Leverage Your Unique Background. If you’re entering a new field, there will always be people with more experience than you. Don’t let that deter you: you have broader experience than they do, given your previous career. Think through how your skills translate. The move from legal scholar to wine expert may sound like a stretch, but Lisa Granik – whom I profiled in Reinventing You – realized there were surprising areas of overlap that gave her a competitive advantage in her new field. That ranged from her language training (which allowed her to communicate with winegrowers in Spain, France, and Italy) to her ability to make oral arguments (essential for parsing and describing the nature of a specific vintage) to her practice in writing a dissertation (which was required not only in her legal studies, but also to receive the coveted Master of Wine designation).
Develop Your Narrative. A common mistake in reinvention is assuming that other people will automatically understand your transition (click to tweet), or grasp how your previous skills apply to your new role. Odds are, they won’t – so you need to make the connection explicit for them. In Reinventing You, I profile a poet who became a management consultant, and an Army helicopter pilot who became an executive at a top consumer goods company. At first blush, their previous training might look like it had nothing to do with where they ended up. But by thinking through the connections and making them clear (a poet can add immeasurable value to a company that needs to communicate effectively, and an Army helicopter pilot has learned about leadership during enormously challenging times), you can ensure others “get it” and understand your value.
Take a Step Back in Order to Move Forward. Susan Leeds was an investment banker who decided to pursue a new career after taking time off to raise her family, taking a steep pay cut to accept a policy fellowship at an environmental nonprofit. She told me that you have to “accept the fact that sometimes you have to take one step back to take three or four steps forward. It would be incorrect if I said I made a lateral shift: I went backward. But because of the benefit of my years of professional experience in a competitive field, even though I went back, I was able to move forward fast – to leapfrog forward.” Before her fellowship was up, she had become a coveted speaker at major conferences and been headhunted by multiple firms. She went on to land a coveted job running a public-private partnership dedicated to spurring energy efficiency investments.
Prove Your Worth. Because many people assume older professionals aren’t conversant with the Internet, you can shake up those misconceptions by proving yourself an adept online communicator. Of course, you should have a robust LinkedIn profile. But you’ll turn even more heads if you show a real familiarity with other tools, such as Twitter or Instagram, or if you’re an avid blogger.
Read the full story at Tips For Seasoned Professionals: How to Reinvent Yourself For a Second Career.