It’s fairly easy to craft a professional brand for career advancement when you’ve been building on the same career track the whole time. Your brand is essentially a summary of what you’ve been doing all this while and how you’re ready to take it to a whole new level. But what do you do if you’re looking for a career change?
The good news is that the biggest obstacle career changers face is more often one of perception rather than ability—in other words, it’s not so much a matter of having the requisite skills to take on a new role but convincing others that you can make the switch. (Of course, this assumes you do, in fact, have the technical skillset and necessary qualifications.)
career_transitionFor most executives, a “career change” might be better described as a “career shift,” as it’s unlikely you are looking for a radical transformation at this point in your career. But you may be looking to change industries, change roles, move to a startup after a long career with established companies, or otherwise shift focus in a way that might not be obvious to others. In these cases, it’s extremely helpful to identify a strong professional brand that fits with your new career objectives.
“Branding” is a concept that can be difficult to grasp when applied to people rather than products. In essence, your executive brand is your promise of value. It describes who you are and what you do in a way that is meaningful in the workplace. A strong brand makes all the difference in helping hiring managers, recruiters, and network contacts understand where you’re coming from and where you are intending to go, and most importantly for career changers, WHY the change.
Here are 4 steps to create a persuasive, coherent storyline that is in line with your new career direction.
1. The starting point: Don’t be afraid to integrate your soon-to-be-former career into your new brand, as every story needs a background. Too many people feel apologetic or awkward talking about their past career, trying to downplay or water it down, but this will only do them a disservice as it shows lack of conviction and confidence.
2. The turning point: Pinpoint when and how you were exposed to aspects of the new role. It could have been a recurring theme in all your previous roles/positions. Or, it could be completely unrelated to your former job—perhaps a seminar you attended, people you met during a networking session, or something that you read about. Creating a strong turning point helps to create the impression that you are intentional about a change and not just gunning for a change of scenery, which only spells lack of commitment.
3. Learning curve: This is a critical point, where you make the bridge between your past and future career. You will need to identify what it was in your earlier career that prepared you to take on this new role—these are known as your transferable skills. Or it could be something you did to align yourself better with your intended career path, such as taking a course or earning a certification.
4. Why you’re here today: Wrap up your story on a confident note, signifying that you are now ready to make the transition into your new role by identifying 2 to 3 specific achievements that prove your grasp of the aforementioned transferable skills. Tie these to your target company/organization and explain how your newfound skillset can bring value to it.
Once you have solidified your own narrative, weave it through your resume, your LinkedIn profile, cover letter, personal marketing brief, and interviews, being mindful to tone down industry-specific jargon if you are changing industries. At the same time, ramp up on language that’s relevant for your new target to create a cohesive, coherent, and convincing story.
In fact, you may just find yourself well-positioned to bring a fresh perspective to the role as compared to candidates who have been in the same field for a long time.
Above all, get a clear grasp on your value to others before you start searching for a career change, and create a compelling storyline so others will understand, appreciate, and welcome what you have to offer.

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