How To Tell Your Career Story When You're Shifting Industries

The other day we were thinking about a friend of ours who's led an exciting and varied career. She was a published geneticist from an esteemed university who then became a producer and ran digital strategy for an entertainment company, and is now an entrepreneur, founder of a B2B and B2C social media strategy agency, and a highly sought-after speaker.

Impressive, right?

We all know those folks with non-linear careers, who seem to move effortlessly from industry to industry. Perhaps you'd like to be one of those people someday. Or maybe, after years working in the same field, you've finally decided to take a leap into an entirely different world, but are struggling with the idea of piecing together your diverse experience.

How can you tell your career story when you're shifting industries?

Here are a few suggestions:

Sell your destiny, not your history.

In transforming your career, it's easy to get stuck in your old thought patterns. When speaking with others about your work history, you might be tempted to state everything you've ever done, fearful of letting go of your past experience. The problem? If something isn't relevant, it's muddying your message and will confuse— or lose—your intended audience. Instead, let clarity be your friend and be ruthless about pairing down your profiles to support what you want to do, not what you've done.

Can't seem to part with a past role? Another strategy is to...

Identify your common thread(s).

Even if you've had seemingly unrelated jobs in vastly different industries, you can always find a common thread (or two) that weaves together your personal and professional experiences. Also, consider your transferable skills that transcend industry or job junction. Perhaps you were the go-to person who introduced new products and services in your roles in the finance, consumer electronics, and packaged goods industries? Or maybe your scientific roots fostered a love of research, digging for answers and solutions to help bring greater operational efficiency to various sectors?

Think beyond titles to see a natural progression of responsibilities and roles, especially as it relates to your new industry, to help connect the dots for those new folks you're looking to be hired by or partner.

Finally, learn from the masters of non-linear career management and...

Think like a thought leader.

The savviest thought leaders stick to two fundamental personal branding concepts in telling their career stories: consistency and discipline.

Consistency means that you that you maintain your "voice" and look and feel in all your communications. So much so, that people come to expect—and anticipate—your specific point of view and unique perspective. For instance, if someone were to read your LinkedIn profile and then meet you at a networking mixer, there should be absolutely no surprises.

Discipline means that you stick with those few areas where you have expertise, and avoid veering off course in your messaging or audience or platform. It means saying no to the things that do not align with your desired career brand and its offerings—even if they were previously part of your work history.

Rather than view consistency and discipline as constraints, allow them to empower you to create and fuel your new career story.

Everyone has a unique story, but not everyone leverages its power. Properly crafted, your story helps to differentiate you from your competitors, highlight your value, and to draw others to you. Knowing and being able to clearly articulate your career story—especially as you're shifting industries—is transformative; use it wisely.

To better tell your career story, join our Who Am I program.