On the Smart Networking Teleseminar series this week, I interviewed career coach Annemarie Segaric on how to launch a new career in this economy. We discussed a number of changes that listeners were going through, among them: moving from the for-profit world to a non-profit, diving into a completely new
industry, relaunching a career at age 55, starting up a new business, and even starting up in a whole new country.
A far cry from what I was doing
I’ve been a career changer myself several times over, working in investment banking, management consulting, magazine publishing, and internet advertising. Eight years ago when I left the corporate world to start my own independent consulting business, my niche was helping media companies with pricing and profitability issues. On the surface, that seems like a far cry from what I’m doing now as a speaker, trainer, and author on the subject of networking. And that seems even further from what I studied in college, which was engineering.
Each time I made a career switch, I had no experience in the new industry. While I never doubted I could make the transition, I had to convince recruiters, hiring managers and clients that taking a leap of faith in me would be worthwhile. So after finishing up my interview with Annemarie, I began to think about what makes it easier for some people to move successfully between seemingly disparate career opportunities?
Whenever you face a career transition, you need to define and solidify the core of your personal brand and understand how to make it relevant to the new opportunity.
Get started with this four step process:
Reinforce your biggest strengths. Marcus Buckingham, co-author of Now, Discover Your Strengths, argues that people will be more successful if they focus on playing up their strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses. Identify the 2 or 3 things you are really known for and make sure that comes through on your resume, online profiles, in other communications and during interviews. Are you a great manager? Don’t relegate that to a one-line bullet point that says, “Managed staff of 10.” Instead come up with examples, stories and accomplishment that illustrate your strengths in action.
Reconstitute your hidden talents. Bring back to life the things you love to do, but may not have used much in recent years. I’ve always loved to write, but never had a job in corporate America where that was ever a requirement. That skill stayed pretty much dormant until I was out on my own and had to start writing marketing copy and articles to promote my consulting business. With my new found freedom to write anything I wanted to, six years ago, I began to write about a skill I had recently learned and gotten pretty good at—networking—and that was the catalyst to the career I have today.
Reinvigorate your passion. When you first graduate from college, jumping into a new career is thrilling and you can’t wait to talk about how you’re going to change the world. When making a major career transition later in life, fear and uncertainty of what’s ahead can sometimes overwhelm any enthusiasm for the destination itself. It’s important to be able to tell a great story about your career journey that ties into the key strengths of your brand. You can’t get others excited about your goals unless you are.
Reactivate the lines of communication. Your network can play a significant role in connecting you more quickly to your new career. The ones who know you best can even help in the preliminary stages if you get stuck in identifying your strengths and hidden talents. Sometimes it’s easier for someone else to see clearly what we’re good at. Once you’ve repositioned your brand for the next stage of your career, make sure your key contacts know about it so they can be on the look out for appropriate opportunities.
Very few of us stay in the same career forever, even if we think we want to. While the companies and the people change, what remains constant in our career evolution is the core of our personal brand. If you take the time to identify the primary ingredients of your brand that not only make you unique but also are valued by new audiences, and understand how to play up key elements and connect them to any new requirements, you’ll more quickly close the gap between what you’ve done and where you want to go.