You’ve worked long and hard, sacrificing to build a solid reputation. When you’re out of the room, you know what they’re saying: He’s an innovative marketer. She’s a terrific solicitor. He is the expert on superannuation. But what if you now want to rebrand yourself?

rebrand your personal brand

People reinvent themselves all the time—to take on a new challenge, shift into more-meaningful work, or rebut perceptions that have hindered their career progress.  Taking control of your personal brand may mean the difference between an unfulfilling job and a rewarding career. Your path may make perfect sense to you, but how can you persuade others to embrace your new brand—and take you seriously?

Here are five steps that are the key to reinventing yourself for the business marketplace:

1. Define Your Destination

Rebranding isn’t easy, and if your plan is poorly thought out, you’ll end up confusing yourself and others. Start by determining where you really want to invest your energy.  Next you need to build the skills necessary for your new path. Learning the skills you need will give you the confidence to start publicising your new identity—and the credibility required to assume it.

2. Leverage Your Points of Difference

What’s your unique selling proposition? That’s what people will remember, and you can use it to your advantage. You don’t need to entirely abandon your old brand; just reconfigure it to compete in a new marketplace. Leveraging your unique previous experience can distinctively colour your new brand and help you stand out. Try to offer the value-add of having a different perspective if you are moving into a completely different career path.

Use any distinguishing characteristics you have to your advantage, even if they’re not strictly relevant to your work. Lissa and I learned from a very early age to leverage our “twin” status to make us memorable and to stand out from the competition. The fact that we are twin sisters who look nothing alike, and that we have an older brother and sister who are twins, and that Lissa has had a set of twins herself – all helps to support our unique point of difference.

3. Develop a Narrative

It’s human nature to have many interests, to seek new experiences, and to want to develop new skills. Unfortunately, however, people often view that as the sign of a dilettante. It’s unfair, but to protect your personal brand, you need to develop a coherent narrative that explains exactly how your past fits into your present. When planning your brand story think about it like a job interview: You’re turning what could be perceived as a weakness into a compelling strength that people will remember.

The key is not to explain your transition in terms of your own interests (“I was bored with my job and decided to try something else,” or “I’m on a personal journey to find the real me”) but to focus on the value your prior experience brings. One caveat is that your narrative must be consistent with your past to ensure your personal brand stays authentic.

4. Reintroduce Yourself

The truth is, the vast majority of people aren’t paying much attention to you. That means their perceptions are probably a few years out of date—and it’s not their fault. With hundreds (or thousands) of Facebook friends and vague social connections, we can’t expect everyone to remember the details of our lives. So we have to strategically re-educate our friends and acquaintances—because they’re going to be our buyers, recommenders, or leads for new jobs.

First make sure that all your contact points (Facebook, LinkedIn, personal website, and so forth) are consistent and up-to-date. Don’t forget to reach out by phone or e-mail to all the people on your list—individually—to let them know about your new direction and, where appropriate, to ask for help, advice, or business. (E-mails are a start, but they too often go unread.)

5. Prove Your Worth

There’s a wide gulf between my knowing that you’ve launched a new business and trusting that you’ll do a good job for clients. You may have lots of contacts who like and support you, but unless you can provide proof of your skills, they will not put their own reputation on the line by sending you referrals.

You can quickly establish your expertise if you help people solve a problem or do something better.  Sharing content online that you’ve created allows potential customers or employers to see what you are capable of before making a large commitment. (If you’re a graphic designer, having contacts check out an image gallery of corporate logos you’ve created may inspire one of them to send you that major new account.)

Traces of your old brand will never completely disappear—and as long as you’re thoughtful about what you’ve learned along the way, that’s OK. The challenge is to be strategic about identifying how you wish to be perceived, developing a compelling story that explains your evolution, and then spreading that message.  The more connections you make, and the more value and content you regularly add to the stream, the more likely it is that your new brand will be known, recognised, and sought out.

Inspiration: Harvard Business Review 2011