Now, here’s an intriguing career path: from a journalist to a political operative to a nonprofit executive director to a documentary filmmaker to a Harvard theology student to a university business professor to a best-selling author and consultant on strategy and marketing for Fortune 500 companies, major nonprofits, and government agencies. This is a true career story. It belongs to Dorie Clark, CEO of Clark Strategic Communications, a recognized expert in personal branding and reinvention.
Clark offers a road map for personal branding that’s forged from her personal experience:
1. Define your destination: This may not be easy, but it is essential. Otherwise, confusion reigns for you and others around you. Once your destination is set, acquire the skills you need to get you there. Knowing you have the requisite skills gives you the confidence to publicize who you are.
2. Identify and specify your points of difference: Clark puts it his way, “What’s your unique selling proposition? That’s what people will remember.” The ability to differentiate yourself becomes your branding power.
3. Develop a narrative: It’s normal for people to have many interests and the desire to explore new activities. Clark notes that it is necessary to have a coherent story that ties these activities together. The key is not to explain transitions in terms of personal interests but to focus on the value your prior positions bring. Make sure your story is truly consistent with your past. Branding and rebranding don’t mean inventing a new identity; it’s more about shifting emphasis so others can comfortably say, “I see you doing that.”
4. Reintroduce yourself: Strategically reeducate friends and acquaintances about your career path. Why? Clark’s response: They’re going to be your buyers, recommenders, or leads for new jobs.
5. Prove your worth: Build a portfolio of your abilities, and consider using social media for this purpose. A portfolio is a solid demonstration of your abilities.
Clark’s final recommendation is to be consistent and committed going forward in whichever direction you choose. The personal branding challenge is to be strategic about identifying how you wish to be perceived, developing a compelling story that explains your evolution, and then spreading that message.
Clark offers free personal branding worksheets and resources on her website: http://dorieclark.com/ .
Joe Abel, CPCC, ACC, PhD, is HFMA’s director of career strategies. He is certified as a professional career coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Coaches Training Institute (CTI).