Two Essential Steps to Fresh Start Success

By Gail Z Martin

Realize that “marketing" is actually a different way of saying “communication." When we say marketing, we're covering a wide range of activities that can include: social media, newsletters, in-person conversations, networking (in-person or online), speaking to groups, direct mail, traditional advertising, public relations, video, and more.

What's essential is that you find a way to do two very important things: Redefine yourself to the world; and Create a personal brand to stand out and be remembered. Creating a personal brand will take you a long way toward getting colleagues, customers and the media to see you in a new light.

So how do you do it? Glad you asked!

Step One: Identify the Change

Who do you want to be, now that you've grown up? Do you want to keep working in your area of expertise, but for a different industry? For yourself? For a not-for-profit? Or do you want to build on your skills and experience and do something entirely different?

If you aren't clear about who you are becoming as you reinvent yourself, no one else will know, either. They'll either continue to see you as “Joe, who used to do such-and-such" or “Joanna, who is thinking about her options."

Maybe you left your old job with a long-desired change of direction already clear in your mind. Perhaps you've been saying no for a long time to an internal voice that's been trying to lead you in a particular direction, and now you're starting to listen and consider alternatives. Or you might have a clearer idea of what you don't want to do than what you're passionate about doing. That's okay—thinking things through is a natural part of the Fresh Start process. But before you can more forward, you need to have an inkling about the direction you want to go.

Think about it this way: An international airport has flights to hundreds of cities all over the world. You could get on any plane and end up in any one of those places. But odds are, some destinations will suit you better than others, and all destinations are not created equal. You've been to some places before, and don't need to go back. You might like to revisit others, or find new places with similar charms. And some don't attract you at all. But you can't go anywhere until you pick a destination and buy your ticket.

So… where is your reinvention ticket going to take you?

Once you have a destination in mind (in other words, a fairly clear idea of what kind of work you want to do and the type of structure—corporate, not-for-profit, self-employed—you want to do it in), you can start moving toward it. As long as you have a clear destination in mind, don't worry yet if you aren't sure exactly how to get there.

Step Two: Communicate the Change

So you've picked your destination. Great! Now, it's time to shift people's perception of who they think you are. That's important, because if they don't know you've made a change or can't see you in a different light, they can't help you succeed.

There's a reason for stereotypes and pigeon-holes. They are ways our brains create a filing system and know where to put people in our mental map of the me-centered universe. Bob the accountant, Jane the teacher, Bill the dentist, Anna the engineer—these are all short, easy ways we keep straight all the hundreds of people we meet and know. Stereotypes come in when we create a one-size-fits-all description of what someone who is in a certain job or profession is like. “Accountants are risk-averse and detailed-oriented" or “IT people like to solve problems and are introverts"—you probably could fill a page with your own version of professional stereotypes if you gave it some thought.

Have you ever considered how the people you know have already pigeon-holed and stereotyped you?

Just for fun, ask your significant other, your best friend and a former colleague to tell you how they'd introduce you professionally to someone you didn't know. It's usually an eye-opening experience. Odds are, if that's the way people who know you will see you professionally, your business acquaintances, neighbors, social friends, and club buddies have an even fuzzier grasp on what you do.

If that's how people view you after years—or half a lifetime—in your prior job or career, your task is twofold: To get them to understand the change you're making and to be able to articulate it clearly, briefly and accurately so they can tell others (correctly) what you do and thereby help you make connections to succeed. Fuzzy introductions like “Joe's a great guy—you should talk to him sometime" aren't as powerful as “Joe knows more about supply chain processes than anyone in the city. I bet he could help you with what you need."

Other people won't come up with those great descriptions on their own. You have to communicate it to them.

Stories are powerful teaching tools. People are hard-wired to listen to and remember stories. Stories stick. That's why a crucial part of creating your Fresh Start Success is learning to tell your own story in a powerful way. Tell us who you were, and who you are now. Let people know what's changed, and what you create for them in your new role.

Tell us how you got where you are and what you learned, saw and overcame. Your story differentiates you, because no one else has exactly the same story you do. Because of your story, you'll resonate more with people who are a good fit for you to work with, attracting the right kind of clients, partners and team members. Your story reinforces your expertise and is an essential part of building your brand.

Use your story to communicate the change you're making and shift the pigeon-holes others use to remember you and what you do.

Excerpted from Fresh Start Success