Being conscientious and intentional about your impact on the world today--and your legacy in the future--requires you to be aware of how others currently view your brand. This is especially the case for Millennial women, who are in the early years of their careers.

What do you perceive your brand to be, how do others perceive it, and how large is the gap in between?

According to Seth Godin, "A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another." Think about this in terms of yourself--how people would think of your brand--the expectations, memories, stories, and relationships embedded within it.

In a global study published by The Center for Talent Innovation in the new book Misunderstood Millennial Talent: The Other 91%, co-author Joan Kuhl--founder and president of Why Millennials Matter--reveals some very surprising findings about Millennial women. According to Joan, when Millennials in the study were asked, "If you were offered a senior leadership position in your company tomorrow..." Millennial women were 55% more likely to turn it down than Millennial men.

What is holding Millennial women back--why aren't they leaning into their futures?

According to Joan, this is because the second shift--where working women come home from their day jobs, just to take on another full-time job taking care of their family--is still alive and well. They anticipate challenges in juggling work and life commitments because they hold themselves to high standards for success in all aspects of life. They think about how many hours spent with each child, amount of time spent volunteering, achievements in the community, investment in relationships and service. Leadership politics is a turn off and they don't want to have to change themselves to advance. Without access to meaningful relationships (role models, mentors and sponsors), Millennial women lack the support they need to accelerate to the top.

The good news is that Millennial women have the opportunity to build their personal brand while owning their future. Here, according to Joan Kuhl, are 7 ways Millennial women can do just that.

1. Define your personal brand

Think about the stories people tell of your impact, and the experiences you have had that created lasting impressions on your life.

2. Write down 5 of your best qualities

Focus on 5 qualities that you believe are most important to your success personally and professionally. Think about how others perceive you. Would they describe you in the same way as you view yourself? If there are any gaps, that's where you need to do the work. Use that as a roadmap for developing yourself and your brand over the next 6 months.

3. Find mentors inside and outside your current company

As a Millennial woman, it's important for you to find both male and female mentors--not just one or the other.

4. Earn a sponsor

A sponsor is someone who is in a position of power and influence. Women report fewer substantive interactions with senior leaders than their male counterparts do--and this gap widens as women and men advance. Sylvia Hewlett, author of Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, says "To get ahead, women need to acquire a sponsor--a powerfully positioned champion--to help them escape the "marzipan layer," that sticky middle slice of management where so many driven and talented women languish.

5. Practice negotiation for everything in your life

Don't accept less than you deserve in your work or your life. Before you say yes, carefully consider any offers you receive, and make sure you don't shortchange yourself. Model this approach for others when you see them accepting less than what they deserve.

6. Become a manager as early as possible

The 2016 Lean In/McKinsey Report reported that for every 100 women promoted, 130 men are promoted. Women are not accelerating to first level management as fast as men which means they are hitting this glass ceiling earlier in their career. Get promoted!

7. Be a leader NOW

You don't have to have a title or authority over others to be a leader. This is how you can express your values and be a beacon for others to find their voice. Follow the advice of Joan Kuhl's mentor, Frances Hesselbein, the former CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA and recipient of the Medal of Freedom: "Leadership is about how to BE not how to DO."

Published on: Nov 17, 2016