5 ways to pivot your executive brand on the fly

by Joe Szynkowski | Oct 3, 2017 | Workhappy Blog

Considering a pivot? There are multiple ways to reach your final career destination.

Every executive I know starts out with a strong conviction that his or her career path is on track. Until it isn’t.

Course corrections, career changes, mid-career crises – call them what you like – sometimes a leader simply feels the urge to pivot.

These feelings are normal for executives, so expect them and don’t question your sanity if you start to consider a potential career change, no matter how slight or major it is.

Repeat after me: I am not a failure; I simply desire career happiness.

After all, failure derives from the stubbornness to learn and change based on better information.

The Most Famous Pivots

Did you know that even the most successful, multi-billionaire executive leaders are “pivoters?” Check out this list.

Jeff Bezos had a lucrative financial services career before transitioning to e-commerce and launching Amazon. Michael Bloomberg left his CEO post to become mayor of New York City. Julia Child worked in advertising and secret intelligence before finding celebrity chef fame at the age of 50.

These stories are rarely mentioned, even though they are relevant parts of the brands of these prominent industry leaders.

Take Lessons From the Biggest Corporate Brands.

It’s a surprise to many that Facebook and YouTube started out fully intending to be dating sites. When they found out online dating was over-crowded, they pivoted to something more unique.

Take a lesson from the big brands. You don’t need a list of reasons to make a change. You just need one.

If you’re feeling a pull to a new industry, here are 5 steps to take. This list is based on my own experience in executive brand advisement and the real-time career changes I am witnessing first-hand from many in my network.

  1. Strip down your brand.

Many executives I work with use resumes and LinkedIn profiles that market themselves as everything to everyone. This non-targeted approach may help them field regular calls from recruiters and hiring managers, but how many of those prospective roles are actually in line with what they want? Not many.

Instead of diluting the impact of your executive brand, strip it down and tear away the non-essentials. What are you REALLY good at? What do others say about you? Sometimes third-party validation is a better indication of our own thoughts. Use it.

  1. Stand out – loudly.

Want to improve your visibility for a career change? Get loud.

Hit social media channels with your thought leadership. Write engaging posts on LinkedIn (or have The UpWrite Group ghost them for you!). Seek opportunities to connect with leaders from the industries you are considering. Go to conferences. Make presentations. Loud equals attention. And attention equals opportunity.

  1. Change your pricing.

Sometimes pivots equal pay cuts. Just as businesses cut prices to make themselves more attractive to consumers, you may have to take a lower starting salary in a new field.

How much can you afford to cut from your executive pay? Will the reduction in salary be worth the surplus of happiness you’ll enjoy by making a change? These are questions you must be prepared to answer when an offer hits your hands.

  1. Adapt to industry change.

Sometimes, you just need to exit a failing industry. Follow the bouncing ball. Set up Google alerts for “layoffs” in your sector. If your competitors are shaking things up, you company is likely next.

Especially if your industry is tied to economic conditions or government regulations, be at the ready to update your personal branding materials. It’s always better to be primed than it is to worry about your collateral when the hammer falls.

Be prepared. Don’t be scared.

  1. Position yourself as Social vs. Commercial.

The most prevalent brand pivot I see executives making is leaving corporate America for the world of nonprofits. The layers of a Fortune 500 conglomerate are frustrating and sometimes suffocating to enterprising executives. They want their leadership to be impactful and immediate.

Nonprofits offer this opportunity. So how do you make the change? Position your resume and LinkedIn profile accordingly by highlighting your time on your company’s sustainability committee. Build out your “Community Engagement” section by listing more details on your volunteering and how it has impacted your region.

These are smart first steps to making yourself marketable for socially focused executive roles.

Pivots happen. And they are not signs of weakness. Don’t wait for crisis to start your career transition plan. Are you ready today?


Joe Szynkowski was a journalist and worked in communications for the State of Illinois before launching The UpWrite Group five years ago. Find him @JoeSzynkowski or shoot an email to Services@TheUpWriteGroup.com to start your career transition steps today.

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