You are who you are. You know yourself well. When you meet people, you know how you describe yourself. You also know that you’re not happy with the image you currently present to the world. That means you’d probably like to learn how to reinvent yourself.
Some people think that personal reinvention is difficult, costly and time consuming. After all, you’ve spent a lot of time becoming who you are and communicating that information to friends, work colleagues, family members and others. Yet, if you want to reinvent yourself, you can do so quickly. In fact, if you want to reinvent yourself, and you’re prepared to start as soon as you finish work today—say at 6 pm—you can make a good start in just a few hours.
You don’t have to use the same old words or focus on the same old things when you introduce yourself to new people or talk about yourself at work or away from work. You’re on a journey from places you have been to somewhere you want to travel to. The present is just a staging post in that journey.
If you’re on your way to a new job, or a new career, you can choose to define yourself in terms of where you are now and where you want to be.
“I’m a ………………… I’m learning how to become a …………………”
“I’m a ………………….. and I’m focusing on …………………. because in the long term I’m hoping to …………………….”
Remember that some jobs and situations lend themselves to be reshaped to suit your interests and enthusiasm. If you talk more about your interests and aspirations, then people will start to associate you with these subjects. As a result, you’ll be able to reinvent yourself in the minds of other people quickly. Those same people just might think of you when a project comes up that would be right for you to be involved with.
If you know you’ll struggle to get some people to think differently about you, plan for that, too. Acknowledge the past and the present, but get those people to pay attention to your future, too.
“I know you know me as a ……………………….. I’ve also developed my skills in ……………… and I’m looking for ways to combine the two.”
Practice this tonight: create three or four statements that you might use with colleagues, with strangers you meet, and, where appropriate, with senior people in your organisation. Link what you do and what you have done to your desired future in the words you choose. Say those words aloud. Revise your statements until you feel comfortable saying them. Then decide how you’re going to use them tomorrow.
When you come to write about yourself, the opportunities for reinvention are enormous. Let’s start with your CV or résumé.
The most important thing to do now is to rewrite your CV showing how your experience to date has prepared you for the new role you’re looking for, or to travel in a new career direction.
You’ve done a lot of things in your past. Now that you want to reinvent yourself in a particular way, look again at your experience—find the experiences that add credibility to the career choices you’re looking to make, and the things you would like to do. For example, if you want to take up a training role in your organisation, focus on any learning events you have been involved in organising and on any work you have done to help your colleagues to achieve more. Think flexibly. Your experience doesn’t need to have been labelled “training” for you to draw upon it to help you with this transition.
Think strategically, and consider the skills that people in training roles need. Think, too, about which of those skills you have developed and are using. By doing this you will be showing other people that a move into a training role might be the obvious next step for you, given your experience and interests. That will make your reinvention easier.
This evening, rethink and reshape your experience to prove that you’re already on the way towards that career destination you have in your sights. Rewrite your CV to reflect your new way of describing yourself.
In the end, it’s what others think of you, and how others see you, that goes a long way towards defining who you are, especially at work.
Stop and think carefully about how people at work introduce you or speak about you. Do they label you in ways that you find helpful and with which you are comfortable? Do their introductions limit people’s perceptions of you and make them think of you in ways that don’t fit with your long-term aspirations?
Next, consider what you would like the people you work with to say about you. Everyone labels people they meet—you can’t stop that. You can influence the label that is applied to you, however, and you can create the labels that will be applied to you. Use them yourself first. Others will follow.
Stop thinking of yourself as a customer services supervisor because that’s how your job description defines you. Remind yourself, and others around you, that you’re a bilingual customer services supervisor. Be clear that you’re keen to make use of those additional language skills to help your employer—you want the people who count in your organisation to remember you can speak another language and label you as such when they speak about you.
Tonight, think about the actions you can take to alter subtly, or amend, the ways in which other people at work describe you. Wherever possible, draw attention to additional capabilities you have, and indicate where your skills may be of use to your organisation.
You are who you are. However, we’re all different people in difficult contexts. At home, at work, with our loved ones and with strangers we behave differently and are perceived differently. We already practise personal reinvention several times a day as we move from one role to another.
You can reinvent yourself whenever you want by remembering to make the links between your past, your present and your future demonstrate that you are travelling towards a clear career destination.
Start to reinvent yourself at 6 pm today. By the time you’re ready to fall asleep, you may have surprised yourself by how much you have already changed.
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