Rules Of Personal Branding

Creating a personal brand can be a daunting, mythical task. And one of the easiest ways to get lost in the process is to not know where to start. Even Oprah Winfrey began by going through several style iterations on a small local show before defining her voice into one of the most influential personal brands in the world.

In both our look-at-me cultural shift and evolving job market, it’s both helpful and necessary to stand out when applying for a job or starting your own company. A personal brand is for (almost) everyone. So here are 10 golden rules for creating an engaging, unique, and inviting personal brand.

1. Have a focus.

“Too many people are unfocused when it comes to press and coverage, trying to be “everything to everyone.” Decide what your key message is and stick to it,” says Cooper Harris, founder and CEO of Klickly. Her personal brand has undergone a dramatic shift—from working actress to respected tech entrepreneur and she has handled this shift by only focusing on one message at a time. Keeping your message focused for your target demographic will make it that much easier to both create content around your personal brand and have others define you.

In fact, Adam Smiley Poswolsky, millennial workplace expert and author of The Breakthrough Speaker, takes it one step furtherwhen he’s advising speakers: “Carve a niche, and then carve a niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific.” And Juan Felipe Campos, VP of tech and partner at Manos Accelerator, goes one step further to focus on communities that he targets with his large-scale clients. “Keep your message and content consistent to one niche topic to become memorable within a targeted community.” The narrower and more focused your brand is, the easier it is for people to remember who you are. And when it comes time to hire a speaker or a new employee, your narrowed-down brand will be what they remember.

2. Be genuine.

There’s an easy way to have an original personal brand—and that is to be genuine and authentic. Millennial influencer and head of marketing at Popular Demand, Monica Lin, says “People can see right through a disingenuous act.” The more obviously a brand is a copycat, the more the audience will call out the perpetrator for it. Monica’s personal brand experienced a huge amount of growth after she began engaging with her audience more meaningfully on Twitter.

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“Be genuine. It will make it much easier to manage your personal brand on a daily basis,” explained William Harris, Facebook ads expert at Elumynt. Your personal brand should be an easy daily filter that you create content and reach out to your audience with. And finally, Justin Wu, founder of CoinState says “Be a master of your craft, skillset or industry before starting a personal brand. Then your content will help amplify who you are.” When initially building his personal brand, he garnered a reputation of being an expert in his field while simultaneously amplifying on social media that same renown. If you’re deeply skilled in one area, your reputation alone will help you build the brand you want.

3. Tell a story.

If your personal brand isn’t telling a story, you’ve already lost half of your potential audience. Allen Gannett, chief strategy officer at Skyword and author of The Creative Curve explains it best:” The most effective personal branding strategy these days is to build a true narrative – single character monologues are boring in Tinseltown, and even more boring for your personal brand.” No one wants to hear you shout about your brand into the social media void, so create a story around your brand that your audience can engage with. Allen regularly meets and chats with his audience in airports around the world, further developing his warm and friendly personal brand.

One of the best ways to tell that story is through written content or video. For Pelpina Trip, social video strategist, this is definitely the case. Her own video channel on LinkedIn sees some of the highest levels of engagement across the platform. “The most personal way to communicate online is with video. Simply use your smartphone to video message your clients, make a personal connection with prospective clients and connect with co-workers. After all, you always have your smartphone on you!”

4. Be consistent.

Being consistent is very similar to having a narrow focus—it’s much easier to get recognized for one topic if you consistently create content and brand voice around it. “Ensure that your personal brand promise stays consistent, both online and offline,” explains Fyiona Yong, director and millennial leadership coach (ICF ACC). She regularly works with millennials in a corporate context to help them define their more conservative work goals. “You have to demonstrate consistency across your communication, gravitas, and appearance. Don’t underestimate how tiny inconsistencies can derail personal brand effectiveness.”

On the opposite, creative side, CyreneQ, a top storyteller on Snapchat, suggests “something consistent either visually or personality wise. Something unique that people can associate with your brand and know it’s you. For example, a sidekick mascot or having a catchphrase you say after every video – something people can fall in love with.” Her sidekick mascot, Ele, has garnered millions of views per Snap for brand work, allowing her fun personal brand to represent big box brands like Walmart and DC.  So whether you’re creating a wild, incredibly out-there fun brand or one that’s a bit more on the conservative, corporate side, consistency is key.

5. Be ready to fail.

Failure is tough, and all of us generally want to avoid it – that’s human nature. However, to have a personal brand that rises above the rest, you need to have a failure. Walt Disney spoke of this often when he reminisced about his failed first attempts at creating an animation brand. “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. ” And what can happen is never as frightening as not trying at all.

When Timothy Hoang, CEO of Stories By Tim, Inc. develops his influencer clients, he likes to tell them: “You’ll never achieve the best branding until you fail a couple times while pushing past your comfort zone.” The very best brands always come from repeated trial and error, mistakes and failures and not from instant perfection.

6. Create a positive impact.

After you’ve developed your personal brand over a period of time, there are generally two ways to continue to build your brand – hop over others and burn bridges or steadily grow a community around your brand. Jacob Shwirtz, head of social partnerships at WeWork, who has worked with many of the top influencers in the world, including makeup personality, Michelle Phan, gives us this wisdom. 

My quick tip on personal branding is to remember you are your brand, no matter what your current job is, what project you happen to be working on at any one time or whatever the priority happens to be today… always keep in mind the impact you leave on others and remember all we have is our own reputation and that’s our brand , so be awesome to each other!

Keeping a positive attitude and helping others will only help healthily grow your brand in the long run.

7. Follow a successful example.

“People interested in personal branding need to start marketing themselves like the celebrities and influential people that they look up to every day,“ explains Jason Wong, CEO of Wonghaus Ventures. His own personal brand has gone viral several times, over subjects like ice cream in Japan, inflatable pool toys and memes, earning him the title of the “Meme King.” His success often comes from studying trends and popular individuals on different social media platforms and then implementing them with a twist. Creatively dissecting social analytics and establishing the next big trend can be within your grasp too, if you pay attention across all social media platforms and not simply focus narrowly on one of them.

8. Live your brand.

As mentioned before, one of the ways you can make building a personal brand difficult on yourself is to separate your brand from your personal life. While certainly doable, it’s easier when initially creating a personal brand to have your actual lifestyle and brand be one and the same.

Tim Salau, community builder and founder of Mentors & Mentees, who works with college students to help them build brands that will get them hired, believes in this idea as well.“Your personal brand should follow you everywhere you go. It needs to be an authentic manifestation of who you are and amplify what you believe.” With this in mind, your personal brand is not only a reflection of a series of job functions like marketing, finance or creative but also ideals like giving back, thoughtful leadership or mentorship.

9. Let other people tell your story.

The best PR is by word of mouth. Creating a personal brand in the public sphere is no exception to this rule. Aaron Orendorff, editor in chief at Shopify Plus, tells his personal story through lively videos and the occasional bunny co-host or two and his audience remembers. They’re able to recall the bright outfits and the animal friends and tie those pieces of the story to their interpretation of his brand. As he eloquently states: “Personal branding is the story people tell about you when you’re not in the room.” Jessie Maltin, co-host of Maltin On Movies works with her father, renowned film critic Leonard Maltin and has watched him build his career over the past several decades. “All you have in your life is your name and the reputation you garner.”

10. Leave a legacy.

Once you’ve built your personal brand with a reputation and community behind it, the next step is to think about the legacy that you’ll leave behind. What are the keywords and actions that you want to be known for? Blake Jamieson, artist at Blake Jamieson LLC, who paints pop art portraits of famous tech and sports heroes reminds us that: “Building a personal brand is much bigger than building a business. The only exit strategy is legacy.”

A personal brand is a lifelong project that constantly evolves and changes. Even the experts who build or enhance the biggest brands in the business know that there are no hard-set rules for creating a personal brand. But these general guidelines help provide first steps, especially if you’re starting a new brand or rebranding.

Creating the right personal brand will not only help you be known in your field and consistently land work but it could be the difference between “Who are you?” and “Thank you for being here” in your career .

Is It You — Or Your Job?

How to know if you’re in a toxic work environment

We all have bad days, challenging weeks, and even disappointing months. That’s the nature of life, as well as a career. Typically, you can make it through, but with a toxic work environment, it’s like having a truckload of challenges on repeat, without a break — just like Groundhog’s Day.

Toxic work environments breed low morale, negativity, high turnover, and even bullying. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just end when the workday is over, it can follow you home — it can take over your conversations with loved ones and prevent you from sleeping.

Here are 5 signs you’re in a toxic work environment:

  1. There’s always drama
  2. Office cliques make it feel like high school all over again. They make what should be a friendly collaborative workplace into a hostile competition.
  3. Communication is poor
    1. Confusing or scattered communication makes it difficult to know the “real” expectations, in order for you to be successful. In fact, communication skills (including listening) are the most important skills – both for managers and employees – for organizations to be successful.
  4. Bad attitudes are tolerated and low morale is prevalent
    1. When you’re in meetings, most everyone is nervous, negative, and conveys a passive-aggressive attitude.
  5. There are little to no growth opportunities
    1. You’ve approached management or HR about a lack of recognition and growth opportunities, such as promotions, raises, and challenging assignments, but you’ve seen no changes.
  6. You’ve continued to work hard to make positive change wherever possible, but to no avail.
    1. You’re working hard to make positive improvements, but your work is ridiculed rather than recognized. 

Can toxicity happen virtually?

  • The short answer – absolutely! Just because you’re not face-to-face with your toxic coworkers, your toxic boss, or your overwhelming work culture, it does NOT mean toxicity vanishes into thin air. By the way – subordinates can also be toxic and undermine the authority of their managers.
  • Some managers and supervisors canfeel more out of control with a virtual workplace so they overcompensate – they may try to exert even more control, which is hard to achieve because of work being virtual.So some bosses may try to “lock” employees into their work by monitoring their computers.

Or is it you?? There is a chance it could be you!

  • One way to tell is to write down everything you are experiencing. Then put it away and look at it at a later time, when you’re calmer.
  • Ask yourself, what would you say to someone else, if they told you this was what they were dealing with at work?

Whether your workplace is toxic, or you are the toxic element, you’re still dealing with a high stress level – and coaching can make a difference!

Coaching can improve your ability to cope and help you achieve a healthier, and more positive and productive situation and outcome – contact Marilyn today!

I look forward to working with you on a customized Life and/or Career Coaching plan to help you define your priorities, set clear goals, and develop a plan to achieve them.

TO SCHEDULE A 15-MINUTE INTRODUCTORY CALL OR YOUR FULL 45- OR 60-MINUTE VIRTUAL CONSULTATION, CONTACT MARILYN@FETTNERCAREERCONSULTING.COM OR 847-322-8292.

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