In this month’s Harvard Business Review is an article on reinventing your personal brand. I was about to flick past it when a headline declaring “Define your destination” grabbed me by the collar and trapped me into reading the whole piece.
It is more than a decade ago that a cover story by Tom Peters, the management writer, for Fast Company magazine dragged personal branding from its position somewhere in the margins of personal development into the mainstream of management thinking.
In the story, entitled “The brand called you”, he argued: “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
More recently, Dan Schawbel wrote the bestselling book Me 2.0, for Generation Y and the Facebook generation. It contains practical ways of harnessing online tools to professional advantage.
The piece in Harvard Business Review focuses specifically on the part personal branding can play in achieving a career shift. Dorie Clark, chief executive of Clark Strategic Communications, a consulting company that, according to HBR, “helps clients build their brand reputation and increase sales”, provides advice on how to transform what might be seen as weaknesses in experience or wrong turns into a positive narrative.
“The challenge is to be strategic about identifying how you wish to be perceived, developing a compelling story that explains your evolution, and then spreading that message,” Clark writes. “Consider it ‘search-engine optimisation’ for your life.”
Research into why more women do not make it to the boardroom often cites their apparent reluctance to communicate their ambitions or take ownership for career highs. We could all do worse than apply some of the advice in Clark’s article, both on defining goals and on strategically positioning your career in a trajectory towards them.