A personal brand is more important than ever in today’s job market, and if you hope to switch careers, your personal brand will be a crucial piece of the puzzle. Executing a career pivot is not as scary as it might seem, and something you may actually do more than once. The good news, according to Find Your Dream Job guest Erica Mattison, is that you don’t need to be a professional marketer to market yourself. Erica gives advice on how to build a work sample portfolio that tells your story and how to become a thought leader in your chosen field.
About Our Guest:
Erica Mattison is a certified career coach who specializes in helping mission-driven individuals craft fulfilling careers and lives.
Resources in This Episode:
- If you need help clarifying your goals and building your confidence, visit Erica’s website at ericamattison.com.
- From our Sponsor: Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. Get a free review of your resume today from one of Top Resume’s expert writers.
Find Your Dream Job, Episode 296:
How to Reinvent Your Personal Brand for a Career Pivot, with Erica Mattison
Airdate: May 19, 2021
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.
Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by Top Resume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.
Get a free review of your resume today.
Go to macslist.org/topresume.
You will likely change careers several times.
And our guest today says how you present yourself is vital as you switch fields.
Erica Mattison is here to talk about how to reinvent your personal brand for a career pivot.
She’s a certified career coach who specializes in helping mission-driven individuals craft fulfilling careers and lives.
Erica joins us from Boston.
Erica, let’s start with a simple question; what is a personal brand?
A personal brand is how you present yourself to the world. It’s about your story, what makes you unique, and what you have to offer.
Do you have to be a professional marketer to manage your personal brand?
It’s not necessary to be a professional marketer to market yourself effectively, but there are several practices that I recommend that you learn so that you can market yourself in a way that really does you a service.
Erica, why does your personal brand matter during a career pivot?
There’s so much competition out there for all of the different opportunities that you might be interested in, so it’s important to differentiate yourself from the crowd, and there are a number of ways to do that so that you stand out in a positive way.
What about your skills and credentials, Erica? Don’t they matter more to employers than your personal brand?
Your personal brand is a way that you show what you can do. It’s how you show what your experience is, what your qualifications are, and what kind of things you know how to do. So, I don’t think of a personal brand as being separate from your qualifications and your experiences, it’s really a way that you communicate those things to the world. Sure, your qualifications do matter, but something that’s important to keep in mind is that job descriptions are aspirational and when employers put them together, it’s really what they’re hoping to find in somebody. But many times they don’t find somebody who has every single thing that they’re looking for. And so what can make you stand out is your ability to tell a compelling story about what you bring to their organization.
Can you give us examples of communicating through your personal brand? You mentioned storytelling, for example.
Absolutely, you want to do things like gain experience through volunteering and working on projects. This can be particularly useful if you’re seeking to pivot from one sector to another. For instance, you might be wanting to move from a hospitality industry role to a position with a nonprofit organization, and you might be saying to yourself, “I don’t have experience working at a nonprofit. How could I possibly get a job doing that or secure work in a nonprofit organization?”
Well, working on a project or a cause of interest as a volunteer or a freelancer is going to provide you with a number of benefits. The experience helps you build relevant skills, grow your network, and learn the landscape, such as key players and relevant language in your desired industry.
All of these things will help you build your credibility, which is one of the most essential components when you’re seeking to make a career pivot.
I want to dig in more about the value of volunteering, Erica, but before we do that, how do you know…I guess, how do you know you need to change your personal brand in order to make a career pivot?
One of the ways that you would tell that you need to work on your personal brand when you’re seeking to make a career pivot is if you are applying to jobs and you’re really not getting any traction, that’s a moment when you want to look at your LinkedIn profile, your website if you have one, and your materials, such as your resume and your cover letter, to really ask yourself, “How am I coming across? Do I seem like someone who understands what this organization is about? What their mission is, what their needs are, what this industry is facing in terms of challenges and opportunities?”
If it seems like you’re speaking a different language than the folks in your intended industry or at your target organizations, then it’s really time for you to reinvent yourself and reinvest in your personal brand, so that it speaks to your target audience.
I love that point and in addition to that kind of self-assessment that you just outlined, Erica, are there other steps you recommend a listener take in order to get feedback about how you’re presenting yourself and if your personal brand is in alignment with the career switch that you want to make?
A great way to test out how you come across to other people is to attend events. Right now there are so many online events that people can attend that are hosted, in many cases, by nonprofit organizations, but it goes beyond that to for-profits and government agencies. And events that are about certain topics are a way to gather people together who share common interests, and you often have an opportunity to introduce yourself through events, even in a chatbox. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be verbally but there are different ways that you can connect with people through events, including online events, and you can test out your elevator pitch.
You can try out different ways of introducing yourself and you can observe how that works and get a sense of what seems to be resonating with the people who you’re seeking to connect with. And then you can adjust and adapt your approach until you find something that seems to work well for you, but what you want to keep in mind is that your audience matters, and so the way that you introduce yourself at an event about a particular topic may be different from how you present yourself at an event on another topic. You want to make sure to tailor the way that you speak about yourself and what you bring to the table, depending on the setting and your target audience.
You mentioned earlier the value of volunteering and I know that’s one of the first steps you recommend people take when reinventing your personal brand, and you talked about projects; what types of projects do you recommend a listener consider taking on as they reinvent themselves for a career pivot?
You want to look at your strengths. Maybe you’re an excellent writer or maybe you are a graphic designer. You want to think about your strengths and then align those with the kinds of organizations that you’re interested in working with so that you start to build up this body of work, this portfolio of work samples and experiences, and a set of contacts that are going to help move you from where you are to where you want to be.
How do you recommend using those work samples that you begin to accumulate for your portfolio and those contacts, those professional relationships you make?
LinkedIn provides a natural way for millions of people to connect with the content that you’re sharing. There are so many people who are already using the platform and it’s oftentimes the first place that people will go online to find out information about you. So, making it easy for people to find out information about you and to see your work samples is something that I always recommend.
You don’t want to make it hard for people, so make sure that you’re including your work samples on LinkedIn. And if you have your own website, which I absolutely encourage you to do, you can include a link to your website on your LinkedIn profile, so it provides an easy way for people to learn more.
What are your suggestions about sharing work samples on LinkedIn? There are so many different ways I think that you could do that; what have you seen to be most effective?
There are a few different ways to engage with LinkedIn to share your work samples. One is through your profile where you can attach files, videos, links, and a variety of multimedia sources to your profile, attached to different work experiences that you’ve had. And that includes volunteer work that you may have done. It does not just have to be limited to paid work that you’ve done. So, that’s one way.
Once you’ve built a portfolio of work samples on your LinkedIn profile, you want to make sure that you are also sharing that content through posts on LinkedIn because you cannot assume that people are going to go on your profile and go through it in-depth. You want to make sure that you’re making it easy for people to find and access that material. So, you want to make sure that you are active on the platform and you’re engaging on a regular basis.
What about the relationships that you’ve developed as you volunteer? What’s the best way to reach out to those contacts, Erica, on LinkedIn, and then both to maintain and grow those ties?
With people you connect with, whether it’s through events, side gigs, or volunteering, you definitely want to make sure that you maintain those relationships. Those people that you connect with are what I call your human resources, so you want to make sure that you’re staying in touch and you want to send personalized invitations to connect, and then pay attention to what these people are posting on LinkedIn. What kinds of opportunities, and also you want to make sure that you’re providing value.
Some people feel really uncomfortable about reaching out to people on LinkedIn but a question that you always want to be asking yourself is, “How can I provide value to people I come in contact with?” For instance, you might make introductions between people you know who you think would benefit from knowing each other. That’s a way that you can provide value and it really doesn’t take much time at all.
I want to pause here, Erica, and take a quick break. When we come back, Erica Mattison will continue to share her advice on how to reinvent your personal brand for a career pivot.
Stay with us.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Erica Mattison.
She’s a certified career coach who specializes in helping mission-driven individuals craft fulfilling careers and lives.
She joins us from Boston.
Erica, before the break, we were talking about how to reinvent your personal brand for a career pivot, and I know that one of the steps that you recommend in making a career pivot is to present yourself as a thought leader on LinkedIn, and you talked about this in the first segment, but I want to draw you out more about that.
What do you mean, Erica, by being a thought leader and how is that going to help you reinvent yourself if you’re making a pivot?
Part of your brand is what you know about a topic but it’s more than that, it’s also about how you communicate with people. Particularly if you’re seeking roles that have communications as a large part of them. So, whatever the thing is that you’re seeking to portray yourself as being really good at, that’s what you need to show. Not just tell through words, but show through examples, and LinkedIn is a perfect tool for doing that.
You want to have a portfolio of work samples and you also want to engage with content on LinkedIn by interacting with others and what they’re posting, making thoughtful comments, but also you can create your own content. You can write articles, you can share videos, there are a variety of ways that you can share content on LinkedIn, and by doing this, you go from just being a commenter to being a creator. And it’s that kind of proactive step that you can take in your career that starts to really set you apart and establish yourself as a thought leader in the space that you’re seeking to be a part of.
Why does that make a difference when you talk to employers…or the clients that you work with, why does being a thought leader on LinkedIn or perhaps on other online platforms help you make that career pivot?
Thought leaders are people who others look to as experts, in a way. They are looking to you to share information on certain topics and to be a resource, and when you think about it, if you put yourself in the shoes of an employer, who would they tend to prefer to hire? Somebody who is a thought leader or somebody who is not? Or maybe somebody who they have to work really hard to find out whether that person is a thought leader?
Well, you don’t want to make them work really hard to find that out and you don’t want to be put in the category of somebody who is not a thought leader, so that leaves you with one option, which is to be a thought leader. So, you definitely want to make sure that you invest the time in being up to speed on the issues, the news, the trends that are in your desired industry and that you’re not only engaging with other people’s content, but that you’re creating your own content.
This is important because it sets you apart and it shows that you’re knowledgeable and that you know how to create engaging content and that is something that a lot of employers are going to find very appealing.
How much time does this take, Erica? It sounds like a lot of work.
It depends on where you’re starting from. So, if you have a very basic level of understanding of a certain industry, then you will have more of a learning curve and it will be necessary for you to invest a substantial amount of time in getting up to speed, learning the language that’s used in that space, who the key players are, and how to provide value.
On the other hand, if this is an area where you already have some experience, through your education, work, volunteering, et cetera, then you already have a head start, and so it really does not need to take that much time to become a thought leader in that space and convey to people that you have this knowledge and that you’re providing this value.
LinkedIn is a big universe, Erica. How do you recommend, as you create this content, whether it’s leaving comments, writing shorts posts, that it gets in front of the right people in the field where you want to pivot?
One thing that you can do on LinkedIn is to join groups. There are loads of different groups on various topics and for different types of roles and industries, so you want to do some searching and find some groups that are related to the type of work that you want to do or the kinds of issues that you’re interested in. So, that’s one way that you can connect with people who are interested in the same topics that you are.
For instance, if you have a certain job title in mind that you’re interested in, you can just type that into LinkedIn, not even in the job section, just in the general search bar, and you will start to come up with people who have keywords in their profile that match those words. And what I like to do sometimes is just do a search and start finding people who come up, and then look at their profiles, and then on the right-hand side there will be suggested people who other people have looked at and you can look at their profiles. So, basically one thing leads to the next and, before you know it, you can look at dozens of people’s profiles that are interesting to you.
Definitely use keyword searches to help you connect with people who are doing the kind of work that you’re interested in and who work in the target industries that you have.
What would you say, Erica, to a listener who says, “I’m doomed? I’m not a professional writer. How can I be a thought leader?”
Writing is one of the ways, but maybe you’re good at making videos, or maybe you are somebody who could produce a podcast or do something that’s spoken, or maybe you’re an artist. So, there are a lot of different ways that you can share your gifts, your skills with the world. It does not necessarily have to be through writing; writing is just one option. You can create a website, there are a lot of different tools that enable you to make a straightforward website. You don’t need to be a web designer or developer to do that and that’s where you can put some of your work samples.
Don’t be afraid if you’re not a strong writer. There are many other ways to showcase your work. You could also work with someone who is a strong writer. There are a number of websites that enable you to connect with people who you can hire as a side gig, and they can assist you with some of the writing tasks that you have before you.
Another personal branding tip I know you recommend is to encourage people to craft their story and explain why they want to make this career pivot and what transferable skills they offer. Why is it important to do this, Erica?
You want to take the work out of it for other people. And what that means is that if you put in the majority of the work to tell your story and to make it clear what you have to offer that’s relevant to your target organizations, then that makes it easier for those employers to look at your materials, to look at your profile on LinkedIn, and to say, “This looks like somebody who we want to have a conversation with. Somebody who we want to get to know because we think that they have things to offer to our organization.”
Once you’ve crafted that story, how do you recommend using it during your job search as you make that career pivot?
There are a number of ways to share your story: through your LinkedIn profile, through introductions you might make through online events, through your materials such as your resume and your cover letter, and through interviews, including informational interviews that you may have.
Are there some parts that you always have to include in your career story? Elements that you just can’t leave out?
When you’re telling your story, you really want to connect with your audience, so it helps to research your audience so you know who you’re speaking to, you know a little bit about their background and what kind of work they do, and maybe what’s important to them. And then you can adapt your story accordingly to make sure that you’re being relevant for them. That’s really important.
Well, it’s been a terrific conversation. Now, tell us, Erica, what’s next for you?
I’m excited to be leading career development workshops for a number of organizations and I’m increasingly focusing on leadership development and entrepreneurship.
Well, I know that people can learn more about your work and the services that you offer by visiting your website ericamattison.com.
Now, Erica, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to reinvent your personal brand for a career pivot?
Remember that many people before you have successfully completed a career pivot and, in fact, it is something that you might do several times throughout your life. So, it’s something to get comfortable with and it’s definitely something that you can achieve.
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Next week, our guest expert will be Kay Kirkman. She’s a career coach, speaker, and host of The GenX Career Show.
Everybody is different. But many job seekers struggle with standing out in a crowded field of applicants.
Kay says you need to get clear about what makes you different from your competitors.
Join us next Wednesday, when Kay Kirkman and I talk about how to identify your unique skills and talents.
Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.