This week’s question came from a recent participant in a webinar I did on personal brand building. Career change is such a common thread for so many job seekers that I work with, and it’s important to look at how strong personal branding plays a part in successfully positioning yourself for success in a new field or career.
I’m looking to make a career change from a non-creative field into design. However, I don’t have much of a professional portfolio since I’m starting out, but I want to start networking within my field. What are my best options for networking and building visibility as a career changer?
When you’re navigating a career change, you’re essentially recreating a new brand, wherein you’re positioning yourself under a new or modified set of skills and expertise. So in the case of design, a portfolio is great, but there are some other options to start building the visibility of that brand.
First and foremost, I suggest updating or creating your LinkedIn profile around your new focus so that is the brand image you’re conveying to your network, and also when people search you online. A Google+ profile is also a great idea because it holds just as much weight as LinkedIn in terms of search engine ranking, and will be one of the first entries people see when they search your name.
You might consider creating some supplementary profiles and pages to start boosting your brand visibility – About.me is a great resource and very user friendly in terms of creating a basic bio-like page that you can populate with relevant info that might not fit into the LinkedIn or resume.
Creating a basic “personal portfolio” site can also be a great tool for creative and non-creative fields alike. The difference between this and a more formal portfolio website is that the focus is more on project work, or personal projects, versus on the job or client-based experience. It’s a good way to showcase skills and technical expertise without the pressure of it having to be a professional portfolio. There are a number of free and low-cost “portfolio” sites specially designed with creative in mind. SquareSpace is a great bet – attractive, user friendly, and fairly extensive in terms of customization options.
If your career change involves making the transition to freelance or self employment-based work, I highly recommend joining the Freelancers Union or similar industry networks. Based in Brooklyn, New York, the Freelancer’s Union features excellent advice, tools, discounts, and networking opportunities to build your visibility within the community, and also keep in touch with industry events and potential job opportunities.