Since the start of this year, I have been approached by a dozen or more industry friends and colleagues who have either been displaced in their career or looking to make a change for one reason or another. In nearly every case, they would like to be more prepared and are not sure where to start for next chapter in their career. I want to share some advice that I have used to successfully help these friends make the leap and find their next career adventure.
Most people pay very little attention to their professional branding and sell themselves short. The reality is that we never really know what is around the corner and when a change may be necessary, or an opportunity of a lifetime may appear. Why not create the best possible image now for your professional network audience? In fact, you can invest a very little amount of time and look better than 90 percent of your industry peers.
For those of you who are just starting your career or in your twilight years, this can be a daunting thought and challenging to process. How do you tackle this question and develop a direction for your future?
1. Decide What You Want to be When You Grow Up
A few years ago, I was planning to make a career change and a mentor of mine suggested I think about my assets or signature strengths and what I like to do. I went through the suggested thought process and took it a step further. I created what I call an opportunity matrix. On the horizontal axis I listed my signature strengths or interests and beneficial elements to a certain job opportunity (401K, health plan, etc.) On the vertical axis, I listed business opportunities or “jobs” that I may consider. I then added a numeric value from 0-10 for each element. In the far-right column, a numeric value for that opportunity would be calculated upon rating the various elements related to the opportunity.
This process was helpful to fully consider and evaluate each opportunity and make a more informed decision. Don’t be shy about exploring opportunities outside of the industry or maybe something more adventurous (buying a franchise, starting a new business, joining the circus.) If you can make a good income and find joy in that career path, don’t be afraid to explore it.
If you find yourself unemployed, don’t “take some time off.” Get moving! Start networking and accept that your new full-time job is finding your next job or career opportunity.
My good friend and talented industry colleague Petro Shimonishi was faced with a challenge years ago when she was laid off. She and her business partner decided to develop a powerful resource for professionals who where out of work or looking to make a change. I would strongly encourage anyone in this position to visit: www.nextphasenetwork.com for some amazing articles, resources, coaching, job board, forum, etc.
2. Polish Up Your Image
Invest a little time to create an impressive image for your professional career. The opportunity of a lifetime may happen tomorrow, and what if that company or person searches for information about you online, on social media or elsewhere or asks you to provide them with some professional branding materials (CV, resume, professional bio or references, etc…)? Will you be prepared to present your best image, now?
I have seen hundreds of resumes and CVs over my professional career, and I could count on one hand the number that have jumped out at me and left an impression. When working on your resume, keep in mind that people generally don’t care where you have worked; they care about what you have accomplished. Identify your achievements and quantify them.
Petro offered a great suggestion: “Update or document your accomplishments, monthly.”
Also, instead of an objective at the top of your resume, add a professional summary or elevator pitch of who you are and what you have accomplished.
Microsoft just added a cool new “Resume Assistant” feature in Word, which leverages the power of LinkedIn. The Word-LinkedIn Resume Assistant includes examples of suggested skills and work experience summaries, matched to your resume profile, to help you polish up the text and key words. Think about why someone would want to hire you, then communicate the benefits you would deliver to them by highlighting signature strengths, skills, and abilities that would be valuable and interesting to your prospective employer.
Don’t be afraid to add a little color to your resume, to make it stand out a little. Consider hiring a professional resume writer. The investment of a few hundred bucks can easily pay for itself by helping you to get the job (and compensation) that you are looking to secure. A note of caution that there are a lot of scammers out there, so try to get a recommendation from someone you trust or a trusted resource: Search on LinkedIn, Monster, or google “Resume Writers” and you will find countless resources to explore.
3. Be Professionally Visible
Most of us have some subjects that we are passionate about. Start writing and get the ideas out of your head and onto paper or online. You can publish free posts on LinkedIn and other media platforms, or contact your favorite trade publication and start creating some content to market yourself in your profession or industry. Also, consider serving as a volunteer for trade organization like CEDIA or hosting a training course on a subject that know a lot about. Any of these activities can be used to further market yourself as a professional in your industry and help to build your network.
4. Create Professional Branding Tools
Invest some time polishing up your LinkedIn Profile. In many industries, LinkedIn is broadly used and is a very powerful platform to network, and market your professional brand. There are incredible free articles available with LinkedIn Profile tips. For instance, sign up for the 30-day LinkedIn Pro free evaluation. This will allow you to edit your background banner and add a custom header that you can keep after the trial period is over.
Add a professional headline and background, post an article or two on a subject you are passionate about. It is very easy to do on LinkedIn and it doesn’t cost anything. This can help to position you as an expert in your field. You can check out my articles on LinkedIn, also posted on my website: http://www.thebigcorp.com/whats-new/
Add some visual content, such any marketing materials that you have created, images of you in action selling, receiving an award, giving a speech, etc. Include any honors, awards, or certifications that you may have, in the awards section, even if they are more personal than professional, like scuba diving is for me. This just shows that you are an achiever.
Create a professional summary or bio to help you stand out from the crowd. This should include a photo and focus on career highlights, accomplishments, and signature strengths. It can be used in addition to or instead of your resume for less formal opportunities or communications. Maybe a door opener with a company you admire or a consulting project.
Like the cliché says, you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression. Be sure that you are prepared for the next big career opportunity.