You know how it goes: you’re going along well in your career. Doing a good job, hitting your milestones, keeping your boss and your clients happy and generally achieving what you have set out to. But sometimes it just feels a bit, you know, lackluster. Like the shine has faded. The gloss is wearing off. Or let’s be honest, you might be just flat out bored with it all (and yourself perhaps).
You could change jobs. Industries. Go and hike a mountain. Sit in a cave somewhere. Or indulge in the female version of the mid-life-crisis Porche-driving man freak out – have an Eat, Pray, Love moment or go and buy lots and lots and lots of shoes.
Or you could look at reinventing your personal brand. Much better, and a less expensive and exhaustive option than killer heels, pasta overload and really big mountains.
So where are you at? You may have worked really hard in one career for a long time. You’re well established, have a great reputation like “Mary is the fix it person”, or “Susan is a genius with technology.” Perhaps you’re feeling it’s time to switch things up. You’ve been in marketing forever and you want to move into sales. Or you have worked in professional services for a decade and you’d really like to have a go working in fashion. Or maybe you’re earlier in your career and not liking how your brand is feeling. You’re not being known for the things you want to be recognized for. You’re not cutting through. You need to reinvent yourself.
Through having a 20 year corporate year in some of the biggest companies in the world like GE and IBM, working with thousands of women as a career coach and leadership strategist, and reinventing my own brand from corporate exec to thriving entrepreneur, I’ve learned five of the key steps to reigniting your personal brand, no matter where you currently sit.
1. Decide where you’re headed.
The first step is to work out where you want to end up, and what that destination looks like. If it’s a new career entirely, what do you need to make that leap? If it’s just a refresh, then what are the qualities you want to bring in to your brand? Set your sights on the end game and work back from there. If you don’t know where you’re going and what success looks like for you, you are not yet ready to rebrand yourself. First get clear. Do some work around your life and career vision, ideal roles, core brand attributes and your personal values that you want to incorporate into your brand. Once you have landed on these critical things, you can move on to the next steps.
2. Work out what you want to be known for.
From working in big sales organizations for most of my career, being able to rattle of the USP of any product or service, or in fact company brand, was core to being a good strategist. USP – unique selling proposition. It’s the same for your personal brand. I like to context it by thinking about what you want to be known for. We’re not in the industrial economy anymore. It’s all about knowledge and as Seth Godin says, we are in the connection economy now. So how do you want to connect? What thought leadership do you want to build? How do you want people to be changed by what you do? Think about content, expertise, behavior, knowledge, output, results. And work out what you want to be known for, how it’s different from everybody else, why it will make you stand out, and how it will help fulfill your purpose.
3. Passion fuels brands. Find the passion.
There is nothing more magnetizing than someone who is lit up with a passion for what they do. They become electric, engaging and compelling. You want to be around them, buy from them, hire them, be in the room with them. This is what you’re working toward. But it has to be real, authentic and true for you. On the path to reigniting your brand, you need to tap into what you are passionate about, or get passionate about what you are doing and how you’re showing up. Not sure what you are passionate anymore? I love what Elizabeth Gilbert says about passion when you don’t know where to find it – just follow your curiosity. What are you curious about when it comes to your work? Look at people you admire and respect, or brands that have attributes that you covet. What do feel passionately about in your observation? What did you used to be passionate about before you got stale or bored? When you find that passion, many of these other elements slot into place. So get curious.
4. Fill the brand gaps.
When you are reinventing yourself or reigniting your brand it’s key to look at what the real or perceived brand gaps might be. You’ve worked in corporate finance and you really want to transition to marketing. Your brand is likely to be perceived as good with numbers, but not necessarily creative – a core brand attribute for most marketers. Or you’re a lawyer and want to work in human resources – many lawyers are known for their analytical ability rather than their softer skills. Identify both the hard skills gaps that you may need retraining on, and also the softer skills that you might be core strengths but are not widely perceived as part of your brand. You will need a transition plan, and that’s ok. Once you know what the gaps are, how your strengths can support them or mitigate them and how you might be able to reframe or build the skills you need, you will be on your way to a reenergized brand.
5. Build your brand narrative and social proof
So what’s your story? How you frame what you do, how you got here and why you do your work in the world is core to your branding. It will also determine how successful you’ll be at being believed and valued. Look at your personal narrative. How are you framing yourself in the world and shining a new light on your work? Deepak Chopra was a medical Doctor before he became the self-help self-actualized spiritual teacher that he is today. His personal narrative around why he left medicine to pursue the new path laid the foundation for his USP (he was one of the first medical Doctors to walk this new path to integrative health and spiritual practice) and framed his new teachings and brand positioning.
My work as a corporate executive, leading business strategy, gender diversity and leadership for Fortune 500 companies, is a critical part of my brand narrative with the work I now do as a career coach and strategist helping women step into their power. Define your brand story, and then build the social proof you need to support it. Get key stakeholders supporting your narrative through how they perceive you and speak about you – this could be your boss, clients, mentors or sponsors. Build external social proof on what you want to be known for through a blog, speaking engagements, LinkedIn profile or even in company meetings.
Everywhere you show up, physically or virtually, is an opportunity for you to add to your new or refreshed narrative and build the personal brand that will light you up, get you the roles and clients you want, and support the career you truly want to build. Here’s to your re-ignition.
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