There is always a lot of buzz about personal branding, and a lot of the focus is on consistency. Apple as design, Walmart as low prices, Fedex as dependable delivery.
People who have successfully branded themselves are also known for something specific. Martha Stewart for domesticity, Oprah Winfrey for authenticity. While it is true that consistency helps branding, the reality is that individuals (and companies) are more complicated than a single tag line or campaign, and sometimes you want to be known for something else.
You already have multiple pursuits in life so you already have more than one personal brand. You might be a marketing manager and a wife and a parent and a marathoner. You will know different people in each sphere and they will brand you based on what they know in that area. Even if you are not consciously branding as a mom, the parents of your child's classmates probably think of you this way. On the other hand, your running group may not even know you’re a mom. How many times have we met someone in a casual context and are surprised when we learn what they do for a living (or vice versa)!
Here are three tactics to mix up your brand or re-brand altogether:
Focus on the area that positions you in the best light. I coached a stay-at-home mom who didn’t think prospective employers would value her contributions because of her long gap in traditional employment. But she also headed several community programs and was a record-breaking fundraiser. I guarantee that people in her programs saw dollar signs before they saw her mom skills. Yet she always branded herself as returning to the workforce (the mom brand) instead of focusing on ways she never really left (the program leader brand). When she finally re-positioned herself to lead with her accomplishments, she found herself in demand from several companies for sales and business development roles.
People are known for something specific - focus on what puts you in the best light.
Focus on where you want to go, not what you’ve been doing. An experienced financial services executive is interested in leaving for non-profit work in women’s leadership. She volunteers in a few women’s leadership programs and is already well-regarded in that space. Yet her professional bio makes little mention of this and instead focuses on her long list of financial services-related accolades.
While her track record in financial services is impressive and longer in actual duration, her new track record in women’s causes is equally substantial. If she wants to start being seen as a leader in the women’s leadership space, she needs to focus her story there, regardless of whether there is more time spent in the other areas.
Expand your network to broaden your brand. Sometimes people who have known you for a long time have trouble seeing you in a new way. You were always the finance person, so they can’t see you in non-profit. This is understandable – you are changing, and they are not. Get some new friends! Seriously, you don’t have to drop the old ones, but if you’re serious about re-branding yourself in a specific way, broaden your network to new people who never knew the old you and don’t have to be convinced.
You don’t have just one brand. It evolves over time. It is different day-by-day in the sense that we all have multidimensional lives. Use this to your advantage. Proactively choose what and how you brand.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career and business coach with SixFigureStart®. She has worked with executives from Amazon, American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. Her latest book is Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career (Forbes Media, 2015). She also writes a weekly advice column on Forbes (where this post originally appeared).