If you are trying to change careers, it may be necessary to shift how you present yourself, so others can see the potential you have for your career going forward. In a post on Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark talks about how she had to change people’s perceptions about her professional life when she transitioned from politics and nonprofit advocacy into working as a consultant. Here are a few of her suggestions:
Create content. As a knowledge worker, it can be hard to demonstrate your expertise to anyone besides your boss. But the Internet — and the ability for anyone to start publishing content — has given us a profound opportunity. Just as a graphic designer has a portfolio she can display of her best logos and brochures, you should be creating intellectual property (blog posts, podcasts, videocasts — even a savvy and professional Twitter feed can count) that demonstrates your expertise. If you’ve changed careers, or are trying to move up the ladder at your company, others may still think of the “old you.” Creating solid content reminds people of your new skills and knowledge (it’s hard to ignore it if they see links to your blog posts every day in their social media feed) and enables people to judge you based on the quality of the material you produce, not your past history or credentials.
Leverage social proof. It’s a term psychologists love to use — “social proof.” Basically, it means that people look to others around them to judge the value of something. (If a book has 1,000 five-star Amazon reviews, it must be good.) So how can you leverage this heuristic to help your career? If you’re going to bother getting involved with a professional organization, you should make it a point to take a leadership role, because the social proof of being seen as a leader will have exponential benefits.
She also encourages talking to some close friends and colleagues who can also talk up your experience and promote your work. For me, I was able to use social media—writing blogs, tweeting content—to show my interest in nonprofit work, as well as joining Meetup groups and taking classes to build my network and learn more.
What about you? How did you work to change people’s perceptions of you?