Much has been written already about how to maximize your personal brand, and a lot of the focus is on consistency. With companies, you see it in their advertising: Apple is about design; Walmart is about low prices.; Fedex is about dependable delivery.
With people, the ones with a strong personal brand are 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.
You have multiple pursuits in life so you 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 Jane’s mom, the parents of Jane’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)!
Given the fact that we already have multiple, not just one personal brand, we should take advantage of that flexibility and not be afraid to present ourselves on multiple fronts. Here are some considerations in choosing the personal brand you want to put forward:
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” as personal brand) instead of focusing on ways she never really left (the “program leader” brand). When she finally repositioned herself to lead with her accomplishments, she found herself in demand from several companies for sales and business development roles.
Focus on where you want to go, not what you’ve been doing.
An experienced financial services executive is interested in leaving that space for non-profits in women’s leadership. She volunteers in key positions 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 bonafides. While her track record in FS 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 rebranding yourself in a specific way, broaden your network to new people who never knew the old you and don’t have to be convinced. (As you email people to network, don’t forget to customize your email signature as part of your personal brand!)
You don’t have just one personal brand. It evolves over time. It is different depending on what you prioritize currently. It is different day-by-day in the sense that we all have multidimensional lives. Use this to your advantage. Proactively choose how you convey your personal brand.
You already have a lot to work with, so don’t feel like you have to do something drastic — like spend six-figures on a graduate degree — to reinvent your personal brand!
A version of this post originally appears in my leadership column for Forbes.com.