Editor's Note: Katie Dunn, founder of the Back to Business Women's Conference, is sharing some of her great expertise for women who are looking to get back into the workforce. She's also gearing up for the second conference, which is set for Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 in Research Triangle Park. Registration is open.
As a woman re-entering the workforce, you have a unique opportunity to start over in a career that may be different from the one you left behind when you were last working. This makes your “brand” all the more important because you want to be sure that you project an image consistent with the profession you’d like to enter.
There’s a lot of talk about defining your professional brand, and it can be hard to know just what that means on a practical level. At the Forte Foundation Conference I recently attended in Austin for women in MBA programs, I heard a great talk by a speaker named Lindsey Pollak. She did a nice job of defining four key elements of your brand. I share them below along with my own suggested action items for women re-entering the workforce:
The Four Key Elements of Your Brand
Visibility – what is your level of exposure as a leader?
Action Item: Be visible to your network by sending a check-in email to see how your contacts are doing and update them on what you’re doing. Be really visible by writing and posting an article on LinkedIn. If you need to work up to that, start sharing high quality articles on LinkedIn with a comment that adds value.
Differentiation – what are you known for? What do you offer that others can’t?
Action Item: Determine which of your strengths are most relevant to your intended career field and get comfortable talking about them as you discuss your career search with friends, contacts, recruiters and hiring managers.
Consistency – is your image consistent across various professional situations?
Action Item: Make sure the image you are putting out on your social media sites and in person is that of a good colleague.
Authenticity – are you comfortable in your leadership style?
Action Item: Spend some time thinking about how you describe your leadership style. Then be sure you are not only comfortable leading (this takes practice!), but that you are looking for opportunities to lead. These can be in volunteer opportunities as well as professional settings.
Here’s the challenge: Pick just one of these brand elements to work on this week and commit to doing the action items. Then, put a note in your calendar for each of the next three weeks to remind you to work on the next brand element.
I’m a fan of breaking things into small steps, and I’m betting this will work for you too.
Dunn, a Cary mom of four, has more tips on her Back to Business website and through the conference's LinkedIn page. Her Return to Work Checklist also is helpful to women who are just starting to relaunch their career.