"This book is an invitation to ask what you want out of life."
Thanks to digitization, globalization, the decline of professional mentorship and a host of other factors, more professionals are reinventing themselves than ever before. A rebrand can help professionals looking to enhance their reputation inside their current company — to help them land a promotion or transition to a new division — but it also helps many professionals prepare to take the next step, either to a bigger role at a different company or out into a different industry altogether.
And regardless of whether you’re pursuing a career change as a result of an external force like a layoff, or an internal factor like a desire to chase a childhood dream, there have never been more tools available to help you accomplish that reinvention. In Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, Clark walks through the steps for exploring your desired career, assessing your current state and skillset, preparing for the change, filling in your knowledge gaps, shifting your network to reflect your new role and more.
What’s Your Story?
"You have to explain that it’s not about you; it’s about the value you bring."
As Clark says, “Everyone has passions and things they’d love to do… So how can you get people to care?” The key to getting supporters on board with a professional and personal rebrand, she says, is creating a narrative anchored in value, not whimsy or blind desire. An honest assessment of your reasoning, and a higher call than “because I feel like it,” will help you construct a compelling explanation that makes as much sense to you as it does for your customers and the network of connections who can help you find them.
One important step is to draw connections between your past experience and your new present path, keeping in mind that you may need to think more deeply and creatively to make those connections seem logical. Clark gives examples of a poet-turned-management-consultant who credited her in-depth knowledge of language with allowing her to pick up on nuances and undertones that others might not, or of a military helicopter pilot who branded her experience as an ability to manage expensive assets in high pressure situations for her business school application.
In both cases, seemingly disparate career paths were connected through a narrative thread that found and emphasized their commonalities. While there are other steps to preparing for and executing your professional rebrand, constructing a logical narrative around your shift will be key to pulling all of those other actions together.
Don’t Go It Alone
"Everyone has a personal brand, whether some skeptics want to admit it or not: there’s no such thing as opting out."
If you’re a person existing in this world, then there are people who have a perception about you, and the reality is, that perception may not be what you think or what you like. Before you can change your brand, you first need to get an accurate read of how you’re being perceived, and that can only come from others.
Clark gives several suggestions for ways to collect this invaluable information, from hiring a professional coach to conduct “360 interviews” of your close friends and colleagues, to conducting your own research through interviews, focus groups and detailed reviews of your online presence and past performance reviews. She offers some questions to keep in mind or to ask directly to help get a clear and complete sense of your brand:
- What are my strengths, and what are my weaknesses?
- What are three words used to describe me?
- I’m trying to go from X to Y; what steps would you suggest for me?
- Who are some people who have some of the qualities I should be trying to build?
- What are my blind spots?
Content Is Key
"This is your chance to let people judge you based on the quality of the material you produce, not on your past history of credentials."
Creating content and establishing yourself as an authority in your new field is a key part of helping to establish a new brand for yourself, and Clark offers plenty of actionable ideas to demonstrate your new brand and expertise. Many of the ideas leverage your own channels, but some also call on partnerships with other channels to help validate your new expertise. Among her suggestions for managing the roll-out of a new identity as an expert:
- Schedule social media posts in advance — a combination of original thoughts, links to your own content, and links to relevant industry content — and then check in daily to add timely perspective and responses.
- Begin keeping track of blog topics or ideas in a notebook or on your phone so you always have fresh ideas, personal anecdotes and more to fuel the creation of new blog posts on a regular basis.
- Identify relevant industry publications you can guest post on, and send detailed, specific, and well-researched pitches to those publications to help get your name out there with your new brand attached.
With modern tools available to help professionals research new industries, connect with possible mentors, learn new skills, create new online branding materials for themselves, and push out relevant content, reinventing yourself has never been easier. There’s no reason to spend your life in a job you hate. Through a conscious examination of your current perception and careful effort to re-align that perception with what you want it to be, professionals can take an active role in evolving the job they’re in into the one they’ve always wanted to be in.
What’s one step you can take today to take control of the way you’re perceived?