Suzanne Jenner-Wall explores the world of rebranding yourself as we start to evolve through the pandemic, and commence the process of ‘making sense’ of where we are. For some, this will include some deep levels of self-reflection on who I am, what I stand for and what I can be doing…it may be time to rebrand.
Is it time to rebrand yourself?
Perhaps you are ready for a complete career change, wanting to progress into more meaningful role, or simply looking to overturn a negative perception of your ability that has been holding you back at work. Whatever the reason, people rebrand themselves in business all the time. Creating a strong personal brand identity does not mean inventing a new persona; in fact, if you are not authentic about who you are people will see through this and your brand will work against you.
Establishing your brand identity is about the subtle marketing of yourself – emphasising the value that you can and will deliver.
First, get to know yourself.
Your leadership identity, your personal brand, is the promise you make to your team and to your customers about how and what you will deliver. It is derived from your leadership style – how you show up at work, how you communicate, the manner in which you receive and respond to good news and bad news, how you perform under pressure, to name a few. And consequently, it is about how you are perceived by others.
To brand yourself, first you must understand what you stand for, how you lead, and most importantly, how you want to be perceived by others.
Take some time to reflect on the feedback inputs you have received to date. Review previous performance appraisals and 360-degree assessments. Think about the qualitative feedback comments you have received in the past – the good and the bad. What have your managers, peers, direct reports, and partners said about you? How does this inform your understanding of your leadership strengths and any areas you may wish to work on?
Identify your north star.
This self-analysis will help you formulate your goals or identify the change you want to make. Perhaps your goal is to move into an entirely different field of expertise, perhaps it is to improve a leadership skill – such as delegating more effectively, thinking more strategically, or overcoming a fear of public speaking.
You may need to develop new skills to realize your objective. You may want to consider seeking a technical mentor, someone who has different experience to yours, to help you close a skills gap. You may want to enrol in a course to attain a new skill. You may want to engage a coach to help you overcome a limiting factor such as fear of public speaking.
Identity your points of difference.
Each of us has unique strengths that differentiate us from others who work in our respective fields of expertise. Even within the same team of technical specialists we see great diversity of skills – some people are brilliant with detail; others lack this strength but can readily grasp big picture concepts. Some people can tactfully deliver tough messages, others run from any hint of potential conflict.
It is these individual differences that make the collective team strong, and it is also these differences that make each of us unique assets. Because in the same way that we choose one product on the market over another, based on specific attributes, so employers carefully select their team members.
Even more importantly, when we work in a job that plays naturally to our skills, we are more engaged, productive, effective, and fulfilled by our work. So, it is well worth taking the time to identify your natural skills and find a role that aligns to these.
Develop your narrative.
The most important step in creating your personal brand is thinking about how you will pitch yourself.
Your brand identity can be summed up in your elevator pitch. It is not your job title, nor your previous job title, but how you will describe yourself when asked what you represent professionally.
To present your brand in the best possible light, you must be able to explain how your past evolved into your present. This includes explaining any gaps in your resume. The key is to turn what could be perceived as a weakness, into a differentiating strength. Whilst it is completely normal to have change your career direction at some point, a ‘butterflying’ resume can be confusing to people and can be perceived as a lack of commitment if not contextualized effectively.
Take the example of Dave, who transitioned from a successful career as a doctor to a role in government when he was in his 40’s. When asked why he left private practice for a career in government, Dave explained that he wanted to bring his experience and clinical insights to health policy development to inform more effective investment in areas such as disease research.
Whatever your story is, the important point is not to present your transition in a manner that reflects self-interest or lack of drive (for example, ‘I was bored with my job and wanted to try something else’, or ‘I kept getting overlooked for promotion so I decided to move on’). Your brand pitch should be honest but should focus on the value that your previous experiences have created.
Dust off your resume and prepare for interviews.
So now you are ready to put your refreshed brand out there.
It may have been some time since you have revisited your resume. Make sure that you have updated it and that it will stand out to a prospective employer. Even if you are not looking to apply for a new role at this time, keeping your resume current makes for less work if and when you do want to do this. And it is the template for updating your profile on LinkedIn and other platforms.
Less resume is definitely more for today’s busy leaders. Do not expect a prospective employer to trawl through pages and pages of verbose detail about your work history – you should be able to highlight your skills, experience, and key achievements in two or three pages.
While refreshing your resume, think about how you would explain at interview any gaps in your resume or career transitions you have made. Mentally visualize yourself being interviewed and prepare answers to those tricky interview questions like, “tell me about a time when you managed a successful change initiative – what worked, and what didn’t work?”
Imagine that you may well be interviewed virtually and prepare for this two dimensional dynamic. What you say becomes even more important in this environment as the use and impact of body language is diluted over video conference.
Use social media to your advantage.
Social media provides a great platform for relaunching or rebranding yourself in your existing or new career field, and marketing yourself to a specific audience. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is current, punchy, reflects your resume and highlights key achievements of your career to date. Consider connecting with associations and groups within your area of expertise to expand your professional network. Follow thought leaders in your discipline, like and comment on posts. Share leading edge articles and post your own articles. The more visibly invested in your discipline you are appear on social media, the more committed and credible you will appear.
Remember that social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram are also accessible by employers and prospective employers and reflect both your personal and professional brand. Think about the content that could be accessed in a public search and how you use these platforms to represent your views – political, religious, social, economic – so that these align with your desired brand identity.
Identify your contacts and make connections.
If you are seeking a new role outside of your current organisation, you can now leverage all this work to find your dream job.
While registering with agencies and perusing job sites on line are both viable options, research since the 1970s has consistently found that the most effective way to find a new position is not through direct application against an advertised vacancy, but through an existing contact. These connections have been proven time and again to result in a better match between candidate and company culture and values. In fact, the research has also proven that people are most likely to find a new job through an acquaintance who may not even work in the same field, for example, a sporting colleague.
So, start to build your contact list and make connections. Think about former bosses and colleagues, clients, suppliers, friends, sporting, neighbourhood, church, children’s school acquaintances and so on. The more contacts you have, the greater the probability of finding a positive connection. Think about the industries that your contacts work in and how strong the likelihood that they will advocate for you or want to help you. If possible, try to rank the names in this context. Then practice reaching out to a few via email, phone, or LinkedIn.
You will certainly get rejections; you will also no doubt have no response from some contacts. But like everything in like, good things are worth waiting for.
Be patient, be confident and be selective. Your next job is out there.
Let us help you pivot to succeed. Whether you are reassessing ‘who’ you are after job loss, or a leader charged with guiding your team to success.