This post by Dorie Clark first appeared in The Guardian.
Is 2014 going to be the year you get a promotion, or land that job you’ve been dreaming about? If you really want to reinvent your career and make your professional life more fulfilling, it’s time to take decisive action.
But how can you can set yourself apart from your peers and ensure you’re not stuck waiting around for callbacks? Have a go at these five personal branding tips.
Sharpen your narrative
What do you say when someone asks: “what have you been up to lately?” Don’t waste the opportunity, as so many do, with a ridiculous platitude (“not much” or “same old, same old”). It’s important to make sure you always have something to contribute to the conversation, which shows you’re staying current and interested in new challenges. Talk about a charity you’ve been volunteering for, or the most exciting project you’re doing at work.
Rekindle old ties
When it comes to rebranding yourself, sometimes the people closest to you are the toughest sell. They know you as X, so how is it possible that you could be Y? One professional reinvention secret that you might want to tap in 2014 is rekindling “dormant ties” – a phenomenon Wharton professor Adam Grant has written about.
Dormant ties are people you used to know, but haven’t been in touch with for quite a while. You still have a bond with them from days past, but since it’s been five or 10 years, they expect that you’ll have changed and grown. In the interim, they’ve picked up new contacts and networks, and may be willing to help you as you pursue even greater opportunities (and, hopefully, you can return the favour).
Seize on an emerging trend
When you’re first building a name for yourself, it’s hard to be a generalist. If you want to become known as an expert in sports or politics, there’s infinite competition. But if you pick an emerging trend, you often have a clear path forward.
As technology thought leader Robert Scoble told me in a recent interview: “If you pick a single niche that isn’t well covered – like Google Glass – and you have an authoritative blog, if Google Glass takes off, all of a sudden you’re getting invited to press conferences and other events about wearable [technology]. It’s a lot easier to get known as a person who covers a niche.” What’s the emerging trend you can explore?
Learn one new skill
Of course, we’d all like to learn Mandarin, travel the world, and become master golf, tennis and cricket players. If we have jobs and families, we can’t do all those things in 2014, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick one to focus on. Choose one specific new skill and make a commitment to master it this year. At the start of 2013, I had never conducted a webinar – by the end of the year, I had run nearly 20. Pick your focus area, and you can do the same.
Start creating content
You’re always in a stronger position to negotiate terms and conditions when someone comes to you, rather than when you go begging at their door. The best way to ensure they do is “inbound marketing” or “content marketing”, ie the practice of creating content that showcases your expertise and is helpful to others.
There are no excuses anymore; starting a blog is free thanks to sites like WordPress. Don’t like to write? Create a video podcast using your smartphone, or simply monologue into the voice memo function of your phone (as social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk does) and pay someone to transcribe it.
The economy is picking up, and the internet puts more tools at our disposal than ever to meet new people, connect with past colleagues, learn skills for free, and share our expertise. It’s time to make the most of it in 2014 by building your personal brand and attracting the right kind of opportunities.
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Find out more about her book, Reinventing You (Harvard Business Review Press) and follow her on Twitter @dorieclark