Getting Ahead

How a Solid Personal Brand Can Help You Grow Your Career

person on laptop
Tomas Rodriguez/Getty Images

The road to your dream career is rarely a straight path. Dreams evolve, especially when you’re open to new experiences in front of you. It’s natural to want to expand in a new direction or chart a new course—in fact it’s a good thing!

There are many ways to make changes to your career, whether it’s taking on new challenges or altering your path entirely, but the best tool in your professional toolbox is your personal brand. And you can pivot the way that you present yourself online with a website builder like Squarespace.

And in this dynamic workforce, nothing you’ve learned is ever lost. Apply your current skills across a variety of different contexts and industries by repackaging your experience and tweaking your messaging.

So, here’s how I grew my work in a new direction without starting from scratch. The key to that success? Adapting my personal brand to evolve with my goals.

Recognize Positive Building Blocks

No matter your prior job experience, your personal brand includes characteristics and strengths that can translate to any scenario.

Let’s say that you’ve worked as an administrative assistant for 10 years. Your admin job requires diligence, attention to detail, and a deep understanding of the inner workings of an organization that most people never get to see. Owning those foundational strengths will help you grow your career, or help you make a career change if you’re trying to take that leap.

As a creative consultant working in tech and finance, I developed content and copy for tons of big brands. I loved my job, but I always wanted to write about travel for magazines. Even though I didn’t have any bylines in the field, I knew a ton of the skills from my corporate work transferred to travel writing. After all, I spent my days researching, writing, and hitting deadlines. The discipline and relationship-building skills at the heart of my personal brand set the framework for collaborating with editors, too.

Action Item

When you decide to expand or change your career, think about how the building blocks of your personal brand now translate to your new goals. Make a list of the characteristics that will serve you well in your expanded career.

Chart Your Path Forward

Just like how you reach a destination with the help of a map (or let’s be real, a GPS), you need a plan to help evolve your personal brand. A big part of that evolution centers on how you describe yourself and your work, but ultimately, you need to make sure you're ready for a dream opportunity. Start by pinpointing your goal and outlining the experience you need to get there.

When I committed to travel writing, I knew I wanted to add other dimensions to my skillset that illustrated I could do the work. I invested in an online photography class, a travel writing course, and a self-guided tutorial on pitching publications. I reached out to people I admire in the field for their input, read extensively, and completed a few unpaid projects before I started reaching out to editors. With the clarity that I could do the work—and an expanded portfolio to prove it—my dream assignments were closer than ever.

Action Item

Consider your ideal opportunity. What steps do you have to take to add a new dimension to your personal brand? Imagine each step building momentum to help you meet your goal. If you’re not sure what steps you need to take, reach out to people in the industry for their perspective on how to get from A to Z.

Evolve Your Messaging

Once you’ve considered your foundational strengths and mapped out the steps to expand your career, you’re ready to evolve the messaging around your personal brand. At this point, it’s worth investing in (or updating) a personal website through a service like Squarespace. With an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface and affordable price point, you can build a professional website that captures your personal brand.

Ask a friend who is good with a camera—or a professional—to take some photographs of you for the website. Next, you’ll want to think about how you want to re-write your introduction, job experience, and expertise to help you grow. You don’t have to negate everything you’ve done before; instead, build on the foundation that you’ve already established.

Here’s a before and after that shows how I evolved my personal brand to help me get jobs as a travel writer:

Before: I collaborate with brands and publications to tell stories that empower digital readers. Through high-level messaging, insightful articles, and clear copywriting, I establish the right tone, voice, and purpose to position my clients as industry leaders.

After: I collaborate with brands and publications to tell stories that empower digital readers. Through high-level messaging, insightful articles, and clear copywriting, I establish the right tone, voice, and purpose to elevate my clients' in the eyes of their audience. On the weekends, I also work as a contributing travel writer and photographer for publications like Vogue, Mic, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler and The Week.

See what I did there? It’s easier than you think to expand your personal brand to align with new goals. As your career evolves, don’t shy away from moving forward, even if it feels like a risk.

Action Item

Tweak your personal brand messaging on your website and social media to reflect what you want to do moving forward. Play with the language and don’t shy away from owning your strengths as a professional.

When it comes to your personal brand, you’re in the driver’s seat. You can choose how to depict your strengths and the way you want to evolve your brand. By building on your best characteristics, charting a clear path, and tweaking your messaging as you go, you’re practicing a process that can help you grow throughout your career.