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How to change careers at 40

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Change was forced upon me 5 years ago after a train wreck of family loss and career events. The old saying "sink or swim" came to mind. I looked upon the grave situation as an opportunity to reinvent myself - rather than a problem! There is always a positive flip side to a bad situation and knowing how to re-brand yourself both physically, mentally, on paper and online is paramount to success in a new career direction.

My story started with the loss of a 6 figure salary in the international energy industry, followed by the loss of a daughter and then the breakdown of a family. After selling my favourite possessions, including my cars and reaching rock bottom - I took a deep look at what I wanted out of life, developed a roadmap to achieve my aims and then created a new me from the bottom up. But believe me - I had no idea what the phrase "personal branding" meant 5 years ago.

So how did I do it? I knew I didn't want to return to the corporate rat race so I researched ways of making money online / work from home gigs and after weighing up the pros, cons and market futures of various sectors I compared these to my past international experience, technical and functional skill sets. I knew that I was great with people, an accomplished writer (having previously written project and programme documentation) and that I had a deep knowledge of the Military, Oil & Energy, Web Design, Higher Education, IT, Comms, Cyber Security, Maritime and Construction sectors. I also had a wealth of experience working across Europe, APAC, MENA and North America having lived and worked in 36 countries.

I used all of this knowledge and past experience and rebranded myself into a new sector. My chosen direction was Advanced CV Writing and LinkedIn Optimisation for Executives, Managers and Engineers and I would focus on the sectors that I had the most understanding of.

There are many steps to personal branding and it depends on whether you're branding yourself or a small business. In this article, I shall focus on rebranding yourself...

Personal Branding Steps for Individuals

Stop thinking of yourself as an employee, but as an asset to an organisation. What value can you bring that would be needed and appreciated? What do you have to offer? I suggest the following steps...

1. Fully understand your skillsets, strengths, training and sector experience. Make a technical, functional and soft skills list and include a few passions. Try and align your direction with a sector, product or service that you're passionate about.

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2. Make your mind up on a new direction / career that your skillset and strengths are relevant in and make sure you research sector growth / opportunities. Use LinkedIn Premium to help analyse growth and decline of various companies so that you're not barking up the wrong tree. This rebrand could be a waste of time if you chose a sector or product line that is in decline so take your time with this decision. Follow the money and analyse market trends to discover opportunites.

3. Ditch your old CV / Resume and start fresh with your chosen direction in mind. Make a list of relevant technical and functional skills that pertain to the new direction and include these in your new content. I suggest using Teal to identify the new keywords. Create a summary that includes a value proposition statement (who you are professionally, what your objective is, what your proven track record of delivering is, who for, what environments and what business value you bring to the table). Followed by 4-5 value-added strengths written in a feature followed by benefit style (What you do and what the outcome is).

4. Create 3 SAR (Situation, Action, Result) stories for your new CV / Resume that clearly demonstrate your business value and are relevant to your new direction... here are a few SAR examples:

ABC Company required to transform their global IT footprint to a centralised model across 16 entities and 100+ systems. As Senior Financial Analyst, led the delivery of headcount data, analytics roadmap, IT projects, costs, workforce planning and presented new operating model to CFO to decrease costs by 30% and achieve productivity metrics.

ABC Company identified a gap in their product portfolio for an ISO 14301 V0 qualified retrievable bridge plug, preventing bid opportunity on a contract with XYZ Company. As Product Director, created a business plan to invest in development of new technology and bring to market a fully qualified tool in under 12 months, leading to a contract with XYZ Company and product that now generates in excess of $1.2M per month.

ABC Company went out of business, leaving a gap on the high street. As Head of Retail led business steering group and project to capture market share and put in place 10 key actions to grow sales, including high street experiential activity, range extensions, additional service investment and relocation of high potential departments, capturing 11% of competitor spend against 9% planned and projected at £120m revenue in year 1.

5. Take a deep look at your career history and tweak titles to make better sense to the reader. Many companies like to give their employees weird titles that don't mean much in the real world.

6. The more niche and specific your new branded CV / Resume and profile are - the better your chances of success. But only apply for exact or near match roles. Check out "what is the best cv template to use"

7. Once your CV has been tailored for your new direction, do the same with your LinkedIn profile. When I completely changed mine it nearly broke my heart and letting go of the past was difficult at first (removing unnecessary skills and job titles). But in order to get found on LinkedIn and be relevant, you have to include the keywords with your new direction in mind. I suggest using Teal for free to identify the right keywords.

8. Take a deep look at your profile photo on LinkedIn and put yourself in a recruiter or hiring manager's shoes. Does the photo portray professionalism? Does it build trust? Do you look like a great person to work with? If the answer is no then change the image. Smile, wear appropriate clothes and include your head and shoulders in the frame.

9. Find your ideal platforms to develop your personal brand such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram & Quora, and craft your social bios to reflect who you are at your best and most professional, including what you're an expert at delivering.

10. I've saved this tip for last because it's probably the most important. Post, Comment and Share insightful, relevant and useful information to your chosen online platforms. Be kind, be compassionate and try to engage with as many like-minded people as you can... I suppose I've taken it to a whole new level because I brand every article / post with images and my logo to increase brand awareness. I suggest using Fiver if you need a logo.

I now run 2 small businesses, no longer depend on a corporate wage and plan my own working week - giving me freedom from the rat race. Decide on what you want to be, get your personal brand in order and know your value. The rest will follow. #personalbranding #careers