You’re bright-eyed, passionate, and clutching a new certificate ready for a fresh start in your career. Then you join the hordes of other spunky career changers with their shiny certificates, polished portfolios, and perfect pitches on the job hunt.
Cue the slow slog through an indifferent job market, trying to find someone ready to take a chance on you, focused on that BIG BREAK!
I have been there! Establishing yourself in a new career can make you feel invisible. You don’t have connections, you’re still learning the ropes, and it seems like everyone else and their grandmother is competing against you for jobs.
This is where personal branding comes in. Your unique value proposition comes from you and what only you can provide for a company. Everyone has a UVP as an employee. Some people are better at marketing themselves- or just know more people. This can take years, but it doesn’t have to. There are some action steps that you can take to go from industry outsider to insider.
The major mindset issue that also hampers juniors in branding is that they see that first job as an end goal. Getting your first job in a new field is the beginning. Have a longer-term vision of what direction that you want to go into because your personal brand is a longer investment in your entire career, not just getting one job.
These aren’t just rehashed career witticisms. These are tactics that I have actively used to switch from library science to career services and now am using to build a personal brand under my pen name. I won’t go into the building blocks of a visual brand or building clarity on your goals, this is just how you can establish visibility in your new field.
Find where your peers are.
Putting up a website and tossing a new headline on your LinkedIn is not putting yourself out there. Neither is add your resume to ten thousand job boards. You must actually meet other humans. There is life outside your apartment as they say on Avenue Q.
Every industry has places they like to hang out, whether it is in slack communities online or in person brunches. Most professions have associations. Do you have an active chapter in your area? Check out meetup.com. If you can’t find through googling, ask on LinkedIn and use industry hashtags to boost the post’s visibility.
Think about how you like to network as well. If you are a chatroom maven, then focus your attention there. Research and test which communities that fit your vibe and your career goals best. This is where knowing your goals is key. If you want to be a freelancer, for instance, then look for an ambitious business minded group.
When I was establishing my career coaching business, I participated in a few courses which allowed me to not just meet peers but start growing their circles as well. Courses were helpful to my writing career as well. A scholarship is how I managed to attend a writing retreat that allowed me to make friends with a dozen friends who all were supportive and helpful to my goals- even to the point of promoting my books!
Be strategically visible.
Content is king, but you’re not Coca-Cola. You don’t need to be everywhere. You need to be in the relevant places. If you have done research and explored some networking options, then you already have figured out which suit your vibe best. Don’t overstretch yourself in the beginning. Start with one online and one offline group to join.
For career services, I found that LinkedIn was the place to meet people who are passionate about their career development. This is my primary place where I post content for my business. Posting too many places just left me feeling stretched and I could tell that it was wasted effort.
In my writing career, I found that Facebook is where it is at. I certainly know that I couldn’t promote my fantasy novels on LinkedIn. I researched top writing groups and readers groups to find the ones that were tailored to my goals (publishing urban fantasy). There are plenty of readers groups, but I am focusing on one group so I can be a active and engaging member. To network with other writers, I found a group that share the same ambitious mindset that I have. I am attending their annual conference because I know that it will solidify my connections made through the online community.
Add value to the dialogue.
Value, in this case, means actually contributing something to a community, its dialogue, and its members.
Networking leaves a bad taste because most people approach it with a ‘gimmie’ mindset. They don’t think about the fact that they are joining a community. Give before you ask for something in return. This doesn’t mean that you end LinkedIn messages with ‘tell me if I can help you in the future.’ Most of the time, you just have to give some attention and interest.
You know, be friendly? Human? Act like you are trying to be a positive member of a community. The thing that you usually do when you push the idea of ‘this is for my career’ out of your mind.
Before you ask that senior designer to look at your portfolio, comment on a few of their posts or have a conversation or two after the in-person meetup ends. Don’t be a stranger if you are going to ask for a favor.
You can have the same approach in an online forum. Post a few times with interesting articles, ask for member’s opinions on engaging topics, and comment on other posts. Then ask for a website review or promote your freelancing services.
If you are a content creator, think about what is interesting to your network and what you can share that adds to the industry conversation. Start with one type of content then move on. I have a long running career podcast and I also write blogs. I started with blogging before I moved onto the more challenging task of podcasting.
Don’t worry, you can also just participate in groups and attend meetups. Just think about how you can contribute first and ask second.
If you are an eager beaver like me (and chances are that you got moxie if you’re reading this), then you will want to do all the things!
*Cue the gif*