About Ruth

If you've ever met me in person, you might not believe it when I tell you that once upon a time, I was frightened of everything and everyone.

I refused to look at people in the eye when I spoke to them and I often ignored people even if they were right in front of me, earning me the well-deserved title of "Gold-Mouth" (my dad said my mouth was probably made of gold because I didn't want to open it to show people).

I was lonely, had a very low self-esteem and didn't know where I was going in life. I was so underwhelmingly uninspired, that my mother had to choose what I was going to study in poly. She chose for me the one course I would have never had chosen - Mass Communication. 

I would be lying to say that wasn't a trial by fire. 

I graduated by the skin of my teeth, still very reserved and inward-looking, and I ended up taking a job most suited for me, where I would spend hours each day, in front of a computer, all alone by myself.

The only downside? I had to talk for hours to people I could not see, and make some sort of real connection. 

I wasn't prepared for this, but knowing that the entire English programming department at the offshore radio station I was at, was pretty much counting on me to make it work - I had to dig in my heels and start connecting with people through the airwaves.

That began my love affair with the science and art of interpersonal communication.

In 2011, I started teaching young adults how to make a great first impression at job interviews. It made such a great impact on me because these young adults were heading into the job-seeking process, without a single clue as to how they could present themselves as the best person qualified for the job. Helping them prepare for the entire employment process was super satisfying for me. 

As they say, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

My students were called up for their desired interviews, they handled job interviews with panache, they were getting offered jobs that met their expectations and they were going into those jobs confident and ready.

In 2013, my son was born and I took 18 months off to care for him full-time. Everyone said it was career suicide.

To me, it was a career rebirth. I not only enjoyed the 18 months away, but I grew and matured extensively. When I returned back to work, I was contributing even more than ever. Within 2 years of returning to work, I received a promotion and earned my second Teaching Award.

I've realised the power of career branding and now, it's my goal to share strategies and formulas of making it work for any woman who is:

  • returning to work after some time away

  • switching industries

  • DIY a career that balances work and family

I don't possess a magic spell that can help turn your situation around overnight. But I possess real life experience of working in a variety of industries (radio, hospitality, human resources, image consulting, tertiary education), I have earned my stripes as a stay-at-home-mom (no helper!), and I teach career branding to hundreds of students every year. 

Ruth Song is an award-winning Business Communication coach and ACTA- certified trainer.  Her career spans diverse  industries from radio, image consulting, human resources and tertiary education.  She has contributed to prominent institutions like Raffles Hotel Singapore and Ngee Ann Polytechnic. 

At Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ruth was awarded the School Teaching Award twice, in 2014 and 2017. She is well- known on the  Toastmasters public speaking competition circuit for being "lively, enthusiastic and fresh".  She has also been invited to speak at public events for brands like Carousell and Evernote. She has been featured on digital publications  like  Executive  Lifestyle Singapore, Doyenne.sg, Mummifique and Mums in Sync. 

Ruth founded BrandAssured.me to provide education and tools to help you communicate your brand message confidently and professionally. She is dedicated to helping you grow your personal brand and enjoy doing so, no matter where you are in  the process now. 

3 MYTHS ABOUT PERSONAL BRANDING YOU PROBABLY BELIEVE

When you hear the word personal branding, what do you think of?

For a long time, I had a hard time grappling with the words personal branding.

Every time it was mentioned, it inevitably conjured up negative images of that big red 'D' I got on my marketing module and I always had this discomfort that it was somehow associated with cattle branding. 

Not a good image in anyone's mind.  

When I got out to work, people were beginning to use the words personal branding a lot. It became one of those cool new fangled buzzwords that people use all the time but don’t really know what it means.

For some reason, I found myself drawn to figuring out what personal branding meant and I began getting involved in many aspects from image and grooming, to public speaking to business writing.

In the process, I have spoken to many people, including hundreds of Millennials, about personal branding. Like me when I started out, a lot of them are uncomfortable about the concept, feeling that is is self-centred and showoff-ish.

Well, it most definitely can be all of the above, but on the flip side, it is incredibly useful if you need to stand out and be remembered (for all the right reasons) in any situation.

To feel comfortable about using personal branding in everyday life and business, it is necessary to know what it is not.

Over the next Here are 9 myths people most commonly have about personal branding. 

Myth Number 1: It’s only for famous people.

Her story captivated millions, making her an instant household name / Elle.com

Her story captivated millions, making her an instant household name / Elle.com

 

Think of Kate Middleton, Mother Theresa and .... Donald Trump.

In just the time it took for you to read their names, you probably went through a myriad of emotions, from inspiration to admiration and possibly intense love/disgust. 

Without a doubt, famous people are famous brands. 

Some have taken years to build up that brand name and the impression you have. Others have built up that impression based on the consistency of their actions and words over the years. The bottom line is that most famous people are masters of branding because the public instantly recall positive/negative experiences with them.

Debunked: Personal branding is for everyday people

Have an idea for work that you know will benefit the rest of the company? Want to get back into the working world after some time away? Hoping to break into a new industry? Aspiring to work more with people in your career (like training, teaching, coaching, etc)?

To have trust, loyalty and faith in you and your abilities, people need positive, consistent strong interactions from you. This means what you say, how you speak, how you behave, how you dress, how you write, how you act with other people, what you think / believe needs to be driven by the same message.

If everything about you harmonises with the message you are aiming to convey, you are building a strong brand. If things don't seem to be part of this message, then others may not want to take you so seriously enough to put their faith in you.

For example, Mary and Jen are interviewing for the same position. Both are equally qualified and both have spent an equal amount of time away from the work force to care for their families. Now, both are back and prepared to restart their careers again.

While both of them are prepared with the right things to say during the interview, Mary comes across as reticient, nervous and jittery because she hasn't quite gotten used to the idea that she can do this.

Jen on the other hand, has spent a bit of time rehearsing her interview with a friend and she comes across as confident, enthusiastic and less nervous. With all things equal, Jen got the job because her external demeanour matched her answers about her ability to do the job and the interviewer remembered Jen and the positive experience she had with her. 

Myth Number 2: It's shameless self-promotion

restaurant-hands-people-coffee.jpg

Ever had a friend who constantly talked about herself ALL THE TIME? It didn't matter if it was relevant to the conversation, she was most alive talking about herself and most unenthusiastic listening to anybody else. She pretty much inflated everything she did (or didn't do) and was generally unpleasant to be with. 

If you catch yourself doing any of the above, that is shameless self-promotion. 

 Debunked: Personal branding is about being others-centred

Have you ever caught yourself saying, "Wow, he's such a senior person in that company, but he's so unbelievably nice?"

The shameless self-promoter is out grabbing any advantage to benefit herself but the person is a master at branding is someone who is adept at using her personal knowledge/influence/talents to help the people around her.

For example, Kaylee isn't really too keen on going for networking sessions but she goes to them because 1) her boss has asked her to 2) she's found a way to get around the awkwardness of networking.

When she talks to someone new, she uses her natural inquisitiveness to ask questions and find out more about the other person. Along the conversation, she's learnt how to make timely comments to share her personal experiences to empathise and always makes the effort to be of service.

If the other person talks about her difficulty finding a good hairstylist, Kaylee recommends a good one she knows. If the other person is interested in HR trends, Kaylee always sends over some interesting articles she's read on the topic.  

To take the pressure off herself at networking situations, Kaylee focuses on the other person, and in the process makes it a win-win situation all around. 

Myth Number 3: It’s just a trend

Maybe like me, you keep wondering if all this a bunch of hot air, that it really doesn't matter, that people are making a big fuss over something that is as faddish as platform shoes. 

If you've ever wondered what's the importance of setting yourself apart from the competition, read on. 

Debunked: Personal Branding is here to stay

Coca Cola started out in 1886 as a patent medicine laced with cocaine but 131 years later, it's the one of the most well-loved drinks (now laced with sugar) for people around the world. In 2016, it was third on Interbrand's annual Best Global Brands ranking (just behind Apple and Google).

 
A man inside an African Coca Cola factory / Business Insider

A man inside an African Coca Cola factory / Business Insider

 

What made it go from "euuu" to "I want more!"?

We all know how Coca Cola's advertising is dreamed up by some pretty smart people but did you know that there were some other lesser known methods that Coca Cola used to build their brand?

a) They enforced strict standards with their retailers. 

Coca Cola made it compulsory for retailers to only serve Coca Cola between 2 - 4 degrees celsius. 

b) They kept the price consistent for 70 years

From 1886 to 1959, you could buy a bottle of Coke for 5 cents (US). 

c) Coca Cola came in a distinct, proprietary bottle.

The shape of a glass Coca Cola bottle was inspired by the cocoa pod which was the brainchild of a glass company who entered a national competition by Coca Cola for a new bottle design. Coca Cola loved it and began promoting it so much that today, it is an icon recognised by the world over. 

Just as Coca Cola made use of smart branding to leave hundreds of cola brands biting the dust since 1886, you can make use of smart branding to make sure that your ideas get heard, that you get the opportunities you want and of course to be remembered for all the right reasons. 

What is your definition of personal branding? Share with us in the comments!

 

3 MINDSET SHIFTS A WOMAN NEEDS TO HAVE BEFORE NETWORKING

For many women transiting back to full time work and those starting out in their careers, the age-old advice of going to as many networking events as possible, to get to know as many people as possible, to keep the connections "alive", can sometimes exhaust the most active and sociable of people. 

While studies have shown that the people skills used in networking does advance your career, another study has shown that it doesn't matter whether women network or not. Men are "destined" to succeed woman based on factors out of their control. 

So, to network or not to network? 

As an introverted woman, I am more than inclined to spend my evenings watching Blaze and the Monster Machines with my three year old. As someone whose entire career has been built on introductions, knowing how to network has been the most valuable skill I've learnt in my career.

The bottom line? Networking is incredibly important to everyone, whether you're a working woman or stay-home mom. 

Need to find out more about an exciting opportunity at the company of your dreams? You'll probably stop by LinkedIn to find someone you know who works at that company. Want to plan meals for your family but don't know where to start? You're most likely going to talk to that friend at church who constantly posts about the home-cooked food she makes for her kids. 

Just like what normal friends do, networking is about the building and maintaining of authentic personal relationships where both parties equally add value to each other's lives.

When relationships happen organically, it feels natural. But when it becomes 'organised', 'formalised' and 'professional', it suddenly becomes contrived, false and forced. It's no wonder why so many people avoid/hate/disparage professional business networking.

Hence, for women to make the most out of professional business networking, here are 3 mindset shifts we need to have before handing out that first business card. 

1. There is no right or wrong way to network. 

Some people prefer to speak one-on-one. Others prefer to address large groups. Some like quiet, intellectual conversations. Others love making people roar with laughter with their slapstick jokes. Whatever your choice of communication is, there isn't a right or wrong way. It all boils down to your personality. 

If you're an introvert who is energised by spending time alone, you tend to like speaking one on one. You're curious about the other party, you're a great listener because you take time to reflect on what is being said. While you may not like to be in the limelight that much, you're happy to draw that out of somebody else - making you an all round great listener.

If you're an extrovert that thrives on being with lots of people at the same time, you'll be the life of the party. You'll be the one revving up the energy of the conversation, having multiple conversations with many people at the same time. Your passion, enthusiasm and drive make you absolutely fun to be with. 

If networking is about being your authentic self, I see no reason for an introvert to model after an extrovert, or for women to try to network like men. I see a whole lot of reason being who you are and finding true connections that will accept you and appreciate your personal brand. 

2. You're gardening, not hunting.

Think of all the differences between a gardener and a hunter. 

The gardener thinks long term - she spends her time preparing the soil for the seeds, watering her plants, fertilising them with the right stuff, pruning the dead bits off and then looking forward to the day her garden brings her joy and happiness.

The hunter thinks short term - he's out for the kill in the quickest time possible. If he can't find his prey, he leaves as quickly as he came. 

Unfortunately, networking is not a quick fix for immediate career/business success. Part of the equation includes time-bred trust and loyalty but if you are prepared for the long haul, carefully nurturing the relationships that matter, your payoff may be substantial. 

3. Personal branding is not a dirty word. 

A lot of women feel uncomfortable talking about themselves in a professional setting as social norms have made it awkward to do so.

To mitigate that, a lot of women end up asking a lot of questions but forgetting that a conversation goes two ways - while you can ask, you must share as well. Sharing also reduces the chances of you turning into an interrogator, firing one question after another and eventually running out of questions to ask. 

There's always the risk of over-sharing and bragging but I've always found two rules to keep me in check - whatever I share must add value to the other party (learn something, be inspired, empathise, show support, etc) and I must ask another question after I'm done.

Life is made to be shared. Talk about your past experiences, your achievements and the journey behind them. Talk about your ideas and your thought process.

In communication, we call these personal branding statements, and there's nothing wrong with that. :)


As women, we have the innate ability to make friends anywhere and in any situation. Once we get the mindset of networking right, we can go forth and network - without the crazy pressure to perform up to (whose??) standards. 

Have fun at your next networking session! 

If you want to dip your toe into networking, here are 2 groups based in Singapore that have received great feedback on their networking sessions.