For professionals feeling “institutionalized” in the corporate world, losing sight of your own individuality and personal brand is not uncommon. Institutionalization can take over and hijack your personal brand. It can give the impression of being trapped, creating what can feel like a monumental obstacle to exploring other avenues in life.
This month’s guest blogger is coach and facilitator Melanie Charles of Live in the Flow. After years of corporate life, Melanie shares her journey from trying to conform to a corporate brand to discovering an authentic version of her personal brand.
Here’s Melanie’s story:
Until recently I worked in an office. I had worked in the same environment for over nine years. You know the type of thing, branding and vision statements all over the wall. Filled with similar types of people working towards a common goal. I arrived at work on time (a strict timekeeping policy was enforced) and I left after my finish time. I dressed semi-corporate, ok so it was mainly black, very little colour to be seen here. To be honest, very little of me. The main item on my desk was a computer. The only sense of personality was my notebook, I always refused to use the spiral bound notebooks provided, instead opting for something fun, inspiring and colourful. I suppose that should have been the sign that I wanted something more. I just didn’t know what.
I didn’t aspire to be an entrepreneur. I just knew I wanted to do something different. When I finally worked out what I wanted to do, I thought the hardest thing would be finding my first client. What I didn’t count on was the all of the other things, such as how I would dress at work (when working from home), that sense of who am I. What do I believe in? What do I want out of my new life? And the constant nagging, maybe I should just get a job.
I spent the first week of my new life redefining and rediscovering myself. I had been trying to fit myself into someone else’s vision for so long that I had lost sight of my own. I had lost sight of me. Who was I as an entrepreneur? The first version was still very much in the corporate world. It took a while to shed that cloak. Even the language I used was rigid. Corporate. My social media posts were what I thought other people wanted to hear, not what I wanted my message to be. I was wearing gym gear at home and trying to structure my day as I had in the office, but as an entrepreneur 9 – 5 doesn’t need to be the way. It wasn’t my way. I now work to my version of an ideal day. Sometimes starting early and finishing late and other days lunching with friends.
So I met friends whose opinion I trusted. I talked through life with them, what I wanted and who I wanted to be to try and make it clear in my head. It is ever changing, but I was really happy with the iteration of how I wanted to feel in my new life. What I wanted life to look like, what I wanted my new wardrobe to look like (a lot more colour!). That felt like such a big break through. And it probably seems so small to other people, but it had a big impact on me.
Other areas that I had to discover were – learning to network and changing the way I see my job (which I love), allowing myself to see networking as a social opportunity as much as a business opportunity. When working, I was always uber professional, to the point of sometimes being rigid, but now. Now I can be me, professional, but fun. There is time to laugh. It’s not all serious business.
The real evidence in redefining myself has been that I am attracting more clients. It was important and is important to find that authentic version of me. On a personal level it has been my painting, which is something I do for pure pleasure. I have gone from black and red dark faces that have scared any guests who have stayed to sunshine and colour, flowers, plants and trees.
I know the journey will continue, but I am taking it all in my stride.
Melanie is an experienced coach and facilitator. After more than 17 years working in Learning Development, coaching and training Leadership, customer service and other areas. She threw it all in to run her own business called Live in the Flow. She delivers coaching, workshops and runs retreats to help women design and live their ideal life. She uses meditation, NLP, emotional intelligence, positive psychology, mindset change and a variety of other tools to enable others to learn how to move past any blocks that might be stopping them from feeling true happiness.
She is also an author of children’s books and is always on the look out for a really good coffee. You can find her in a variety of coffee shops across London, or pop over to her website – www.liveintheflow.me or she can be found on Facebook or Instagram. Oh and she’s partial to a gin or two in the evening.