What’s next? If you’ve been downsized, laid-off, or gone out-of-business, you’re basically looking to the next “right” job, new career path, or to build a new business. You need to start making money and find personal satisfaction. So, how can you make this transformation?

There are several approaches and methodologies to consider when moving toward what’s next. Why is it that some people are able to ‘land’ within six months of leaving/losing their job and others are out of work for years? I’ve spoken with dozens of candidates who are seeking a new career and my first question is, “What’s your personal value proposition?” Basically, what do you have to offer a company that will add value for them toward building their business? After all, the main reason someone will or won’t hire you is whether or not you can make them money.

The next question I ask these individuals is, “Why should a company hire you especially if you’re on the outside of their industry?” It is vital for anyone making this transformation to have a crystal-clear, impactful response to this question, or else most of their interviews will end very quickly, assuming they get any. The ability to transfer skills, networks, (value!) from one industry to another is a skill that requires research, networking ability, and smarts. If you are not preparing yourself with answers to just these two questions, perhaps you need to re-evaluate your search process.

The most successful job seekers — even if they’ve been in the same position for more than 10 years, in an industry that is shrinking — intuitively understand that they need to reacquaint themselves with today’s business environment. They create a business plan for their search. This is how to start.

First and foremost, focus on value proposition

One of the people who transformed his career along the lines described herein moved from advertising to film production. I’ll call him Matt.

Matt recently transitioned his career in advertising and marketing to lead a division for one of the largest documentary and film production companies in the U.S. Matt saw an opportunity for his new employer that leveraged his existing skill set and network from his former job, and brought it to them directly in his interview. In analyzing his new potential employer’s business model, Matt recognized an opportunity to work with advertisers that were seeking new and exciting ways to entertain and reach their consumers. He leveraged his marketing and advertising experience, and is now the managing director of a newly created branded content and entertainment division of the production company. He went from being unemployed to running a division of a large company that is focused on developing long-form video for both television and the web for advertisers.

Keep an open mind — and the end in mind

I asked Matt, “What were the most important things that you needed to do to make a career change?” He replied, “An open mind, and being able to look for opportunities in chaos.” When Matt found himself downsized from his position at a major advertising agency, he immediately put out his “shingle” as a marketing consultant. Matt began by developing a business plan, then implemented that plan, and brought on several clients. It was out of his consulting practice that the branded content and entertainment concept evolved, so without that experience as a solo practitioner/consultant, he would have never created the opportunity he ultimately landed.

What’s the lesson? Don’t be afraid to exert your creativity when translating your former dossier to your new opportunity. Many would-be employers will be impressed with your creativity, even if the specific skills or ideas don’t translate directly. If you aim high, and they do, you may win big.

Stay on top of the marketplace

Another candidate I have worked with recently leveraged her abilities and network in Washington, D.C. legislative and regulatory circles toward a great position at a digital media company. Two or three years ago, privacy matters were hardly on the radar for digital media firms. But, this candidate, who I’ll call Michele, was close enough to the Beltway scene to anticipate what was to come. Today’s digital media landscape is rife with privacy concerns, debates and, therefore, opportunity for Michele, since she recognized the kind of value her insights could add for companies here. By translating her understanding of the byzantine D.C. environment for the benefit of a major media company, Michele became their first-ever privacy officer — a position conjured by her, with some creative thinking.

Keep learning, be different, and know your why

You need to commit to developing keen personal insight before you make a commitment to your search. Know definitively how you will differentiate yourself and what value you can add to a company — you won’t get hired unless you can add value in some capacity. Will it be through selling something for them, or being smarter about something for them? It has to be one or the other.

The people who are landing the jobs communicate their uniqueness, their value proposition, and what they bring to the table. They are not afraid to break the rules and set themselves apart from other job seekers. They don’t let their past experience dictate their future lives. These individuals who are open minded — both to opportunities and to meeting people and learning from them — will be the ones who grow in their careers in the years to come.


Erika Weinstein is president and co-founder of Stephen-Bradford Search.

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