Time for a reinvention?
How do you stay relevant in an ever-changing job market? Hint: It's not hard work.
Sure, you need to put in the hours and effort. But whether that translates to success has a lot more to do with how you’re perceived than how you're doing in your current role. If you want to rise to the next level, you may need a reinvention. The good news: That's not as hard as it sounds.
"Rebranding just means changing how others view you," says Dorie Clark, branding expert and owner of Clark Strategic Communications in Boston and author of "Reinventing You," a Harvard Business Review book. Three compelling reasons to consider it:
- The economy. "In an economy like this that faces more 'disruptions,' you're often forced to make changes these days just to stay relevant," says Clark.
- The corporate culture. Even if you're working for a company and just want to move up the ladder, competition is increasingly fierce. "You can’t count on a promotion," she says. "You have to be aware of your reputation and take control of it in order to position yourself for success."
- The job market. Talk about competition. Millions are out of work, many sectors are shrinking, and some jobs are disappearing entirely (or being shipped offshore). If the opportunities are narrowing in your field, you may need to reinvent yourself just to stay employed. "Be proactive,"urges Clark.
You want to move up in your company.
Solution: Act the part.
To be tapped for a higher-level gig, you’ll need to be perceived as having a strategic and big-picture view of your industry not just your company. So do your homework. Of course, you’ll also want to pay close attention to the skills required for the senior roles you’re eying, and hone yours. Once you’ve done that, start walking the walk. “Act and dress like the position you want to be promoted to,” says former attorney Kirsten C. Meneghello, an associate certified coach with Illumination Coaching LLC in Portland, Ore. You need those above you to see you in the role you want, not just the role you’re in. So focus on getting noticed. "Find sponsors within the higher levels of the company who can not only be a mentor, but can actively lobby on your behalf," she says. "This kind of attention from a senior executive can get you a seat at executive meetings, a chance to shadow them and perhaps to gain access to the decision-makers in social situations." Once there's an opportunity, you'll be well-positioned to step in.
You’ve been out of the workforce.
Solution: Scope out your skills.
"I find that clients, especially those re-entering the workforce after being out for a while, tend to not realize all the skills they bring to the table," says Stacy Duhon, a former biotech executive turned professional certified career coach of Seattle, Wash. She recommends writing down all of the activities you've participated in – whether you were paid for them or not. Where have you volunteered? Did you host book club or the neighborhood watch party? "All of these activities required skills that may be relevant," says Duhon. Once you have an exhaustive list, write out the skills you used to make yourself successful in each of the activities. Play up those that can be used in the role you’re seeking in your résumé, and use your cover letter to show how the skills you’ve gained outside of work will help you succeed in the position you want.
You want to stay in your field, but change specialties.
Solution: Learn a skill and use it.
"Anyone can re-invent his or her personal brand, but to be effective it has to be believable in the marketplace," says Atlanta-based International Coach Federation master certified coach Paul O’Connor. "It has to be based in reality." Start by reading industry reports or trade publications in the area you want to move into. Participate in industry-related conferences, panels, and workshops. Then volunteer for projects outside your core job function that draw on your new skills.
You want to recast your skills to move into a different industry.
Solution: Show how the dots connect.
You'll need potential employers to understand how your skills are transferable. It might seem self-evident, but you often need to be explicit. “You need to establish new ‘perceptual links’ that connect your brand to an area where’s there’s growth and opportunity,” explains personal brand specialist Catherine Kaputa, owner of SelfBrand LLC and author of You Are a Brand! Walk the decision-makers through it. In your résumé, cover letter, and on informational interviews, be sure to explain why your past skills and experience are relevant in your new field. Cautions Kaputa: “If you don’t brand yourself, others will. And I can assure you that they won’t likely brand you in the way that you want to be branded.”
You want to move into a new department.
Solution: Reach out.
When you work at a company, you often get pigeon-holed by the functional role and level you hold in the organization. Networking with people who hold positions in the area you want to move into is critical to your success. "Start by volunteering for cross-departmental initiatives so you can make contacts in the areas that interest you," says Clark. "You'll build up expertise and credibility by working side-by-side with them." Another way to build credibility: Get educated. Look at the job descriptions for the kinds of roles that interest you. What skills are prioritized? If you don't have enough, or recent, experience in those areas, take a class. (Check out sites like skillshare.com and Generalassemb.ly for online skill-specific classes.)
You want to go from full-time to freelance—or vice versa.
Solution: Spread the word.
Use social media to let everyone know that your intentions are different than before. "Make sure to let friends and colleagues know about your change in status right away – because they're your best referral source for new jobs and clients!" says Clark. "Send a blast email notification, but follow up with personal calls or emails to make sure the message sinks in and that they're aware of the services you provide." There’s never been a better excuse for a status update.
You need a total career change.
Solution: Ask a lot of questions.
"For a total career change, I encourage people to do a lot of informational interviews before taking the leap. Invite someone out (and pay for it). Then ask all of your burning questions about this new field" says Meneghello. Let them know you're not asking them for a job, but just want to find out more about their position and industry.
If you decide to make the move, you'll need to know what insiders enjoy most and least about the job, the training they received before entering the field, and what professional organizations are related to the industry. Ask them to describe their typical day and even what they’d do differently if they had to start from scratch again. Send a handwritten thank-you note after the meeting. Not only will it leave a positive impression, but it will keep you on their mind. "And they may be able to introduce you to other important people in the field or make other connections for you."
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