Personal Branding Mistakes You Must Avoid When Making A Career Change

Making a successful career change requires strong personal branding. As you change careers and reinvent yourself, you're stepping out into new waters. Talent acquisition teams need to feel assured that you're committed, capable and equipped. A compelling personal brand helps with all three. 

Your personal brand is your reputation, the impression you leave about who you are, the benefits derived from what you do and why you do it. Your branding is then used to validate your professional accomplishments, potential likability and cultural fit. Compelling career documentation, an optimized LinkedIn profile, a strong elevator pitch, interview skills and thought leadership all help build your brand. When I'm working with clients one-on-one, we go beyond the surface and start with career growth habits and personal development. Those are the building blocks of a strong personal brand, and what you need to avoid is below.

Faking it or not being authentic

There's no need to be embarrassed about your previous career path or lack confidence. Your career is a journey. Once you understand how to leverage your background and experiences, you can highlight the relevance and present yourself as a professional in your new chosen field. When you're honest and transparent about your background and skills, you'll also be able to handle any concerns or objections.

Not engaging in conversation

You may find that you're needing to start from scratch with building your network of professionals in a new industry. By finding out when and where conversations are taking place and adding value to discussions, you'll grow your network and develop personally and professionally. Do take note of these things specifically as you engage in conversations online:

  • Your photo on social media profiles. I spoke about that here.

  • Your overall message and branding statement. Make sure your branding highlights the benefits of your work and what sets you apart from others in your field.

  • Tidying up your LinkedIn profile and making sure it's optimized to increase your chances of being approached.

Reducing visibility 

As a career-driven professional, you've likely learned not to put all your eggs in one basket. Yes, LinkedIn is currently the most-used channel for recruitment efforts, but according to Jobvite, in 2018, it saw a decline in usage from 92% to 77%. Talent acquisition teams are going to Facebook (63%) and Instagram, where potential candidates are more active. A presence across multiple platforms can, therefore, be advantageous depending on your industry and job goals.

You're also not doing yourself any favors if you're only looking for career opportunities online. The number one way people discover a new job is through a referral either by a hiring manager or employee. Gain visibility offline by participating in projects, writing for industry publications, attending conferences and events, speaking or volunteering. 

Not being confident and clear 

You have to develop your brand before you can confidently convey it. Sometimes, we think our brand looks and sounds compelling, but it's useful to get a professional perspective. I spoke about how career clarity isn't the only thing you need when making a career change here, but it's a key step. Focus on what you want to be known for and get clear on your skills, abilities and your unique value. When thinking of skills, there are universal and industry-specific skills. Should you tell yourself that you don't have transferable skills, you're quitting before you've begun.

Here are some common transferable skills:

  1. Advising

  2. Analyzing

  3. Coaching

  4. Collaborating

  5. Verbal communication

  6. Written communication

  7. Customer service

  8. Leading

  9. Mentoring

  10. Negotiation

  11. Problem-solving

  12. Public speaking

  13. Relationship-building

  14. Researching

  15. Team-building

Lacking relevancy

Relevancy is the part that binds your brand together. Having a targeted career search and knowing the challenges and trends in your desired industry, job function and target companies will make your branding connect. Even though I've helped career professionals in almost every industry, this is one of the reasons why I specialize and work with specific career fields. You will struggle without being relevant. 

I know getting ready to make a career change is something you want to put your best efforts into. If we were to connect on LinkedIn, and 7-days from now, I asked you what you've consciously done in the past week to improve your personal branding, what would you say? 

This article was first published on my Forbes column.