Executives are expected to carry the flag for an organization and in some ways, become the embodiment of everything the company represents. No problem. You willingly accepted that unwritten contract from the moment an offer was extended. But suddenly you’ve become the casualty of a recent reorganization, so what happens next?
The stark reality of the transition begins to sink in as you dutifully turn in all the company property. On your last day, you return the laptop. It was never really yours, nor was anything on it: emails, documents, data bases. Maybe you were issued an employee badge, complete with a unique ID number associated with your name. Perhaps the company will preserve your number, like they did for Michael Jordan? If you’re lucky, they may even allow you to keep your business cell phone number. Good! That will save you considerable time and effort from reaching out to all your contacts with a new number.
After proudly wearing the mantle for all those years, you may feel exposed without all the trappings of the position. Although your title or the corner office may not have exactly defined you, they were symbols of stature. The separation process can lead to a feeling that who you are has suddenly devolved into what you were.
Here is the first step in reclaiming your identity and getting your job search on the right path. Start by understanding the difference between identifying witha company’s culture and losing your identity to a company.
The first represents a healthy relationship of shared values between an employer and an employee. But losing your identity to a company is a non-starter and will prolong your search. Think of the total package you have to offer, i.e. “You, Incorporated”, adapt your behavior and get ready to re-enter the ranks of executives.
Pronouns Matter. Whose Point of View Are You Representing?
Has your corporate speak always begun with the word “we?” You were the ambassador for your company, took pride in their standing in the business community and were the “face” of the organization for industry events.
That was then and this is now. Start the personal branding process with a simple switch, using your own mantra. “I am known for facing ambiguity and creating infrastructure that removes chaos but allows for growth. Those opportunities excite me- I run into the fire while others run away from it.”
Get to the essence of who you are by first drawing up an inventory of the attributes you possess which led to strong relationships among colleagues, direct reports, managers, or Board of Directors. These descriptors will serve as a jumping off point in reclaiming your identity and taking ownership of your brand.
Image Building: Every Picture Tells a Story
Social platforms afford a treasure trove of opportunities to let the world know who you are. Do you have a LinkedIn banner with some iconic logo of your last employer? Remove anything that either explicitly indicates the company or implicitly suggests a specific industry sector if you intend to pursue a different business segment.
If your banner is the one standard to LinkedIn, it’s relatively lackluster and says nothing about your brand. Replace the generic blue background with an image that speaks to your personality. Consider photo options available at no cost or low cost from sites like Unsplash or Pixabay. Get even more creative by accessing ideas from Canva, an online graphic design tool. Take advantage of their free trial period and dabble in the “LinkedIn Banner” templates. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to spruce up your profile.
Recruiters May Have Preconceived Notions about Your Former Employer
A word of caution. Your reputation as well as your company’s reputation precedes you. Be aware of attributions a Recruiter may make about you based on their perspective of your last employer. Their views of your former employer can be positive, negative, or just plain inaccurate.
Use a company’s good reputation to your advantage; you contributed to its good standing and success.
Acknowledge any aspects of a company’s negative reputation, but refrain from joining the fray in throwing stones. If, for example, your last employer experienced OSHA violations that reached the local news, you may need to address the bad press it received. Your response could be: “Although safety was not within my purview, I was a member of the leadership team and cared about everyone’s well-being.” State your personal commitment to health and safety then explain the company’s general plans for risk mitigation.
When faced with a statement about the company’s reputation that is inaccurate, you have the right and responsibility to correct it. Recruiters or Hiring Managers may have only half the story; inform them of any missing parts or provide them with context to set the record straight.
You are certainly proud of your personal accomplishments and want to credit your former employer for their good reputation and the opportunities afforded you. Just recognize and be ready to articulate who YOU are and what YOU did to make it a success.
Change your mindset and get grounded. It’s kind of like the laptop you had to turn in. You were never really “theirs”. They just had the privilege of your service and you had the good fortune of their company.
Time to move forward with your most valuable asset-it’s what’s inside YOU that counts.