We all have a public image – or personal brand – that many of us have worked hard to cultivate. But what if you want to change that image or, in essence, rebrand yourself? People rebrand themselves constantly. Sometimes it’s done in order to change careers; other times it’s done in order to change impressions that have impeded career advancement. Sometimes it’s significant (such as my case where a financial trader became an executive coach) and other times it’s subtle (as when an employee becomes a manager).
Regardless of the goal, when changing your image, it’s important to convince others to accept the new you. Here are five steps Dorie Clark shared with Harvard Business Review to take when reinventing yourself in a professional capacity.
5 STEPS TO REINVENTING YOURSELF
- Define your end goal
Before you begin your rebranding effort, take the time to develop a plan. The last thing you want to do is to confuse people, or even yourself. Start with research. Review industry publications, conduct informational interviews and obtain a mentor. You may even want to take on internships or shadow programs, depending on what kind of shift you are trying to make. If it’s a career change, for example, getting experience in your new field before you decide on a change can be beneficial.
Next, it’s important to develop the skills you will need to succeed. For example, if you are a video game developer who wants to transition to a career video-game marketing, you may know the technology, but technical savvy won’t be enough for a new role. You’ll need to decide what new skills you’ll need to cultivate and how you’ll achieve them. Adding more knowledge in your desired field will provide the credibility you will need so that others take you seriously.
- Leverage your differences
We all have a unique selling proposition—the traits about us that people will remember. When changing your brand, you can use this selling proposition to distinguish your benefits from others. Answer these questions to identify your differences:
- What value do you provide?
- How do you do it uniquely?
- Whom do you do it for?
Once you have brainstormed on the questions above and formed a picture about what you have to offer others, work to put it all together in a succinct way.
- Develop a story
You must develop a coherent narrative that shows how your past has shaped you and also illustrates the direction you are planning to take your career. The key to success is to focus on the value your prior experience brings rather than explaining your transition in terms of your own interests (such as “I was tired of my job and needed to try something different”). Remember that your story must be in alignment with your past. You’ll be called out quickly if you’re seen as discarding your roots, fudging the truth or not recognizing your history.
- Reintroduce yourself
Now that you’ve completed the first three steps, it’s time to put your new personal brand out there. Make sure all of your touch points (such as your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles) are consistent with your new image. Then think about your relaunch. Can you get involved with any projects that will showcase your new interests and skills?
Reach out to people you know and ask for help in spreading the word about your change. Make meaningful contacts in your industry and ask for testimonials as you work with clients in your new role. The more connections you make, the more likely it is that your new brand will be known and recognized.
- Provide value
Share your expertise by producing helpful content using social media, blogs and podcasts, always ensuring that your material offers genuine value. You can quickly become a valued resource if you help people resolve a problem. Put your time and energy in publishing in respected publications, speak at industry conferences or take on a leadership role in your trade association. The resulting exposure, network connections and trustworthiness can pay major dividends.
Finally, be consistent and diligent. Rebranding takes an ongoing effort.
WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK?
We at JMA spend a great deal of time helping people rebrand themselves, both professionally and personally. A significant percentage of our clients end up making bold career changes, but clients don’t reach this juncture until they are able to create new and integrated stories about themselves. Our coaches meet many individuals who feel overwhelmed at the prospect of synthesizing their stories. That’s understandable. It can be difficult to write our stories, just as it can be difficult to write our own resumes. We get caught up believing narrow stories about ourselves and fail to recognize the patterns and applicability that others can often readily see.
There are reasons that individuals can’t see how the tapestry of a professional history and future path can be woven into an integrated story. Often, individuals fail to see meaningful connections: When they attempt to piece together a story, it feels inauthentic, as if they are performing a masquerade as someone else. Additionally, in many cases, individuals believe that their past and present careers do not line up with their desired career trajectories. Almost always, this is not the case. The problem is only one of creativity. The individual is unable to fluidly connect the dots in a way that creates a meaningful, integrated story that builds credibility.
DON’T GET IN YOUR OWN WAY
In order to truly develop your personal brand, you must turn inward. Here are three ways to think more expansively so that you aren’t getting in the way of your own rebranding process:
- Ask more powerful questions.
Identify the thoughts that are holding you back. Do you often tell yourself you can’t do something? If so, you are subconsciously telling your brain how to behave. As a result, it stops working effectively. It simply won’t look for the answers since it “knows” it won’t be able to do it. Instead of engaging in a recurring diatribe around worry and inadequacy, craft powerful questions that are action-oriented. Start questions with “How can I….?”
- How can I rebrand myself?
- How can I connect what I have done for many years into a meaningful story that creates credibility?
- How can I overcome the negative thoughts that are a catalyst for my lack of productivity?
If you are unable to find the thoughts that hold you back, identify the moods that hold you back and work backward. If you’re in negative mood states, feeling fearful, inadequate, depressed, anxious or indecisive, you will have thoughts that precede those states. Uncovering thoughts that are at the core of the inertia or failure will help you understand how you are getting in the way of your own rebranding process.
Try this exercise to increase your self-awareness exponentially:
- Take a moment to reflect on your mental playlist—which is one way to think about your inner dialogue. Jot down as many of your repetitive thoughts as you can.
- Over the next week, pay attention to any negative thoughts that come up for you. Write them down in your phone or a notebook.
- At the end of the week, review your list of thoughts. Look for recurring themes.
We teach you how to hone in on these thoughts that drive your moods and behavior and affect your results in our MindMastery™ workshop.
- Critically question if what you are saying to yourself is actually true.
If you are adamant that these negative thoughts are true, get a second opinion. We are often hardest on ourselves. We tend to create, nurture and sustain beliefs that are not true. This hinders us because we haven’t employed enough conscious self-reflection to critically think through our habitual thoughts.
The next step toward changing your thoughts is learning how to reframe them. The more often you use the following technique, the more quickly you will strengthen your personal brand. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the dominant thought I am struggling with?
- Is this dominant thought really true?
- Is there any benefit to keeping this thought?
- How can I reframe this thought to produce a higher level of performance?
For example, if you have a thought like “I can’t believe how many email messages I have—I’ll never get to all of these,” reframe it as “I have a lot of email messages, so I better get focused and prioritize them so that I can reply to the most important ones.”
In the end, it’s not events and circumstances that determine how we feel and how we experience the world; rather, it’s our thoughts and the conversations we have internally about the events and circumstances. The earlier you repair your thinking, the happier and more successful you will be personally and professionally, and the more powerful your personal brand will be.
- Create a sounding board.
Engage a few people you respect to poke holes in the new story you’ve just pieced together. You want to be sure that you are aware of how integrated and credible the story sounds to others.
OWN YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Owning your personal brand seems like it should be easy. After all, it’s your story and you created it, so you automatically own it. But ownership isn’t always that simple. Your personal brand dictates how people perceive your value; it’s what you evoke rather than what you say. To own a personal brand, you need to view it as a living entity, not as something you craft once and then never change. You can’t just build a website and a LinkedIn profile and walk away.
Owning your personal brand means that you create it with care and continue to update and maintain it to accurately reflect where you currently stand in your career (or where you wish to be). Don’t be afraid to tweak it here and there—it’s not written in stone. Always make sure your actions support your personal brand. To truly own it, you have to live it.
DON’T NEGLECT YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Most people ignore their personal brand until it’s time to look for a new job. But that may be too late. Your personal brand is a reflection of how you “show up” in the world; neglecting it — or leaving it to chance — can endanger the future of your career.
Creating, developing and maintaining your personal brand makes sense on an ongoing basis. Manage your digital identity by regularly conducting a Google search of your own name and by auditing your social media profiles. Exercise prudent judgment when posting photos or comments or sharing third-party content on any social media sites, even if not business-related. Your digital identity isn’t easy to erase. Once it’s out there, it’s hard to control, even years later.
As you continue to grow as a professional your industry will likely evolve as well, and you may need to adapt accordingly. Stay on top of news and events in your field. Take advantage of opportunities for professional development through workshops, classes and online courses.
Your personal brand reflects how you portray yourself to the world. It can be the difference between getting an interview and getting a job, and it all depends on how you tell your story.
Need help getting started? Developing your personal brand is just one part of a successful job search strategy. Our ebook tells you what you need to know.