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Advice / Career Paths / Career Change

Career Change Essentials: 3 Steps to Take When Evolving Your Personal Brand

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Tomas Rodriguez/Getty Images

Want to change careers? You’re definitely not alone. That’s why we’ve partnered with Squarespace to create this special four-part series on how to navigate the transition, complete with worksheets to guide you every step of the way. Read on for Part 3—and check out Parts 12, and 4.

The road to your dream career is rarely a straight path. Your goals evolve over time, and it’s natural to want to expand in a different direction or chart a new course. Regardless of the reason for making a pivot, there are a few things you should do before diving into a job search, including getting your resume ready and creating a personal website.

Another crucial tool: your personal brand. Your personal brand defines who you are and determines how others (including future employers) will see you. When pursuing a career change, it’s especially important to evolve your messaging, repackage your experience, and show how your current skills can be applied across different industries. (And a personal website is the ideal place to present and promote yourself; Squarespace makes it easy with dozens of customizable templates.)

pull quote: "Your personal brand defines who you are and determines how others (including future employers) will see you."

I know it’s possible to take a career in a different direction without starting from scratch because I did just that. The key to that success? Adapting my personal brand to evolve with my goals, and using my website to spread the message.

Here's what you need to do. We also created a worksheet to help you through the process, which you can download here.

1. Recognize Positive Building Blocks

Your personal brand includes characteristics and skills that you’ve cultivated throughout your career—and the first step is to identify which of those will translate to the types of new roles you’re pursuing. (And many of them likely will!)

Let’s say that you’ve worked as an administrative assistant for 10 years. Your admin job requires diligence, attention to detail, and a deep understanding of the inner workings of an organization that most people never get to see. Owning those foundational strengths will help you make a career change if you’re trying to take that leap.

As a creative consultant working in tech and finance, I developed content and copy for tons of big brands. I loved my job, but I always wanted to write about travel for magazines. Even though I didn’t have any bylines in the field, I knew a ton of the skills from my corporate work transferred to travel writing. After all, I spent my days researching, writing, and hitting deadlines. The discipline and relationship-building skills at the heart of my personal brand set the framework for collaborating with editors, too.

Action Item

When you decide to expand or change your career, think about how the building blocks of your personal brand translate to your new goals. Make a list of the characteristics that will serve you well in your expanded career.

Use our free worksheet to help you update your personal brand messaging; download it here.

screenshot of personal branding worksheet

2. Chart Your Path Forward

Just like how you use a map (or let’s be real, GPS) to reach a destination, you need a plan to help evolve your personal brand. A big part of that evolution centers on how you describe yourself and your work, but ultimately, you need to do the work to make your dream career into a reality. Start by pinpointing your goal and outlining the experience you need to get there.

When I committed to travel writing, I knew I wanted to add other dimensions to my skill set that illustrated I could do the work. I invested in an online photography class, a travel writing course, and a self-guided tutorial on pitching publications. I reached out to people I admire in the field for their input, read extensively, and completed a few unpaid projects before I started emailing editors. With the clarity that I could do the work—and an expanded portfolio showcased on my personal website to prove it—my dream assignments were closer than ever.

Action Item

Consider your ideal opportunity. What steps do you have to take to add a new dimension to your personal brand? Imagine each step building momentum to help you meet your goal. If you’re not sure what steps you need to take, reach out to people in the industry for their perspective on how to get from A to Z.

3. Evolve Your Messaging

Once you’ve considered your foundational strengths and mapped out the steps to expand your career, you’re ready to evolve the messaging around your personal brand. At this point, it’s worth investing in or updating a personal website through an easy to use website builder like Squarespace. I love that it’s extremely affordable, has an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, and provides dozens of templates to choose from—helping you build a professional website that captures your personality and story.

a sample Squarespace website
An example of a website built with Squarespace. | Ivy Wei

Ask a friend who is good with a camera—or a professional—to take some photographs of you for the website. Next, you’ll want to think about how you want to rewrite your introduction, job experience, and expertise to capture the new brand you’re hoping to create. You don’t have to negate everything you’ve done before; instead, build on the foundation that you’ve already established.

Here’s a before and after that shows how I evolved my personal brand to help me get jobs as a travel writer:

Before: I collaborate with brands and publications to tell stories that empower digital readers. Through high-level messaging, insightful articles, and clear copywriting, I establish the right tone, voice, and purpose to position my clients as industry leaders.

After: I collaborate with brands and publications to tell stories that empower digital readers. Through high-level messaging, insightful articles, and clear copywriting, I establish the right tone, voice, and purpose to elevate my clients' in the eyes of their audience. On the weekends, I also work as a contributing travel writer and photographer for publications like Vogue, Mic, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, and The Week.

See what I did there? It’s easier than you think to expand your personal brand to align with new goals. As your career evolves, don’t shy away from moving forward, even if it feels like a risk.

Action Item

Tweak your personal brand messaging on your website and social media to reflect what you want to do moving forward. Play with the language and don’t shy away from owning your strengths as a professional.

When it comes to your personal brand, you’re in the driver’s seat. You can choose how to depict your strengths and the way you want to evolve. By building on your best characteristics, charting a clear path, and tweaking your messaging, you’ll be well on your way to the career change of your dreams.