Find Your Dream Job, Episode 186:
How to Rebrand Yourself When Changing Careers, with Lisa Lewis
Airdate: April 10, 2019
Today’s show is brought to you by the City of Portland, Oregon. The city that works.
The City of Portland is hiring today and posts new jobs every Monday.
Sign up for free job alerts at portlandoregon.gov.
Share your resume and meet city recruiters at upcoming career fairs.
Learn more at portlandoregon.gov.
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 professionals find fulfilling careers.
I believe that lifelong learning is the key to a successful career. And to get a better job, you need to learn the job hunting skills that will help you find the role of your dreams.
That’s why we’re here today. Every week on Find Your Dream Job, I interview a different career expert. We discuss the tools and tactics you need to find the work you want.
This week, I’m talking to Lisa Lewis about how to rebrand yourself when changing careers.
You’re ready to change careers. Here’s one of your first challenges: you need to rebrand yourself to show employers you’re qualified for your new profession.
Lisa Lewis says that your personal brand and how you talk about yourself matters. She encourages you to be vulnerable when sharing your story and explaining why you want to switch careers.
And don’t be afraid to tell others about your fears, adds Lisa. This can help build, not hurt, your professional relationships.
Want to learn more? Listen in now at the Mac’s List studio as I interview Lisa Lewis about how to rebrand yourself when changing careers.
If there’s a job out there, Lisa Lewis has probably done it. Lisa is a career change coach and the CEO of Lisa Lewis Careers.
She’s also one of only seven coaches in the world trained and certified in the Pivot Method.
Lisa joins us today from Boulder, Colorado.
Lisa, thanks for being on the show.
Mac, it’s great to be here. It creates such an awesome resource for your listeners that I’m excited to be part of it.
Well, thank you for the kind words and thank you for joining us. Our topic is one that comes up a lot, Lisa, when I am out there talking to, even millennials, but particularly mid-career and job seekers who want to switch careers and they want to know how they can rebrand themselves when they do that.
Let’s start with the personal brand. Why is a job seeker’s personal brand important?
Well, a personal brand is important even for people whose skin crawls a little bit at the idea of having their own brand because the idea of a brand at large, it’s the promise that you’re making and it’s the idea that when somebody hires you or when somebody brings you onto their team, it’s the reputation that precedes you about who you are, what you’re going to deliver, and what you’re great at.
Coming up with a personal brand is a really important thing. Especially when you’re starting to go through a season of transition because you might have been working in a career or in a sector where your previous brand was really clear because you knew exactly how you created value, you knew exactly what you loved to do.
Transition times can make that start to feel a little bit trickier to really wrap your head around and then be able to articulate in a way that feels like you.
We all have a personal brand, don’t we? Whether we step aside and actually plan the creation of it, but we’re all known for something, aren’t we?
We are. Whether or not we actively take a role in creating that brand promise and perception, we absolutely have a brand.
If someone is considering a career change, how do they get started when they’re thinking about their personal brand? What do you recommend people do first?
Well, one of the things that I think is really important to start with when you’re making a transition is remembering that for most people, probably 90, 95% of people, you are not throwing out every single thing you have done in your past.
Most of the time, when you’re creating a transition in your life, it is a product of the successes and the momentum that you’ve had in previous parts of your career and wanting to double down in those areas, rather than keeping everything from your past career.
As you’re starting to make a transition and think about what kind of a brand you’d like to put forward in that world, you’ve got to start with the reminder that you’re not starting from scratch and you have a lot of the foundational building blocks.
To make this transition you just need to organize them, think about them, and then present them in a really different way.
How do you recommend people decide what to keep and what to either let go or add to their personal brand?
When you’re making your transition and you’ve started to get a blurry, watercoloresque picture of where it is that you’d like to go, you’ll start to get a really intuitive sense of the kinds of skills and gifts from your past that you want to move forward with you.
For example, I had a client who was wanting to transition out of doing publicity and public relations for a big company in the Bay Area and as she was making her transition, she knew that she wanted to move into something that was creative and allowed for her to do much more writing.
She wasn’t totally sure what else she needed but she knew that because those two pieces were going to be critically important to her happiness and fulfillment in her transition that those were parts she really needed to lead with in her own personal brand.
She had a lot of chops in the publicity space but when she peeled them apart to get to the parts that were creative or that allowed for her to be able to write, those particular pieces became really important for her to talk about when she was talking about her past accomplishments, what she wanted to do in the future, what she was the most proud of from her history, and became places that she could then build upon as she was having conversations with folks that were working in creative capacities. Or who were doing things in a writing space, to start to help her take that blurry, watercolor picture of where she wanted to go and start to crystallize it a little more into something more like into a photograph than a Monet.
How did she get clear, Lisa, about the importance of emphasizing those two sets of skills? What kind of research did she do? How did she know what would matter to employers?
Well, there are two different pieces to answering that question because there’s the “mattering to employers” piece but then there’s the, what she wants to bring to the table in the transition piece.
I think it’s important to draw the distinction there because if you think about your career transition, thinking clearly about what matters to employers and not necessarily about what matters to you, it can be a really easy way to continue zooming right up a career ladder without necessarily feeling any joy or excitement or a sense of deeper personal engagement in the day-to-day of your work.
In order to start with figuring out what she wanted to be important to employers, she had to start with thinking about and looking at what she was most enjoying in herself and in her own work.
When she was thinking about making a career change, more than doing research about what was out there in the world, she really started from the place of thinking about, “Where are the pieces of my day or the parts of my job description where I actually get excited about doing the implementation and the execution and being in the room for those pieces?”
Building a personal brand or recasting one starts with self-assessment, doesn’t it?
Absolutely, deep self-knowledge and deepening self-knowledge and pulling in all the different tools and resources to help make that easy on yourself.
So many of us, whether we’re in college or we’ve been in careers for some years, as you said, in the beginning, we’ve all got brands that are communicated through either our personal interactions with colleagues or what we share and post online.
When people want to get deliberate about communicating this, you start with self-assessment, you think what matters to you and then you mentioned, then think about what matters to employers.
What other steps do you recommend people take?
Well, one of the biggest things, and it’s a little bit counter-intuitive that I recommend folks think about as they’re going through this process, is that when you’re thinking about making a transition from what you used to be doing to what you’d like to be doing, oftentimes, you’re going to be using fairly similar job searching skills to what you’ve been using or what you would be using if you were staying in your original career track. But the story about how you talk about yourself and the way that you’re building connections typically has to be different.
One of the biggest challenges to making a career change isn’t just in the story that you tell about yourself but it’s also then in developing relationships in the world you’d like to transition into with people who are willing to open doors for you.
One of the pieces of advice that I give to folks who are about to navigate this messy/tricky part of making a career transition is that you can’t be creating transactional relationships with people when you’re trying to develop and expand your network because folks will really smell this superficial level of wanting to engage with them and wanting to use them and probably won’t respond to that terribly, terribly well.
I know I can sniff that out in people and, Mac, I bet you can too. You probably have a more attuned sense than anybody to when somebody is coming to you purely asking for something without really thinking about what they have to give in return or what value they create for you.
I’ve certainly met a number of people like that over the years. In general, I would say though, most people who come to me for career advice, they’re very generous and are willing to give as well. But you’re right, Lisa, there are takers out there. They’re a small minority but they certainly exist.
Well, one of the ways that people can ensure that they will be coming across as generous and really creating a relationship rather than feeling like it is a tit for tat kind of exchange with somebody is to be courageous and brave in telling your own story and developing a real relationship and a connection with the person who’s across the table from you.
One of the things that I have learned, which I love and I think is really useful to people who are going through a career change, is this really easy tool for thinking about how you tell your story, and I learned about it from a gal who’s a storytelling coach named Kat. And she calls this, “The difference between a goal story versus a soul story.”
She talks about, when you’re trying to create a new relationship or just tell someone about yourself, our temptation is to tell things in a way that sounds like we’ve got it all figured out.
Very neat and tidy, very linear. It shows a clear start and stop point, it is answering a lot of questions for folks.
Kat was talking about those as being, “Goal-based stories.” They’re very clean cut, they’re very digestible, and it answers a lot of questions for the person who’s listening.
She said that there’s a nuance and an art to telling the story about yourself in a way that isn’t necessarily linear. If you tell it in the way where instead of being a goal-directed the story, it is a soul story, then the way you talk about yourself, your transition, what kind of advice and support you’re seeking, is very much through the lens of a winding story. One that isn’t totally clear cut and it might not even have an endpoint on it yet.
It’s the kind of story that creates more conversational threads for the listener to pull on and really opens up more questions than it answers. Which is so much more fun as a listener to get to receive because it gives you all these places to start to dive in and build a connection and rapport and relationship with someone who you just only met because they’re more interested in sharing about themselves and giving you visibility and access to the messy middle and their vulnerability and their process. Rather than trying to convince you that they’ve got it all figured out, all put together, and they know exactly what they want.
Well, I want to pause there, Lisa, because I’d love to hear an example of a soul story but we need to take a break.
We’ll be right back. When we return we’ll continue chatting with Lisa Lewis who’s sharing her advice this week about how to rebrand yourself when changing careers.
Stay with us.
As regular listeners of the show know, I record Find Your Dream Job from the Mac’s List studios in downtown Portland, Oregon.
I’ve lived in Portland for almost 30 years. It’s an amazing city with a wonderful quality of life.
I love Portland. So I’m especially excited to have the City of Portland as a sponsor of today’s episode.
The City of Portland is one of the largest employers in town. And it’s looking for passionate, qualified candidates to help our community grow and thrive.
The City is hiring today and wants to hear from people of all backgrounds.
To learn more visit www.portlandoregon.gov.
Again, that website is www.portlandoregon.gov.
Now let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Lisa Lewis this week.
She’s the CEO of Lisa Lewis Careers. She joins us today from Boulder, Colorado.
Lisa, our topic this week is how to rebrand yourself when changing careers and before the break, you were talking about the importance of telling what you called, “Soul Stories,” not goal stories and you described the elements that make up a soul story.
Can you share with our listeners an example of what that might sound like or perhaps a story that a client has shared with you?
Absolutely. This one is a really dear one that’s close to my heart because it is from a former client who is based in New York City and working in the media industry as a project manager.
When we were trying to craft her soul story, I think that by nature of working in the project management world, she was really focused on how to give the most important pieces of information, put them in a really linear order, and make it as clear and concise and easy to follow as possible. It made for a challenge in actually creating the human connection element that’s so important.
I’ll give you her goal story version to help illustrate why the soul story version was so, so different. When this person was talking about herself and the transition that she wanted to make, the goal story version used to sound something like this:
“Hi, I am a project manager with about 20 years of experience in the media industry who’s looking to make a transition into a role where I’ll be more integrated into the day-to-day of creating a media product and doing storytelling.”
Very succinct, to the point, and great to tell somebody what she might be needing next or how to help her but didn’t really get somebody super excited about talking to her and understanding the “why” behind what she was doing, why she was making the transition, and really who she was.
When we were thinking about how to tell her story through the lens of being a soul story the new way of talking about herself started to sound a little bit more like this:
“Hi there, I am a lover of storytelling and I am a woman on a mission to try to help creatives tell their stories more easily and more efficiently through technology. I do this through my project management background and my two decades of experience in the industry because I think it’s incredibly important for the storytellers of today to spread their message and to change the world through telling powerful, important stories.”
What kind of benefits did your client see when she recast her story and told it that way, Lisa?
When she started telling the soul story to people, you know, her introduction, it had people leaning forward in their chairs, it had people nodding and smiling, and it had people immediately asking follow-up questions of her because there’s something about hearing somebody tell their introduction by saying, “I’m a woman on a mission.” Or, “I’m passionate about these things.” That really allowed for them to see this different side of her.
They wanted to ask, “How did you discover this passion?” Or, “When did you become a woman on a mission to do this?” Or, “What kinds of stories do you want to help people tell? How can we help you make this happen?”
At some level, it feels like it’s just semantics, right? It is just slightly different words to tell a very similar objective but words have power and words matter and being able to tell the story of her transition from working in media on what was more an internal side, a more technical side, into doing something that was more creative and infused with storytelling in it was a really beautiful transition and the way that she told her soul story really echoed that storytelling was important to her.
What was striking to me as you told the two stories and I thought about the difference between them, is the second story focuses on the destination. It’s where she wants to go and she’s inviting the listener, I think, to join her in getting there. Often I find, when I meet people who want to make a career transition, they talk about where they’ve been and spend a lot of time on the past and not as much on where they want to go.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. That probably could lead to listeners focusing on, again, where that person has been and not on the career change that they want to make.
That’s so true, Mac. I think that when you look at things like LinkedIn as a job board and seeing that it really relies on all of these past things that you’ve done to populate ideas for jobs that you might like.
It can sometimes feel like career change is darn near impossible and that you’re just going to be stuck in your one track for the rest of your days. If you can cultivate that exciting, aspirational vision of where you want to go and then pair that with the bravery to share that with people, knowing you haven’t done it yet, there’s a possibility that you might fail, you might not get there, and that it’s going to take people’s help and people believing in you, too, to make it happen.
It can really change the game.
Well, you talked about the benefits of a soul story and the elements that make up the story and gave an example. Can you share with us, Lisa, how listeners might construct their own soul story?
Well, one of the most fun ways to start thinking about your own soul story and how you want to position your brand in a transition is to use some of the language starters that I included in that original soul stories example. Like, “I am a woman on a mission to…blank.” How might you fill in that blank with a professional objective?
What could be that juicy, life-giving vision of where you want to go, that by stating that from the get-go when you meet somebody could get other people really excited about brainstorming ideas and collaborating with you?
Another sentence starter that can be really powerful for a soul story is something like, “I help blank do blank.” Or, “I create blank.” Having a really short, sweet, and succinct but exciting introduction that asks people to really tease it apart because they want to know more.
Saying something like, for myself as a career coach, that I create career transformations for people. If I put that period at the end of that sentence there, that’s a pretty interesting, curiosity curiosity-inducing way to talk about my work. Rather than saying, “I am a career coach who specializes in helping people to make career transitions.”
If I say, “I create transformation.” And put it into that active voice, it not only feels more fun for me to tell as a soul story but also gets people a little more on the edge of their seat. Thinking about what that would be for you, what’s the thing that you create? Or that you transform? Or that you help with?
That feels exciting and creates positive energy for you when you think about it and then when you speak it out loud.
Once you have your story in place about what you want to do next in the new career you want to pursue, how do you recommend, Lisa, that people communicate that? You gave examples of what people might say when meeting others but so much of our brand lives online.
How do you see your clients communicate successfully a rebranding once they’ve made that choice?
There are a couple of great places to think about using something like your refreshed brand or your soul story in your professional materials.
I think that if you, in your resume, have a career summary or an executive summary section at the top, it can be a great place to weave in some soul storyesque language. To really prime the reader of your resume to see that as your brand and then to read the rest of your resume through the lens of looking for confirming evidence to validate that that’s true about yourself.
You can do something similar with putting in soul story language either into your title in LinkedIn, you know that part that pops up when somebody searches for you and it talks about your most recent title. Also, to put that into the summary section as one of the first couple of sentences in your summary. Especially if you’re planning on adding in more information about your whole career transformation story underneath it.
I also think that soul story language has a beautiful place to be used in cover letters or in informational introduction emails, any place where you’re going to have to answer the question of, “Who are you? Why are you here?” It can be a powerful piece of language.
I love it for answering the question in interviews, too, of, “Tell us about yourself.”
Finally, are there mistakes that you see people make when rebranding themselves during a career change that listeners should pay attention to and avoid?
Mac, I think you actually hit on one of the most pivotal ones which is, lingering too, too much in the past at the expense of helping to cultivate the vision of where you want to go.
Like we talked about in the beginning, you’re likely going to be using a lot of the puzzle pieces or the tools that you cultivated in the past part of your career to make your transition but if you focus too much on the context that they were in in the past, it’s going to be hard to convince people that you’re ready to let go of that industry, that specialization, that department, that title, that whatever, to make the transition into the new thing that you want to move into.
Use details and experiences from the past sparingly and especially when they can help you to make the case of why you’re already actually in the midst of making the transition into whatever the thing is that you want to move into, into the future.
Well, terrific, Lisa. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
Well, I am thrilled to pieces over here because I am about to offer up a brand new online course way for people to work with me and to map out career transitions of their own, going all the way from, “I don’t know what I want to do but it’s not this,” all the way through to having your soul story locked down, having powerful new connections and relationships, and getting to have conversations that can lead to job offers.
That will be launching really shortly here and if anybody from Mac’s List is interested in learning more about that, I will have a special page set up on my website, lisalewiscareers.com/macslist where you can get more information and be on the first to know list.
Well, I appreciate that. I know that people can learn more about you and your company by visiting lisalewiscareers.com.
Lisa, thanks for being on the show today.
Thanks so much, Mac. It was a pleasure.
As Lisa reminded us today, all of us have a personal brand. There’s a way people think about us, whether through personal conversations or what we post and say online. We have to pay attention to it.
I loved Lisa’s advice about how you can be intentional in defining your brand particularly when you’re getting ready to make a career switch. There’s a way to tell your story that can help persuade others that that is the next natural move for you.
Lisa did a great job of outlining a process for how to do that.
You’ll also want to pay attention to that online brand in particular. We’ve got a product that can help.
It’s called How to Wow and Woo Employers Online.
It’s a free online course. You can get your copy today.
Go to macslist.org/wow.
Thanks for listening to today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.
Join us next Wednesday. Our guest expert will be Anica John. She will talk about how to know what salary to ask for.
Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.