Dorie Clark knows a thing or two about reinvention. The former presidential campaign spokesperson and journalist has worked for nonprofits and directed a documentary feature film in her diverse career history.
The author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013), Clark argues that because workers are moving jobs more frequently, upwardly mobile professionals should be proactive in taking control of their personal brands for the sake of long-term career development.
"For a long time there was a view that it was tawdry to think about your personal brand," says Clark, whose book releases April 9. "But in actuality it's becoming more and more important for everyone because it's getting very rare for people to have a lifetime career at one company. We're moving around."
Clark proposes a systematic approach to developing your personal brand. Here are a few of Clark's ideas:
1. Conduct a Focus Group For Yourself
Before deciding on where to take your career, Clark suggests you invite a group of close friends and colleagues over to a focus group where the subject matter is you. The goal is to identify your strengths and what areas you should explore or develop further.
Clark suggests a friend moderate these discussions. One of the few rules is the object of attention can't start debating participants. But she assures, "This is not meant to be some kind of Dr. Drew intervention," says Clark. "Instead of saying where you fall short, it's about what skills should you develop. It's not about your weaknesses."
You should ask, "Can we have a really frank talk about me, about my reputation, what you think I'm good at, about areas you want to see me do more of or expand," says Clark. "Any of that can be really valuable."
2. Research Your Future Career
Although every young person knows the importance of informational interviews, most people do them the wrong, says Clark.
"Informational interviews have been really drilled into young people. But there's not a lot of information about how to do them well or how to keep up that connection," says Clark.
Earlier in her career, Clark found she wasn't doing informational interviews the right way. "I was doing these hit-and-run interviews where you would never talk to them again. It was ultimately a waste of time for both of you."
If you are meeting with people who you have a legitimate interest in their path and career, you should make them your colleagues. "The dream scenario is to start now and to build a relationship with them not necessarily so they can give you a job, but so they become a part of your broader network."
3. Find Ways to Test Drive Future Careers or Industries
For the book, Clark interviewed a number of professionals who had used a strategic process to decide on their career path. She found many had struggled to find an ideal career field and position.
"It's somewhat of an iterative process. Sometimes the first thing we think of is not quite a good fit," says Clark. "Before you take a huge plunge, you want to do a test drive."
One way to develop new skills and try out a new field is by joining the board of a nonprofit or advocacy group. For example, "if you join the board of a health care organization, not only do you bolster particular skills, but you can also find out if that field is of interest to you."
4. Create Content to Take Control Of Your Brand
Clark says that it's important to start creating content that will create a favorable first impression for others when they consume it. She notes that many first impressions come from search engine results -- even before you meet someone face-to-ace.
"When people hear your name, the first thing people do is Google you," says Clark. "If that's how people find out about you then you really need to be conscious of what that looks like."
She suggests a strategy of creating blog posts, audio content, and/or video content to make sure others are perceiving you as you want to be perceived. "The truth is if you are really strategic, then you really can begin to take control of what your reputation is. You just have to focus it."
This is particularly true with social media, where people are hyper sensitive to anything that sounds like advertising or self-promotion. "No one wants to be force fed advertisements," says Clark. A better strategy is to provide useful content on Twitter, Facebook and social media. "The only way you can communicate in such a way that people want to listen to you is if you provide information that has actual value to them, whether that is business tips, or health tips or maybe it's something that's funny or amusing. You have to think more clearly and strategically."
Have you reinvented your career or created content to brand yourself? What tips do you have for people to reinvent their own personal brand?