Dorie Clark: How To Succeed At Reinventing Yourself

Dorie Clark is a master at self-reinvention. Like a shape-shifter, she has morphed from a small-town girl, to a gifted teen, to an 18-year-old college graduate, then a 20-year-old with a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School.

Clark grew up in Pinehurst, N.C., a tiny town of 3,000 where, she says, everyone watched the same TV shows and nothing ever happened. She read a lot, played sports, and dreamed of being a spy.

Dorie Clark

At 14, Clark went off to Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA., to a special academic program for teenage girls, and two years later, transferred to Smith College in Northampton, Mass., which she describes as the “best town in America.”

She says she loved accelerating at that rate. “I was incredibly happy because, as a kid, I always felt a little older than I was chronologically.”

Clark started her career in journalism, then became a presidential campaign spokeswoman. Then, Clark turned her shape-shifting energy to marketing, where she says her habit of probing the truth about individual existence has shaped her philosophy about marketing the self.

Having an “authentic self” has become “a mantra,” Clark says. “How do you have an authentic voice? If you really dig down and engage with that question as more than a cliché, it very quickly leads you to questions about life.”

Marketing your authentic self is branding, and “brand” is another word for reputation, says Clark. We all have a brand that defines us in the eyes of others — whether we think so or not.

“People think something about you,” Clark says. “You’re not a tabula rasa.” The trick, she says, is to figure out if there is a gap between how you want to be perceived and what people say about you when you leave the room. Closing that gap is where the work of personal branding comes in.

Clark has probed the subject of personal branding in three books. In Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, Clark delved into how to reinvent yourself professionally. In Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It, she advised how to get your true talents recognized.

The last of the trilogy is Entrepreneurial You, which will be published in October 2017. In Entrepreneurial You, Clark explores the value of a personal brand from a very concrete perspective: monetizations. “Monetization is an egalitarian force,” Clark says. “If people view money as tainted or dirty, that’s not sustainable. It doesn’t work. How to monetize your talents in a way that’s long-lasting is a great skill.”

Throughout reinvention, recognition, and monetization, your story drives your personal brand. “Humans remember stories,” Clark says. “You have to get good at telling stories or you’ll have no chance of standing out, in the sense of getting recognition for your true talents.”

Clark has been a storyteller at a previous BIF Summit, and she looks forward to sharing her story at the BIF2017. When she first heard about the BIF Summit, she says, “I was told that the BIF Summit was a conference that went deeper than the usual conference, that the goal was for smart people to go ‘off script’ and share things they normally wouldn’t share.”

“The BIF Summit takes a humanistic view of business,” Clark says. That makes it a natural place for a shape-shifting philosopher turned branding expert, with a lifelong habit of probing the truth about individual existence.

Maureen Tuthill contributed to this story. Photo by Marilyn Humphries.

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