4 Personal Branding Tips For Making A Big Change

by Gail Z. Martin

We’ve all laughed about how someone’s driver’s license, passport photo or employee ID snapshot doesn’t look at all like that person. Maybe it’s the bad lighting, or our state of mind when we go to get an ‘official’ photo taken, but there is usually little resemblance between the lively person we know and the somber person in the photo. Likewise, we’ve also chuckled at certain professionals whose photos on their business cards is at least twenty years younger than they are!

We laugh because the picture is out of sync with the reality. And while that can be funny with individual photos, it’s no laughing matter when it comes to having your brand match your business.

What happens when you go from being an established, well-known professional in one field to creating a new company in a very different type of business? How do you take the best of one world and carry over those benefits to a new identity? And how do you get people who know you in one role to see and trust your proficiency when you decide to change what you do?

I recently caught up with a former marketing colleague of mine who is now a personal chef. She and I both had worked for large corporations, been downsized, and started our own consulting firms. My mental picture of her (branding) was of a polished corporate professional, someone with whom I had collaborated with on PR projects for an organization to which we used to belong. As it turned out, cooking had always been her passion, but she had relegated it to a hobby. When the recession reduced the budgets of her client base, my friend found herself spending more and more time in the kitchen and realized that she had a new opportunity to pursue. The trick was, how to get people to make the switch from ‘PR pro’ to ‘pro chef’.

I’ve been interviewing dozens of people for a new book I’m working on about reinvention. In each case, highly experienced people with plenty of degrees and corporate experience ended up making a big career switch in mid-life. On one hand, they were well known in the community—as what they used to be. And for every one of the people I interviewed, part of making a successful transition required strategizing how to get the people who knew them in their ‘past life’ to see them differently now.

It’s a topic that’s dear to my heart, since I reinvented myself from corporate marketer to entrepreneur/marketing maven, to social media expert, to bestselling author. I knew what had worked for me, and I was eager to find out what others making a similar switch had done.

So what have I learned about reinvention branding from over fifty interviews with people who have successfully made the switch? Here are some of the personal branding secrets of successful career-changers:

  1. Clearly communicate the change you’re making through social media and your web page. Even before you have a logo or a tagline, use photos, Facebook and LinkedIn posts, and Twitter tweets to help your current network of friends, family, neighbors and colleagues understand what you’re doing and cheer you on. The more they understand what you’re trying to do, the better they can help you succeed.
  2. Create a company name and a tagline that explains what you do, so you can position yourself in the minds of the people you meet. This also helps to re-define you to the people who knew you ‘before’ and makes it clear that you’re pursuing a new career, not indulging a hobby. (Hint: This step involves filing official paperwork and getting a business license, so pick a company name that give you room to grow.)
  3. Don’t put off having a professional logo and website created. The keyword here is ‘professional’. Unless you’re a graphic design whiz, this means investing some cash to have it done right. Remember, people will judge your professionalism by how you look online, so create a logo and website worthy of pride that represents you well.
  4. Come up with a one or two sentence introduction for yourself that focuses on who you serve, what you do, and what benefit/result you create for your customers. Practice it and refine it until you can give people a clear impression of you and your business in less than thirty seconds.

Stay tuned for more ideas on how to get the world to see who you are and what you do in a whole new way!

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