You’ve slogged hard for years. Maybe even decades. Somewhere along the way, you lost your mojo.
Maybe work isn’t as fulfilling or meaningful as before. Or you realise that you haven’t made any progress in years.
What should you do under these circumstances?
Well, Dorie Clark has the answer in “Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future“. This step-by-step guide is designed to help you evaluate what you are good (and not so good) at, grow your personal brand, and reinvent yourself professionally.
Tastefully written and flavoured with colourful tales drawn from her personal experience as well as that of others, the book prescribes a carefully articulated 10-step process to personal professional transformation.
Narrating her own personal reinvention, Clark felt that relying on sheer hard work alone isn’t enough. A former journalist retrenched a day before the planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11, Clark reinvented herself by moving on to be the Director of Communications for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and the boss of a nonprofit advocacy group before finally becoming a consultant.
So what should one do to reinvent oneself?
1. Recognise where you are starting from.
The first step involves understanding where we are truly at. As quoted by Clark, “If three people say you are a horse, buy a saddle”.
To do so, conduct focus groups and 360 degree interviews with trusted friends and colleagues, study your performance reviews, seek genuine and honest feedback, and Google yourself. After you have done this, look out for clear and discerning patterns. Be careful though not to give too much credit to outlying opinions.
2. Research your destination.
Ignorance isn’t bliss in any professional reinvention. Keep a low profile first and take a break if you need to. Thereafter, study your prospective job or industry by researching online and offline. Both blogs and books are great for this purpose.
To probe more deeply, you may also wish to conduct informational interviews with industry movers and shakers. Remember though to follow up closely thereafter with your interviewees. Add value to them and who knows – some of them could be your mentors later on.
3. Test-drive your path.
After ascertaining where you want to go, find ways to explore your new occupation through apprenticeship, volunteering or job shadowing. This may involve putting together a list of dream companies or individuals to work for, determining what value you can provide and reaching out proactively.
In doing so, understand how much time and money you can spend. Often such opportunities may not pay well.
However, don’t let that faze you. Instead, be bold, dream big, and accept that the path may not always be linear.
4. Develop the skills you need.
To accelerate competence in your preferred new field, find opportunities to expand your scope in your current job.
Moonlight strategically by spending your weekends or evenings trying out other jobs. Go back to graduate school only if it helps you in your new role.
Where possible, develop a list of core skills and knowledge needed, and find help in filling those critical gaps.
5. Find the right mentors.
Switching to a new path isn’t easy. Having mentors helps you in loads of ways.
Consider first whom you want to emulate by drawing up a dream list. Check that these individuals are a good fit in terms of availability and temperament. Make it a point too to learn from professional groups like trade associations and guilds.
You should also be sure what your potential mentors can teach you. If need be, develop your own curricula. Be specific about what you desire to learn from him or her. Remember to repay your mentor not only with gratitude but useful leads and future collaborative possibilities.
6. Leverage your points of difference.
Inevitably, breaking into a new field is challenging – especially one where you have limited experience.
To overcome this, build on your transferable skills. For example, a teacher can be a good salesperson as she can communicate eloquently and convincingly. If possible, capitalise on your differences, and draw from your own unique background and “outsider” perspectives.
Redefine yourself as a brand by emphasising how your differences are strengths. Combine your attributes to make yourself memorable and special. For example, you could emphasise how being a former civil servant equipped you with superior writing, analysis, and planning skills.
7. Build your narrative.
After you have zoomed in on your unique value proposition, it is time to craft your compelling story.
Draw the connections between your past and present. Float hidden and underlying themes that could be relevant, bridge your brand gap (eg Tim Ferriss leveraging his “4-Hour” brand from work to health to cooking), and highlight the value you can bring.
Some of us may have a “road to Damascus” moment (ie a divine revelation). If so , it would be good to weave such insights into our personal stories.
Finally, it is important to be true to ourselves, shun being phony, believe in ourselves, and embody our new brand in whatever we do.
8. Reintroduce yourself.
Only after you have done all the above should you announce yourself to the world.
Here, you should find a way to transfer your status from one role to another and communicate your credentials in the right way. In this instant, writing about yourself may possibly be perceived to be less boastful than talking about yourself.
If necessary, you may wish to work with third party “validators” to promote you to others. Such arrangements can be mutually beneficial.
Lastly, go to where the action is for your preferred roles – be it online or offline. Don’t be shy to take sweeping symbolic actions so that you can emblazon yourself in the minds of important new stakeholders.
9. Prove your worth.
To show that you are worth your salt, develop your own content and build your portfolio online.
Blogging (ahem) is a great way to get yourself recognised if you love to write. Other methods include video blogging (ala Gary Vaynerchuk’s former Wine Library TV) and podcasting.
Importantly, forge strategic alliances and partnerships with influencers and leading industry publications. You may also wish to build your reputations offline through public speaking and leading (or forming) a trade association.
NB – Do remember to schedule your activities so that social media doesn’t take over your life. Whatever you do must be sustainable and not burn you out prematurely. I can certainly attest to that!
10. Keep it going.
Comparing reinvention to a journey rather than a destination, Clark advises us to keep monitoring how our personal brand is perceived. Along the way, we should make adjustments wherever necessary.
To keep us on the straight and narrow path, we may wish to make public commitments with our friends. We should also build up goodwill, not be afraid to reevaluate ourselves periodically, and understand that its OK to make a mistake and screw up.
Sometimes we may need to backtrack. However, that doesn’t mean that whatever we have experienced or learned in our new endeavour were wasted.
A timely guide for me.
Personally, I found that”Reinventing You“ connected deeply with me in many ways. Reading it at a time when I was going through my own reinvention, I found the advice given pragmatic and grounded in reality.
Admittedly, some of the necessary steps are painful to take. I cringed at the thought of raking up my past mistakes, or acknowledging where I screwed up. Despite this, I found the book highly useful in laying a positive foundation for my new career as a content marketing consultant, lecturer and marketer.