Meet Casey Miller, mid-level manager who’s been in a career for more than 10 years. He called me because he was ready to make a career change, but wasn’t sure how to translate his skill set into the desired role. He discovered what many learn about themselves: He was pigeon-holed into a career but had greater aspirations, with no idea how to make the leap.
When Casey and I first spoke, he knew exactly what career he wanted to transition into, but was experiencing difficulty rebranding himself. He was not only making a career change, he was also changing industries and sectors. Wowee! That’s what I call a change trifecta!
If you’ve found yourself at a point where you may need to think about rebranding in preparation for a career change, are in the middle of a transition, or just need to freshen up your brand, follow the steps below to successfully reposition and transition.
1. Do a comprehensive career inventory
The career inventory is an exhaustive list of every milestone, achievement, award, honor, special recognition, publication, speaking engagement, degree, certification, and training spanning your entire career. That’s right, do what I call a data download. Get it all out of your head and into a spreadsheet or document, then save it and back it up. As you do this–and it will take some time– read through the compilation and identify recurring themes and patterns of skill sets and achievements. This will help you with your career story.
Before you can begin the process of rebranding, you must first shed either all or part of your career identity. Up until this point, you have probably become habituated in labeling yourself as X [Casey’s X was field trainer police officer]. In order to reposition, you must shed the old label and identify what you aspire to be in the future. You do this by discovering the skills and competencies required to be successful in the future role, and relate your own achievements to those skills and competencies.
I asked Casey to refer back to his career inventory, specifically the achievements he had in his background relevant to his desired occupation (learning and development manager).??Casey began to see himself more as an accomplished trainer and program manager, and less as a police officer, by relating his past achievements to the skills necessary to be in a learning and development role.
3. Create awareness through your career tools
The primary tools in your career toolkit include a résumé, a cover letter, business/contact cards, a website, a blog, a visual portfolio, social media platforms, interviews, and networking events. Because every tool is used differently, your career story needs to be modified to accommodate the target audience and the way you engage with that audience. This means you have to retell your career story a different way for each tool. (No copying and pasting!)
Casey had a LinkedIn profile, but he needed to ditch the stuffy, boring summary most people use. I suggested he write his summary in the first person, and from the perspective of his opinions, ideas, and motivations for being in a learning and development role. I gave him four excellent articles to read on creating his LinkedIn summary, crafting his brand, and the value of increasing his network, plus a list of five other action items to complete. Casey immediately went to work. Within two days of posting his shiny new LinkedIn profile summary, he reported the following: “The (LI profile) views are going crazy today!”
He was getting exposure. He went on to report that he was not only getting views, he was also getting great feedback on his LinkedIn summary.
4. Consistently and proactively manage your brand
Through your career tools, you can proactively manage your offline and online brand. LinkedIn is your “silent salesperson,” and I recommend using it as your primary online brand management tool. Casey got involved in target groups on LinkedIn rich for the learning and development audience. Within a few days he was the top contributor in one of the groups, which further increased his exposure and allowed recruiters and hiring managers to witness how he thinks. The topics he was engaged in showcased his problem-solving capability, elevating him as a subject matter expert.
Casey began a determined effort to actively network through LinkedIn to build up his circles of influence. As a result, he was turning his online network into a face-to-face network, actually meeting with the people he was being introduced to and building genuine relationships. Getting in front of people was the fastest way to maintain the rapport he had already created, deepen the level of trust, and increase the likelihood of further introductions or invitations to interview.
In addition to leveraging the power of LinkedIn, Casey also attended face-to-face networking events. He joined the local chapter of The American Society for Training & Development Professionals and began having relevant conversations with people in the field, doing the work he wanted to do. He put his ear to the ground to learn firsthand what the demands and trends in the marketplace are for someone seeking an learning and development role.
To Casey’s delight, he found himself in the envious position of being interviewed for and entertaining two separate offers, negotiating a higher salary than he had originally targeted.??Casey completed his career transition in four months and is now happily employed in a program management role in the learning and development field.
You are in charge of your career brand. It impacts your reputation, your value to an employer, your ability to earn promotions and raises, and how well you stack up against the competition. Whether you are in transition or not, owning and managing your career brand keeps you relevant and makes you desirable in a competitive marketplace. A well-positioned career brand puts you in the envious position of being the hunted, not the hunter.