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Reinventing You for the Future

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Dorie Clark's new book, Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press) will be available in stores on April 9. Recognized as a "branding expert" by the Associated Press, Clark offers direct and clear advice for professionals at any stage of their career. The guide is especially relevant for our increasingly technological world, and emphasizes social identity branding online.

Clark, a former presidential campaign spokeswoman, is an adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. She has taught marketing and communications at Tufts University, Suffolk University, Emerson College, Smith College Executive Education, the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler School of Business, and HEC-Paris, which is ranked #2 worldwide in executive education by the Financial Times.

She is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review and Forbes. Her work has been published in the Harvard Business Review Guide to Getting the Right Job and the Harvard Business Review Guide to Networking. Clark consults and speaks for a diverse range of clients, including Google, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, Yale University, the Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the National Park Service.

At age 18, Clark graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College, and two years later received a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. For more information, visit www.dorieclark.com. Follow her on Twitter @dorieclark.

My interview with Dorie follows:

1. When did our professional brands move online and why? Is this better than what we had before?

In the past decade, it's become standard practice to Google people you meet -- not just when you're checking out a job candidate, but almost anytime you're introduced to someone. In the early days of the web, information about individuals was scarce and you were mostly looking to rule out negatives and ensure they weren't a criminal or someone with truly bad judgment. But today, thanks to blogs, Twitter, and platforms like YouTube, professionals have the ability to proactively shape positive messages about themselves -- here's my philosophy, here's what I'm working on, and here's where my skills lie. This ability for individuals to publish content at no cost is incredibly powerful and means you can shape your reputation to an unprecedented degree.

2. One can be an expert in his/her field without being an expert at writing. Even the most seasoned professionals are still frightened of public speaking. What are the best ways for executives to smoothly transition their offline persona into an effective profile online?

To showcase your expertise effectively, the bottom line is that you have to create content of some sort -- written, audio, or video. It's fine for professionals to prefer one vehicle over another; Gary Vaynerchuk, now a hugely successful social media guru, has famously declared that he's not much of a writer, so he made his name with web videos and dictated the books that he's written into an audio recorder. The key is playing to your strengths, but finding a way to get your ideas about there.

3. Please share the most interesting and successful alternatives you've seen jobseekers use to distinguish themselves from the masses. What are your thoughts on the creative resume?

The best job search strategy is ensuring that employers come to you - and the way to do that is by creating powerful online content that intrigues and impresses them. Emailing a resume puts you in the same stack as 200 other people; they're trying to turn you into an apple so they can compare you to everyone else. The way to win the game is thinking outside the box, like Dave Cutler, who created his own job search app that aggregated his tweets, blogs, and videos in one place -- a treasure trove of information for potential employers. It was so unusual, he even succeeded in winning mainstream media attention and got covered in the Boston Globe and his local Fox affiliate -- pretty helpful for a guy looking for a job (and of course, thanks to his efforts, he's now gainfully employed).

4. You write for top-tier blogs like Forbes and Harvard Business Review. What is your advice for the person just starting out?

The first step is ensuring you have good "clips," to use an old newspaper term. Basically, that means you need to be able to demonstrate your writing ability before other outlets will take a chance on you. So you can start your own blog and build up a track record for a while, or approach other websites that are always hungry for content -- your local weekly newspaper's blog, or the blog of an industry group you're involved in. Write for them, get your ideas out there, and then you'll be able to demonstrate your credibility as you approach ever-more-prestigious publications.

5. How can we simultaneously leverage virtual and in-person networking? Particularly when people don't respond or followup? Where do you draw the line between persistent and annoying?

If you're not receiving a response from someone, I'd stop after three tries (perhaps two times via email and once via phone, spaced out over several weeks, as they may be on vacation). And I believe the goal of all online networking should be, ultimately, to have a face-to-face meeting. Sometimes that's difficult -- if you're on different continents, say -- so you may need to content yourself with a Skype call. But in general, humans are still wired to respond best to in-person connections, so I try to merge online and offline relationships whenever possible. Once you've met in person and gotten to know each other, it's easy to keep up the connection online.

6. I am imagining a future three states away from my current home. How do I convince employers to hire me instead of a local?

We like to think geography isn't a barrier anymore, and in some ways, it isn't. It's far easier to keep up a personal or business relationship with someone overseas now, with free calls via Skype and a steady stream of emails. But proximity does matter, as research by scholars like Geoffrey West has shown. People seem to be more innovative in large cities (they spawn a far higher number of patents per capita), and people are far more likely to collaborate with colleagues who sit close to them. How can you overcome this natural barrier if you're applying for a job from several states away? Honestly, I'd advise a little subterfuge. Employers are going to worry on two counts: 1) Will she be a fit for this job? And 2) Will she like the city, or will she freak out and move back? I'd take concern #2 off the table and make it clear you've made the decision to move regardless, even if you're waiting on an offer to be able to do so. And I'd stress any pre-existing ties to the new city (perhaps you've lived there before or have family nearby), which they'll view as risk mitigation: she knows what's she in for by moving here.

7. What are the key essentials to building a meaningful mentorship?

The Center for Talent Innovation has done great research on mentorship and sponsorship (which is mentorship on steroids, where someone proactively looks out for you and tries to help you advance your career). The most overlooked piece, I think, is that by their reckoning, 70 percent of the effort in a sponsor relationship has to come from the protégé. Let's face it: the people we'd like to mentor/sponsor us are very busy people, so we have to make it easy for them to help -- and be sure to give back and make it worthwhile for them, by helping to advance their initiatives, talking them up on social media, providing them with information they wouldn't otherwise get, etc.

8. Any good stories about people who have reached out to you after reading your blog posts, Twitter, etc?

I'll answer the question two different ways. First, per the discussion about how creating content can establish your expertise, NPR reached out to me for an interview last year during the presidential primaries about Rick Santorum and his "Google problem" because I'd written a piece for the Huffington Post about how you can take control of your online reputation. They're pitched by dozens of PR firms every day, but like most media outlets, they prefer to find their own experts to interview -- and they do it by Googling relevant ideas and seeing who's written about them in a smart, accessible way. So if you do get in the habit of creating content, the world -- including other media outlets and potential clients -- will take notice.

Second, my book Reinventing You is about professional reinvention, which is a topic that strikes a chord for many people who are interested in shaping how they're perceived by others at work, or perhaps who have made a career change in the past. As a result of publishing it, I've heard incredible stories from people I didn't know about their career trajectories (like one man in Chicago who left a successful career as a doctor to become a management consultant) and have even learned new things about friends (like Susan, who found a new career as a writer and speaker after getting laid off as a teacher and -- in desperation -- started a series of career workshops for her fellow teachers ).