Whatever your next career is, making a shift means building your reputation in a new area. But pitching yourself to potential employers or clients when you're only just getting started can leave you feeling like a fake. So how do you do it gracefully? Natasha shares her guidance on how to make your presence known in a way that's relaxed, human, and effective.
Working out what you want to do next in your career can be a hard and emotional slog.
But even once you get a sense of where you want to be headed, there’s a whole new set of potential challenges at play.
- You’re starting from scratch – how do you impress people enough to stand out against seasoned professionals?
- Nothing turns your stomach like a sales-y ‘pitch’, and you don’t want to spend all your time talking about yourself.
- You’re not ready to move from your current career, but you do want to start your side hustle now. How do you market your second 'self' without having two LinkedIn profiles and looking weird?
You want to get noticed, even though you’re new to the game. But you want to do so in a way that feels authentic and real.
And the best ways to do that? They're counter-intuitive, simple, and sweet – and they really work.
1. Make things and share them
Nothing says more about you than your work.
And in a world where everyone seems to be talking a big talk, with a slick elevator pitch and a written-by-a-professional LinkedIn profile, people are increasingly more compelled by what they see you do than what they hear you say.
So the best way to let people know what you do, is by doing it.
And then let them know what you’ve done.
If you want to be a writer, write.
If you want to be a coder, code.
If you want to build apps, build an app.
If you want to help people organise their finances, put together a guide to help them organise their finances.
It doesn’t matter if you think you’re ready, or good enough, or experienced enough.
Just get it out there.
Do what you want to do, and do it in public.
The more you make, the better it is, and the more open you are about it, the easier it is for people to find you, understand what you do, and support you.
2. Help people
Get a reputation for being great to have around.
Be observant, be thoughtful, and be generous.
Notice ways that people, businesses and organisations could benefit from your skills and knowledge, and offer to help them.
Wherever you see an opportunity to add value, add it.
Whether it’s your time, your expertise, your talents… be willing. Be helpful.
Generosity is a remarkable thing.
And (perhaps unfortunately) it’s rare enough to be deeply memorable.
So when people have an opportunity to respond in kind, they will.
Plus, not only will people value your contributions for themselves, they’ll tell other people about you, too.
3. Give a little extra
‘Fine’ is fine.
But it doesn’t spread.
Nobody remembers the time they got exactly what they expected, and nobody talks about the time someone did a ‘good enough’ job for them.
You’re still bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and enthusiastic about your new venture – so let that pleasure out, unapologetically.
Wherever you get a chance, go over and above the call of duty for people.
- Add a hand-written love-note in your delivery package.
- Throw in an extra service for free.
- Deliver the project perfectly, way before the deadline.
Many people focus on going over-and-above in what they say to land clients.
You're going to focus on going over-and-above in your attempt to thrill them.
4. Acknowledge everyone
Thank people for everything, publicly.
Reference all your teachers and sources, consistently.
Celebrate the achievements of others.
Share what inspiring people in your field are doing.
Shine a light on people who aren’t getting seen.
Make as much noise about the people who have contributed to your journey as you do about yourself.
The people who have helped you (and who can help you further) will be proud and thrilled. They’ll want to help you more.
Your teachers and sources will notice you. They’ll want to thank you, support you, or at least find out who you are.
Most people think that in order to get noticed, they need to get into the spotlight.
Try shining the spotlight on other people, instead, and see how karma does its work.
5. Be a broken record
Like Hoover and the vacuum cleaner, Biros and ballpoint pens, there are people in your life that you automatically associate with something.
Think ‘mountain bikes’, and you think of your sister.
‘Politics and current affairs’, it’s Uncle Brian.
If you ever had a question about what movie to watch, you’re going to call your friend Anna.
And that didn’t happen by accident.
Consciously or unconsciously, they taught you to do that.
You probably know a whole bunch of people who are really into mountain biking, but your sister is the one who mentions it every single time you see her.
Anna always finds a way to connect your conversations back to cinematography and film. Everything she shares on social media and LinkedIn is cinema-related. Anna = film.
And while you don’t have to be obsessive about your topic to the point of driving people up the wall, find ways to become ‘that person’ for your network.
How could you become the person that always springs to mind when they think about what you do?
6. Keep showing up
When you’re starting out in a new career, it’s tempting to surround yourself with people who do what you do.
It’s smart, too – building connections and friendships with people who have been in the game for longer than you can give you insights and opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have.
But it’s not just about being there for the people that you need.
Show up in the lives of the people that need you, too.
Professional de-clutterer and organiser? Don’t just go to the Professional Organisers Conference, go and make friends at your local car boot sale.
Financial consultant for start-ups? Go to a MeetUp for start-ups in your area. Don’t sell anything. Just listen.
Building relationships is always at the core of any venture, exploratory or established.
And you don’t have to have a fancy set of business cards or a shiny elevator pitch to make friends.
Find the people who need you, and keep showing up.
7. Be real
Be authentic, honest, and open about where you’re at, as much as possible.
It can be tempting to think you have to have everything perfectly worked-out and thrillingly articulated before you let anyone in on what you’re doing, but actually, that’s not so effective.
Glass looks shiny and pretty, but most things slide right off it.
Be open about the journey you’re on.
Share the things you’re learning and the mistakes you’re making. Be humble, and curious, and committed to where you’re headed (and maintain a sense of humour about your experiences!).
If a good-enough LinkedIn profile is what you have to put up because you’re excited about the level of clarity you’ve got about where you want to be headed AND you still have a hunch there’s more discovering to do, say it.
If you did a job for a client that didn’t go to plan and you learned a huge lesson from it, share it.
If you’ve finally got a response from the grant you applied for and you can’t bring yourself to open the envelope because you’re so nervous, get people to come and help you open it.
Humans recognise humanity. We want to hang out with other humans.
So allow yourself to be human, in public.
When you share your journey, it makes people want to come along for the ride.
Which of these approaches to getting noticed appeals most to you? Let me know in the comments below.