May 5 2016
If you’re like many executives, at some point along your career path, you may find yourself wanting to go in a new direction. Maybe you’ve built a solid career in finance but find you no longer enjoy it and are eager to branch out into another aspect of business. Perhaps you have your eyes set on ultimately reaching a general management role and want to broaden your experience to prepare yourself for that level of oversight.
Whatever the reason may be, it can be challenging to present yourself to the world in a new light; particularly when your entire reputation has been built upon your success in a very specific line of work. Making a move like this often requires a brand-repositioning strategy to ensure that you are communicating who you are in a way that is aligned with your current professional goals.
Following are some tips for altering how your network perceives you so that you can break that mold.
Build the skills you need to broadcast a credible new brand.
This initial step may be time consuming, but it is ultimately necessary if you want your message to have any impact (not to mention being ready for a transition); particularly if your roles to date have not covered what you hope to do next. In addition to seeking out training opportunities that will enable you to claim expertise in your career literature, seek out any opportunity in your current role to expand your scope of responsibility to touch your desired area.
Redefine “who you are” in your resume and online profiles.
What do your resume, LinkedIn profile and other online profiles communicate about you? If you are hoping to land an HR leadership role but your resume, LinkedIn profile and Twitter account brand you as a sales & marketing leader, you will need to rethink your message so that you can shift the perception of your audience. Ensure that both your resume and any online bios position you for where you are headed, rather than selling you for where you have been. And, while it may be difficult to let go of that sentence you’ve clung to for so long that describes your many years of experience as a sales & marketing executive, realize that this does not paint the picture that will help you to achieve your new goal.
In order to shift others’ perception of you so that you can land a new opportunity, you may need to “reweight” some of your skills and qualifications in your career literature, especially if you have not had the opportunity to gain a wealth of experience in your desired line of work. This entails emphasizing those activities that are most relevant to your current goal, even if they were really only a small part of what you did. While it is never a good idea to stretch the truth on any of your career documents (not even a little), you can still choose to focus your story on the elements that are aligned with what you want to do now, while taking the spotlight off of the actions that brand you in your “old” light.
Become a thought leader in your desired field.
There is no better way to be perceived as an expert than to act like one. That starts with drinking in the knowledge about your new field and learning everything you can—through reading, attending conferences and networking with experts. This will also enable you to feed a new, relevant jargon back into your career literature that will help to bolster the perception of you as an insider. But most importantly, it will give you a firm basis from which to broadcast your own unique ideas to your network (via blogging, publications, speaking engagements, etc.). This is a critical step in further solidifying your network’s new perception of you.
Grow your network.
While there’s no need to dump your old friends and colleagues, realize that new ones will be seeing you with a fresh set of impressionable eyes, giving you a clean slate on which to build your brand. Thus, this period of transition represents a critical time for expanding and growing your network. It is now more important than ever to make time in your schedule to meet new people, ask for introductions, set up informational interviews, etc.
Personal rebranding may seem like a daunting challenge, particularly in this day and age when social media footprints leave a seemingly shatterproof legacy of what defines each of us. But by carefully examining and adjusting your career literature and online profiles—and by taking small steps each day to strengthen your expertise and build brand equity over time, you can effectively shift your network’s perception of who you are.