Last month, I returned to my alma mater, the University of Central Florida to talk about marketing and personal branding with a group of students. Of course, I had to teach them what I know the best way I know how — with pop culture references.
I started brainstorming what moments in pop culture would be relevant to a room full of ambitious young students about to head out into the real world. They’ll be sending out resumes and trying to land their first real job out of college. I remember how hectic that was!
Although most of the students in my audience were born in the year 2000 or later (which was pretty eye-opening), I chose to emphasize the ultimate high achiever of the early 2000’s: Miss Elle Woods.
Thankfully, Reese Witherspoon’s performance in 2001’s Legally Blonde was iconic enough that these young students understood the reference. Plus, she’s a fellow sorority girl!
I admit, Elle Woods is probably not the most scholastic example of a successful person. For starters, she’s a fictional character, but it turns out there is a lot we can apply from her story in Legally Blonde.
How to Market Yourself Like Elle Woods
The entire premise of Legally Blonde is rooted in goal setting and proving yourself, despite doubt or lack of experience. If you’re trying to advance in your company, position yourself as a thought leader, start a business, land a new job, or even change careers, here are five things you can learn from Elle Woods:
Control your narrative by using your channels to your fullest potential.
You might recall that Elle Woods took it upon herself to submit a video essay to Harvard. In fact, Kim Kardashian recently recreated it for Halloween. Although VHS tapes are a thing of the past, the takeaway is that Elle Woods used the channels that were available to her to tell her story and illustrate why she deserves to go to Harvard.
You can do the same on your website and social media. If you haven’t already, start a blog or YouTube channel where you share content relevant to your career goals. If you create enough content about a certain subject, you will position yourself as a local expert.
Find a way to stand out.
Remember Elle’s pink and scented resume? It’s a little out there, but the point is, it’s unique.
As one of my favorite authors, Sally Hogshead, always says, “It’s good to be better, but it’s better to be different.”
Elle Woods wasn’t necessarily smarter or more experienced than her colleagues, but these subtleties helped make her memorable. And when recruiters have an influx of job applicants to sift through, being memorable is essential.
You don’t need the most prestigious degree, experience, or qualifications.
Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome? It’s when you feel like a phony— like you’re not credible enough to talk about certain things. The voice in your head tells you that you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. These doubts and insecurities end up holding you back from achieving your goals.
It’s true that between Elle Woods’ bright blonde hair, loud pink outfits, and bubbly personality, she stuck out amongst the other law students depicted in Legally Blonde.
But she still put in the work just like everyone else. She got her foot in the door, then proved that she deserved to be there regardless of her background.
Be unapologetically yourself.
You may recall in one of my recent posts about Dancing with the Stars, I mentioned my favorite book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. One of the messages Gilbert is that in this competitive world we live in, even if something has been done before, it hasn’t been done by YOU.
Remember, how Elle Woods won her case while representing Brooke Wyndham? Based on her own life experience, Elle knew you couldn’t wash your hair too soon after a perm if you wanted to keep your curls in tact. It’s hard to say if any other lawyer, including a more experienced or knowledgable one, would know that!
Don’t overlook the fact that you have your own stories, experiences, and perspectives to bring to the table.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, especially yourself.
Elle Woods set her sights on law school initially to win back her unsupportive boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, who told her she wasn’t smart enough. She then kicks him to the curb and becomes successful regardless.
The bottom line is, Elle took matters into her own hands because she knew she could do it. She used the tools at her disposal to stand out and market herself, and then worked her way up.
Achieving Your Goals: What, Like It’s Hard?
If Elle Woods can get into Harvard Law, you can achieve your goals, too. You’ve just got to make moves and build your brand.
Start by making a personal website that showcases your portfolio, illustrates your personality, and shares your expertise. There are really low-cost building platforms like Wix, SquareSpace and Weebly that have beautiful, easy-to-use templates.
With that advice, I’ll also leave you with words of wisdom from Elle’s commencement speech:
“It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”Elle Woods, Legally Blonde