THE BLOG
09/16/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How Do You Make A Name for Yourself?

"I used to be the next President of the United States."

Chances are you know whose line that is. It's one that goes down well with Al Gore's adoring audiences. And it speaks volumes about this New Radical pioneer. In a single phrase he's saying that, like us, he had a midlife wake-up call, reassessed his life, looked into his heart and at the problems of our world, and charted a new course.

Gore now has star power of a different kind. He sells out his shows -- touring with his Oscar award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth -- like a rock star. He has a new nickname, "the Goracle." And he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

I've been writing about the process that helps men and women like you and me become New Radicals. That is, finding ways to put what we've learned in our careers to work on some of the world's greatest challenges (for more, see archived articles). We've been assessing our skills, reflecting on our values, exploring what the world needs, thinking about a new role, and how to get there from here.

If you've been following the series, you have a good grasp of what you have to offer and a clear idea of how you might make a difference. Now, you're ready to make a name for yourself. You're not starting from scratch, of course. Just like my clients, you have an established reputation. Your task is to create a new identity on this solid foundation -- one that makes it clear why you are the ideal person for the role you have in mind (whether Activist, Entrepreneur, or Innovator).

This part of the New Radical process is always important, but it's critical if you're making more than the simplest shift -- if you want to leave corporate life and apply for a job with an NGO in Bolivia, or if you're giving up dentistry to grow green oil and need to make the case to venture capitalists. And it can be particularly helpful if you're trying to win hearts and minds inside your organization -- persuading the powers that be precisely how they can make a world of difference.

So, how do you do this?

Well, let's consider Al Gore's example. Why has he been so successful in his New Radical role? One reason is because he developed a personal brand that resonates with the public. I hesitate to call it branding, because in some quarters that phrase is so loaded. But that's really what this is. Individuals like Gore are doing what companies have practiced for years: developing identities to help market themselves.

To me, the real beauty of branding is that it is a kind of sophisticated shorthand. Done well, it is clear, concise answer to three related questions, "Who are you?" "What do you do?" and "What can you do for me?"

You'll be delighted to discover that all the work you've done so far provides the information you need to answer these three questions. Over the next few weeks, I'll introduce some New Radicals and show how they followed these simple principles to launch themselves into life-changing and world-saving work. And how you can do the same.

In the meantime, let's keep the conversation going. Have you successfully made a name for yourself? Or did you find it difficult to shift from your original career to a New Radical role? What have pioneers like you learned that the rest of us can apply to our own transitions? Or are you an employer, and what kinds of things might make you sit up and take notice? How would a candidate win your heart?