Dear Brain: How can personal marketing help me change my career?

Dear Brain

Dear Brain,

I am starting to make a career change from accounting to human resource management. My ultimate goal is to obtain a Certified Human Resource Professional designation. I have enrolled in a HR Mgmt. course and joined the professional trade association and local chapter. Should I look for a position in HR now or wait until I have completed another course? I do have some HR and other transferable skills.

Many thanks!

First let’s hear from our guest subject matter consultant

Katherine is a teacher and educational researcher from the UK who “loves to help people reach their potential, and to investigate ways to do this effectively.” She consults to Dear Brain on the subjects of learning, preparing for jobs, and preparing for college. Here’s her advice for Gail:

Dear Gail,

It’s great to see that you’re already taking positive actions towards your goal! You’ve already shown commitment to your goal through joining a course. And the good news is that all the personal marketing techniques in Take Back Your Brain! are powerful learning techniques – so you can use tools like text messages and visual adverts to help you remember, understand and apply what you are learning, as well as to motivate yourself to learn.

My advice would be to start looking for jobs straight away – not necessarily applying for them, but finding jobs that inspire you. So job adverts are a good place to start, but you might also look for profiles of successful HR professionals in career guides or the trade magazines and journals. Once you’ve done that, take note of all the ways you are already succeeding, all the skills you have already mastered. Take time to celebrate that success, and find more ways to use those valuable skills in your everyday life. (This is a sneaky technique called Appreciative Enquiry, where you build on existing success. Imagine how great it will feel when colleagues, friends and family compliment you on the skills you know you’ll need as an HR professional.) Also, reflect on what you’ll need to learn to get and succeed in those. This will help you to set out an action plan which are the concrete steps to your goal – and you can create a marketing campaign for each step of your action plan.

You can use personal marketing to support you in reaching your goal, as well as to motivate you through all the steps you want to get there. Also remember the power of informal learning – such as spending time with the people in roles you aspire to, through professional events, conferences or your classes. They are the best possible adverts for the success you are seeking.

By the way, you might want to set your home page to my favourite website for changing careers: It’s a UK-based site, but has a lot of relevance for changing careers anywhere in the world.

Best wishes for meeting your goal!

Brain responds to Gail

Dear Gail,

I’ve found that surrounding myself with “advertising” really helps my unconscious mind make the shift from an identity I’m ready to move away from — such as being an accountant — to the new life I want to create for myself. Once that internal shift has occurred, I seem to notice and take advantage of all sorts of opportunities which cause my external reality to rearrange itself to match my new identity. I know that sounds a bit woo-woo, so let give you a few concrete examples about how you could apply personal marketing to support your career change:

  • Convince yourself with evidence. It’s great that you’ve joined the professional trade association. Did they send you any kind of certificate or membership card? If so, I suggest that you post it in a prominent location where you’ll see it every day. If you’re feeling ambitious you could even download a logo from the HRCI website and make yourself a fake Certified Human Resource Professional certificate with your name on it. Then frame it and hang it in a location that is discreet but very visible to you, like your dressing room.
  • Subscribe to the magazine. Hopefully the trade association will start sending you some kind of magazine or newsletter, too. That’s fabulous if they do, because now you’ll have reminders about your new career showing up in your mail. When they arrive, be sure to leave them laying around on your desk or coffee table! While you’re at it, visit the HRCI website again to download and print a copy of the 2009 Certification Handbook, and leave that out where you’ll see it too.
  • Put yourself in the picture. Put yourself in the picture to get a job describes a very fun ad campaign we made for a friend who wanted to work at a specific organization. We drove to the office on a day the company was closed (so she wouldn’t seem like a stalker) and took pictures of her appearing to arrive at work, park in the employee parking lot, walk into the building, etc. Then she set up a couple of ways to automatically show herself those photos. She soon landed a responsible position managing a project for that organization. Although there were some issues about compensation (it was a volunteer position), she could have easily tweaked that with another ad if she had chosen to do so.
  • Dress the part. What will be different about your life when you have the HR job you want? For example, do you think you’ll dress differently to go to work? If so, start making those changes now. When you prepare for work in the morning, dress and think like someone who is going to a HR job, not an accounting job (The framed certificate in step one above will help).

    A few years ago I wanted to change careers from carpenter/orchard worker to computer programmer/IT pro. I saved money and bought a computer, took a class, and studied programming in my spare time. All of those things help build the skills necessary to qualify me for my new job. However the event that really tipped my identity toward an IT career occurred when I needed to buy eyeglasses. Instead of choosing frames that were appropriate for the blue collar jobs I currently held, I selected a pair that I imagined a computer programmer would wear. This turned out to be a great ad because I literally saw myself looking much nerdier in the mirror every day. It wasn’t long before I secured a new job in the computer industry.

So the answer to, “Should I look for a position in HR now or wait until I have completed another course?”, is that I suggest you consider asking yourself a different question. Ask yourself instead how you can methodically construct an environment that reflects the inevitability of that career change, whenever it occurs. Surround yourself with reminders that in your inner world it has already happened. In Brain’s experience, it won’t be long before the external details about the job you go to every day adjust themselves to match your ads.

Thanks for your question, Gail!

Now it’s your turn

What advice do you have for Gail about her career change? Have you ever used personal marketing to help yourself with something like this? How well did it work? Please share your ideas with Gail in the comments.

Ask Dear Brain

Would you like to receive advice about how to use personal marketing for a goal you have in mind? We’d love to hear from you! To have your question featured in a future edition of Dear Brain, please write to us in the comment form on the Dear Brain page.

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