I had a client who had started a business that needed a cash infusion. At the same time, recognizing that cash flow was an issue, he started to explore going back in-house (he had been a successful banker before starting his own shop). He needed to position himself as both an entrepreneur and an employee without diluting either focus or confusing his market. How do you position yourself for two different careers?
I see this conundrum more and more. On the entrepreneur/ employee front, more people are starting side businesses or picking up consulting projects. But even when one is committed to traditional employment, jobs are wider in scope and you may find yourself with a role that feels like multiple careers. I reconnected with an old hire of mine from my media days, and she was straddling PR and marketing in the same firm. Consequently, she was unsure how to talk about both without diminishing her experience in either.
Positioning is framed by two things: who you are; and what you are targeting. So the above conundrum seems to revolve around the first half – confusion on how to express who you are. But it really is more about the second – describing who you are in the context of your target. If you are sure about your target, you can easily find a way to talk about your two (or more) sides in a way that adds value to your target and therefore makes you the logical choice, not the outlier.
When you have multiple targets (as in my banker client who was targeting investors and prospective employers) this is trickier, but still not impossible. We worked on a story where entrepreneurship was a logical extension of his career but not the only one. He created a message that focused on the current growth stage of his business and how the fork in the road involved either investment or employment and that he embraced both possibilities. Most importantly, everything was framed in a positive and empowered way so that his targets, whether investors or employers, could see that he was proactive about his choices.
An upbeat attitude about the choices you have made in your career and life are a critical component of positioning. Notice when you talk about your history, whether you tell the story as if it happened to you or as if you selected what came. Try framing your story around proactive choices, even when they were opportunistic (you still walked through those open doors!). You will find that your positioning is much stronger, and whether you have twists and turns in your career or two (or more) career paths, you still come across as focused, empowered, and therefore desirable.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps people find fulfilling and financially rewarding careers, as the co-founder of SixFigureStart®, career coaching by former Fortune 500 recruiters. As a former executive search and corporate recruiter for over 10 years, Caroline has hired thousands of people for leading companies in financial services, consulting, media, pharmaceutical/ healthcare, and technology. She is also the co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the best-selling “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” 2010; Two Harbors Press. Caroline is a 2010 grant recipient of the Jones New York Empowerment Fund and a performer with the comedy group Comic Diversity.