Rebranding can play an important part in your overall career strategy. So says Rhymer Rigby, author of The Careerist: Over 100 Ways to Get Ahead at Work. Many people think that “rebranding” themselves simply means freshening up their image. But, Rigby says, genuine rebranding goes far deeper.
Here are his tips on meaningful rebranding that will improve your career prospects:
1. Think of yourself as a brand. Organisations generally rebrand themselves when their public image no longer reflects the underlying reality, when market conditions have changed, or when they want to do something new. Depending on the need, this could be relatively minor, such as tweaking a logo to make it feel more contemporary, or a total overhaul. It is the same with your personal brand. At one end of the scale, you might freshen up your work wardrobe; at the other, you could make a concerted effort to reposition yourself as a troubleshooter or someone with experience leading big projects.
2. Take your image seriously. Many people suffer from “image lag”. They join an organisation and make their way up the corporate hierarchy, but the image they portray to colleagues remains the same – and before they realise it, they are ten years out of date. One example of this is a dress sense that is noticeably behind the times. Senior people in organisations often view matters of fashion, and even grooming, as slightly beneath them. They shouldn’t. Little things like scuffed shoes and frayed cuffs subtly chip away at any good impression you might be making. Similarly, lapses in personal grooming, such as letting your hair become unruly, can have a bigger negative impact than you might imagine. Addressing these failings will not only improve others’ perception of you, but it can also kick-start any deeper rebranding you may be considering.
3. Find out what is compelling about you. To do this, ask colleagues (those above and below you), suppliers and customers how they perceive you. If this sounds awkward, it needn’t be. There is nothing wrong with asking someone you work with what they think you do well and what you could do better. In fact, most people will find having their opinion sought flattering. Address the bad points and use the good points as a foundation on which to build.
4. Look outside the organisation. You may also wish to go beyond your immediate network for inspiration and insights. Executive coaches, business psychologists and even personal branding consultants can be good places to start, but you should also look to your wider network of contacts, and even your friends. They can offer you different perspectives and fresh thinking, and can challenge any ingrained corporate norms.
5. Consider formal training and development. What does your company offer, and how could it benefit you? Finance professionals who gain qualifications in marketing or IT may discover that all kinds of other avenues are suddenly open to them. It’s also worth remembering that putting yourself forward for career development makes you look more engaged and ambitious; nobody gets criticised for asking his or her boss about company support for doing a part-time MBA.
6. Be authentic. Your rebranding needs to be real. If you try to be something you’re not, it won’t ring true. For example, it would be difficult for an executive with a reputation for a considered, collegiate approach to decision and strategy to suddenly become a huge risk-taker. It just wouldn’t be credible. This is not to say you can’t change perceptions of yourself, but the new you needs to be rooted in some part of who you are.
7. Spread the message. There is no point in rebranding yourself if nobody knows about it, so part of the exercise needs to be personal PR. Put yourself forward for initiatives (both in and out of the workplace). Blog. Tweet. Write articles for websites and magazines. Network. Take the novelist’s principle to heart: Show people you’ve changed, rather than telling them. Here is where people often discover that there is plenty of overlap between rebranding yourself and repositioning yourself in career terms. LinkedIn is the first port of call for many businesspeople when they want to check someone out. Make sure your profile is a shop window that sells you, rather than an afterthought – and keep it up to date as you gain new skills and your career progresses. You should also make sure your photo is consistent with your image – beach photos are not good on a professional network. People may also look for you on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re on these, the posts and tweets should be consistent with the image you want to portray.
8. Don’t expect overnight success. The key to good personal rebranding is consistency. Bad perceptions can take a long time to create – erasing them can take a long time, too. Trying to shift particularly stubborn stains on your work character can feel a bit like turning around a supertanker. But if you stick with it and repeatedly deliver on the points you want to change, people will buy into the new you.
9. Don’t be scared to move on. Sometimes personal rebranding teaches you that it’s time to leave. You may have too many associations at your organisation, you may have outgrown the organisation, or the organisation may have nothing more to offer you in terms of growth and development. This is not a bad thing. There is no better opportunity to rebrand yourself than by moving to a new company.
Rhymer Rigby is the author of The Careerist: Over 100 Ways to Get Ahead at Work and writes a weekly careers column for the Financial Times.