Relaunching After Five Years (And 5 Learning Lessons Along the Way)
For some time, I was stuck in a personal branding purgatory of sorts; headed in one direction but unsure of what to do with my past direction and long-accrued expertise as a senior-level digital strategist.
The uncertainty of where I was headed’ish to where I had been for more than 20 years was affecting my ability to sort through my career and branding fog. And while I recognized that my consulting practice, my career, and my entire life vision were shifting dramatically in exciting and new directions, I surprisingly found myself struck with the fear of pursuing a relatively unknown and emerging employment direction.
My stuck-in-the-past-profession thoughts were, I realized, preventing me from fully cutting the “old career” umbilical cord to what I had long been (a senior digital strategist, marketing technologist, and creative director with more than two decades in the advertising and marketing arena), which in turn, got in the way of what I’ve been working so hard to become (a cyberpsychologist, positive media psychologist, and humane technologist) over the last few years.
In short, I was experiencing difficulty in detaching from my “old career identity” while working towards creating a new one. Turns out reinventing oneself, professionally and personally, is far easier than it looks or sounds.
For these interplayed and combined reasons, my consulting and professional interest websites suffered *tremendously* in recent years with paused content, dated branding, and incongruent messaging that did not align with my reinvigorated, professional goals.
Happily and with much resolve, I’ve since made peace with my internal decisions and forward-looking direction.
Here are some things I learned along the way:
- Inherit, don’t ditch.
After much hand wringing and angst, I eventually came to realize that I didn’t have to “detach” entirely from my “old career.” I could instead INHERIT all my past experiences and fold them into my new foundation as a cyberpsychologist and positive media psychologist. Basically, one did not cancel the other; rather I could enmesh my old and new directions into a wonderful melting pot of deep experience and expertise.
- Take the time, ** as long as it takes.**
Reconstructing your professional identity from the ground up takes time! In fact, and in my case, my transition is STILL underway, despite more than five years of movement and progress. Even if you’re only gently pivoting within your existing career industry (rather than jumping ship entirely and starting from almost nothing, as I have), it takes time to not only update resumes and personal branding websites and such but **ALSO** it takes time to update your mindset about the shift in direction about your professional path.
- Deconstruct before (and as) you construct.
Before you know where you’re professionally heading, you have to know (and inventory) where you’ve been, what you’ve learned, and what reason(s) within your current work environment or industry to construct change. This is so important and will help you, as it did me, to not only assess gaps of missing skills or needed knowledge but ALSO to grasp WHY I was deploying transformational career change in the first place. These are the very reasons you’ll have to hang on to and refer to often as you make your leap because the switchover between A and Z career paths is wrought with self-doubt and insecurities. Your deconstructive inventory will guide and remind you of the causes and value behind your forging ahead.
- Professional pruning is essential, as is thinking like a bot.
As I worked to “let go” of my “past career” and its related identity(ies), I found the thought of reclassifying, deprioritizing or, in some cases, disconnecting entirely from, certain networking contacts associated with my first career, and accrued across two decades, a bit daunting. But in time, I came to accept that my professional contact pruning efforts did not always have to result in personal contact elimination. Ironically, these professional decisions can be deeply personal at times but in the end, you have to think like robots and algorithms do, to some extent. For example, if you’re doing everything possible to become or be a pastry chef but all your professional contacts, groups, and connections are construction workers or related to the construction industry, you’ll be shooting yourself in the algorithmic foot, so to speak, because your connections online help feed (to some degree) what you’re served up in terms of news feed content, job opportunities, and so on. This, of course, is not to say that you can’t stay connected to your construction industry networks and contacts but it will require a holistic rethinking of where, how, and why you make connections moving forward. As a result of this rethinking, you’ll also inevitably discover what to do with your existing contacts and how they belong, or not, as you embark on your professional metamorphosis.
- Promote and re-title yourself … because no one else will.
When you are in a traditional job setting, your boss usually has “the power” to promote you, or not. He or she plays an instrumental role in relabeling your position with a shiny new position title (after reviewing your work productivity and milestones over a given period of time). But when you’re an independent consultant neck-deep in self-imposed and total career change, there’s no one above you to promote and re-title you. Therefore, you must be ready to promote and retitle yourself, which is a key part of the overall personal re-branding experience. However, I believe this process is far more skin-deep than simply updating what your business card says. It requires, in my experience, tremendous self-confidence and self-assurance, neither of which are to be confused with arrogance or entitlement. Instead, you have to dig deep from within to find the right words that reestablish the renewed crux of your emerging professional identity. Not an easy feat when, as shared earlier, the career transformation journey is fraught with indecision and insecurity. But just as a larva inevitably emerges from their cacoon, eventually you, too, will find yourself at the end of the fear. A time when, come hell or high water, you’re stepping out as a vibrant butterfly, whether you like it or not, whether you’re ready or not, and whether the outside professional world is embracing or not. In the end, this is the moment when *you know* if your self-promotion and re-titling feel right and it’s also when you feel joy and pride, rather than fear and insecurity, that your relabeling journey is just and far more representative than the glossy words on your shiny new business card.
What’s old is new again
So for those of you who knew me as a longtime digital strategist, content designer, and more, I’m still all those things and still possess all those skills. And yes, from time to time, I still consult with brands in those capacities.
But more and more my consulting and expertise is shifting towards the realm of cyberpsychology.
Because this nascent field of cyberpsychology is still evolving, what this all means to existing and new clients (and myself!) moving forward is actively growing and shifting, almost in real-time.
I’ll be sharing more about this new cyberpsychology direction in a future post, if not on this blog then on my coming-soon cyberpsychology website, which is currently underway and set to launch later this year.
Until then, if you find yourself in a life-changing career change, I’d love to learn your experiences and if any of my lessons learned shared above align with some of your own self-discoveries.