“What do people think of you? What do they say when you leave the room?” Maybe you don’t think you have a brand. Hopefully you don’t think that. As Dorie Clark demonstrates in her new book, Reinventing You, taking control of your professional future hinges on your acceptance and understanding of your current brand, and your ability to take control of where that brand is going.
OK—we can call it a reputation, if that makes you feel better. As Clark points out early on, we simply can’t afford to disregard the impact that our personal brand has on our success.
The idea that you can just keep your head down and work without any regard to office politics, for instance, has been thoroughly discredited.
Some might perceive a keen interest in one’s own reputation as tacky, but so what? If ‘too cool to care’ is your M.O., you might be risking your professional future. Even further, a lack of concern for your public image is a red flag to your manager—future or current—and if you’re a freelancer, it’s a warning to your potential clients. Companies and managers want to work with people on whom they can rely to be not only effective on the job, but also friendly and conscientious. If you’re not actively engaging your bosses (i.e. maintaining your brand), you’re risking being forgotten, or worse.
Reinventing You is a step-by-step manual for actively steering your career. The beginning is an assessment. Clark provides strategies for discovering the reality of your current brand, so that you can get an idea of what needs to change. This includes asking friends and colleagues to participate in focus groups, as well as using data from past performance reviews from employers. Especially if you’ve never done an assessment of your brand, you will learn a lot. One important thing to remember is that others’ perception of you is effectively reality. Whether you agree with the results of your assessment or not, it’s important that you take them seriously and use those results as your starting point.
After you have some idea how you look to the public, you’re ready to take aim on your destination and try your hand at living your future. Clark advises trying the work you’re interested in. It might not be easy to land your new dream job right off the bat, but you can get started on your new path by volunteering or shadowing in your target field. As Clark says:
To avoid costly mistakes—and wasting your energy—you can take a short-term test-drive.
This experience is often unpaid, but the most important part has already been stated: experience. It’s out there if you want it.
Throughout the rest of the book, Clark walks us through essentials like key skill development, finding a mentor, and one of my favorite topics, leveraging your points of difference. As a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ myself, I love bringing the crucial ‘outsider perspective’ to a project. In the current market, your diverse background is much more likely to be a benefit than a drawback. Clark demonstrates the benefits of transferable skills and your unique identity, and the importance of analyzing your skills through the lens of the current marketplace. Skills you’ve had and valued for a decade might no longer be valued, while other skills you perhaps have taken for granted might be more highly-valued than you thought. Don’t miss the value you bring to the job.
Your reinvention won’t be as simple as point A to point B. In fact, it’s almost certainly going to be hard work, and it doesn’t stop once you land that new job. Wherever you are going, Reinventing You will help you map your path and arrive to a newly-defined you with the skills and image to make your new career a success. The book even contains a self-assessment, re-cap questions at the end of each chapter, and group discussion questions at the back of the book. Start by reminding yourself that your future is too important to be left up to chance; then open Reinventing You and get started.