Like so many of you reading this blog, my “to read” stack is piled halfway to the ceiling. Some books and longer articles that I want to read, and others, that for one reason or another, I need to read. Add to that stack the deluge of emails, daily periodicals, and of course, blogs like Forbes, and I sometimes wonder how I’ll get through my stack. The books are all good by virtue of having made it into my stack, so I prioritize my stack from “must read now,” because of valuable information that I presently need, to “read eventually. This month, the book that made it to the top of my stack is Reinventing You,published by Harvard Business Review Press written by my friend and colleague, Dorie Clark. The criteria for me was that, like so many of you, I am continually looking for how to improve my brand and I always find Dorie’s writing, in her blogs on this site as well as Harvard Business Review, to have great pragmatic insights.
Here are a few of my key takeaways from the book.
- You already have a brand, and in order to take control of it, you need to fully understand what it is. That’s easier said than done, because we’re all inside our own heads 24/7 – so you need to enlist key allies to help you gain perspective. Dorie suggests conducting your own “360 interviews” to get the perspective of your colleagues, boss, and employees to understand your strengths and where you can grow. She also proposes a fascinating concept – doing your own “focus group,” where the focus is on you. You can recruit a friend to moderate, and then invite 8-10 people over to talk about how they see you and what they can envision for you; you’re only allowed to listen and ask clarifying questions. That’s the kind of perspective it might take you years to learn on your own.
- You don’t need to – and shouldn’t – jump into a “reinvention” without planning, but there are ways to minimize your risk. Dorie profiles people who served on nonprofit boards and gained new skills that allowed them to change careers, and provides case studies about professionals who cleverly expanded the definition of their current job to stretch their boundaries and move into new areas that fascinated them. That’s something we should all ask ourselves: what can I donow to make my current job more fulfilling and interesting?
- Creating your “narrative” is critical to the reinvention process. If left to their own devices, most people will continue to think of you the way they always have, meaning their perceptions are often erroneous or out-of-date. After all, you’ve been learning and growing in the intervening years, but they may simply not have noticed. So you’ll need to create a narrative that explains, clearly and succinctly, where you’ve been and the value only you can offer. With creative examples like a poet who became a management consultant, and an Army helicopter pilot who transitioned into corporate America, Dorie makes this point eloquently and shows us how we can all do it.
- You have to “demonstrate your value.” Whether it’s taking a leadership role in professional organizations or creating online content (like blogs or podcasts), it’s essential to show others how you think and what you can do. As knowledge workers, there’s no other way for them to get a sense of our abilities. And if you’re the one creating intellectual property, you’re able to set the agenda – and others will soon be talking about, and citing, you.
Defining and developing a personal brand is no easy task but Dorie Clark’s writing brings the process to life and makes it accessible to all of us. A brand is a promise of uniform quality and performance. What promises are you making? Read Reinventing You to get clear on those promises, and learn to do what is needed to deliver on them.