How To Brand Yourself For A Career Change

Liz Ryan, Forbes

Job-seekers worry about their branding, but the folks who worry about it the most are people who are trying to change careers.

They wonder whether hiring managers will consider them for open positions when their resumes don’t seem to show any relevant experience in their pasts.

Here are some of the branding questions that keep career-changers up at night:

• “I’m accomplished and credible in my traditional field, but there are no jobs in that field anymore. That’s why I’m changing careers — but why would a hiring manager choose me over somebody who’s already worked in their function and industry?”

• “I’m 52 and I’m changing careers — or trying to. So far I haven’t had much success. I’ve had headhunters tell me ‘You’re a tech startup guy. Why would a healthcare firm consider you?’”

• “Recruiters can’t see the relevance of my background to the jobs they’re trying to fill — so I’m afraid hiring managers won’t see me as a viable candidate.”


I taught a workshop about job search and personal branding. One of the workshop participants, Jonas, was in the middle of a career change.

“Can I read you the Summary from the top of my resume?” he asked. “Sure!” I said.

Here’s what he read to us:

Sixteen years experience practicing contract, intellectual property and real estate law. Now I’m looking to move into a corporate training or instructional design role.

I asked the group “What do you think of Jonas’ resume summary?”

They said “Jonas is obviously a smart and capable guy, but why would  a hiring manager who’s responsible for a Training or Instructional Design team want a lawyer in their department?”

Jonas said “All these 16 years while I’ve been practicing law, I’ve also been leading training courses. I like teaching a lot more than I like being an attorney. It’s more fun and it’s more satisfying, and I know I’m good at it.”

Jonas made a common branding mistake. He branded himself based on what he’s been doing, rather than branding himself for the job he’s looking for.

We can easily understand why Jonas began the first draft of his Human-Voiced Resume Summary with his credentials as a lawyer. Most of us feel most comfortable talking about areas in which we are already credible, and Jonas was certainly credible as a lawyer.

What Jonas didn’t realize is that he is also credible as a trainer — or at least he will be credible as a trainer the moment he believes he is!

We rewrote Jonas’ Human-Voiced Resume Summary to read this way:

I’m a Trainer and Instructional Designer who specializes in simplifying dense technical, legal and operational subject matter for novice to experienced learners.

In this version of his resume Summary, Jonas claims his Trainer and Instructional Designer status. Why shouldn’t he? He earned it over 16 long years!

I said to Jonas “I have little boys. I’m sure I have a foam sword in my car. I can go get it and you can get down on one knee so I can dub you a Trainer if you want.”

Jonas said “That is the key, isn’t it? I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself a Trainer even though I’ve been designing and delivering training for years — until you said ‘You are a trainer!’”

The key to branding yourself for a career change is to describe yourself as a person who is already in the field you wish to enter.

You have relevant background to almost any field you want to get into, but no one will see the relevance until you see it first and call it out in your resume.

You cannot designate yourself a lawyer, real estate agent, doctor or CPA unless you’ve earned the appropriate credentials. There are other career paths that you must get permission to join — but there are not many of them.

You can call yourself an HR person if you’ve been doing HR-type work. You don’t need anyone’s permission for that! You can call yourself a bookkeeper or a purchasing agent.

Don’t be afraid to brand yourself for the jobs you want whether you’ve been in the field for years or you’re looking for your first job in the field. Claim your stories! Nobody on this earth has your stories — only you.


This article was written by Liz Ryan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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