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Yes, You Have a Brand - Even If You Don’t Know It, Like It, Or Wish It Were Otherwise

Yes, You Have a Brand - Even If You Don’t Know It, Like It, Or Wish It Were Otherwise

I once coached a very smart, talented Big Pharma VP who had a top-tier pedigree – Ivy League education, including a medical degree and an MBA; work experience at brand-name, Fortune 500 companies; and a current senior role that spanned over a dozen countries and a team of several hundred.

But he was at a company of tens of thousands, and so was just one of many VPs, and while brand-name schools and employers lent him strong credibility, other colleagues had similar pedigrees. This VP wanted to break out from one of many senior executives to a top job – CEO – and he wanted to move from Big Pharma to a start-up.

[Related: Should You Change Careers or Start a Business?]

His brand said senior executive at a big company, and there’s nothing wrong with that, except he didn’t want that. How could his brand appeal to start-ups? How could he differentiate himself enough to reach the top job?

He didn’t even think of himself as having a brand till we started working together. Even if you don’t know you have a brand or what your brand is, you still project one. My client didn’t like that his brand was so big company, middle of the road, but you start where you are, even if you don’t like it. He wished his brand were different because he wanted to attract different opportunities.

[Related: Preparing for a Successful Job Interview]

So we changed his brand. We changed who knew him and saw him, how he was known and perceived, and therefore what opportunities he was considered for. He actually got three offers for the top spot at three very different start-ups. He successfully rebranded himself and pivoted his career as a happy result.

If you’re making a big career move – a promotion, a change in role or industry – you will need to rebrand. Shepherding my clients through a rebranding process is what I do as their coach, harnessing years of experience at the decision table for promotions, hiring, and other key career moves. If you want customized support from an insider who has evaluated thousands of brands and knows what appeals to decision-makers, check out the Dream Career Club.

[Related: How to Answer the "Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?" Question]


Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a longtime recruiter turned career coach, writer, and media personality on job market issues. She is a Senior Contributor to Forbes Careers and an adjunct at Columbia University. She helps experienced professionals in tech, media, financial services, and other industries make a great living doing work they love.

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