Noted management expert Peter F. Drucker once said, “Since we live in an age of innovation, a practical education must prepare a man for work that does not yet exist and cannot yet be clearly defined.” The same theory applies to innovation and finding meaning in one’s career. You must learn continually and prepare for the unexpected.

Incremental change, as it applies to career transition, is exampled by moderately updating one’s resume, attending one networking event per week and meager preparation for interviews. It may help you find work, but your timeline will be considerably longer than it need be. Big problems aren’t solved with tiny ideas.

On the other hand, quantum leaps in how you transition careers, can be exampled by the development of personal mission and vision statements, volunteering to land meaningful work and living your brand day in and day out. You will find meaningful work, you will find it quickly and you will be more engaged knowing that you are doing what you’ve been called to do.

Making your brand systemic –

  1. Clarify Your Values – Take an assessment that brings to light your core behaviors, motivators and competencies. Identify the adjectives that your stakeholders use to describe you. Write down the following about your ideal job: office location, total rewards, responsibility level and desired growth potential.
  2. Develop Personal Mission and Vision Statements and a Value Proposition – Use the values from step one to draft a your personal mission (why you exist, your never changing purpose), your vision (what you will be in 5-10 years) and your unique value proposition (why you’re different, what you do that no one else can).
  3. Set Expectations – Consult an expert to help you draft and incorporate step two material into your professional bio, resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter and 30-second commercial.
  4. Network – Visibility will breed credibility and trust as you meet new connections and generate value for them in face-to-face meetings and online channels. Set and exceed SMART goals about how, when and where you will network. Humbly include step two material in your conversations.
  5. Inspect What You Expect – Your ultimate goal is to have your personal mission, vision and value proposition equal how your stakeholders perceive you. By auditing those in your circle of influence, you can either continue down the path or adjust as necessary to ensure influential people are recognizing your personal brand.

Ensuring that your personal brand has become systemic in many facets of your life is paramount to a meaningful 21st century career. Corporations are no longer promising cradle to grave employment, so you must create an equivalent personal brand to use as a guide to shepherd you through the uncertainty of changing employers every two to three years. The ultracompetition for meaningful jobs is only going to become more severe and can only be won by “out-behaving” others.

I’ve heard it said that your reputation enters the room three minutes before you do. Have you innovated and clearly defined your brand and set expectations for your stakeholders? If the people already in the room are talking about you, are they using the same phrases and terminology you wrote down when you clarified your values and wrote personal mission and vision statements?

You can always choose mediocrity. But, you shouldn’t.

Avoid incremental change and make quantum leaps.

Develop a radical personal brand…and live it to your core.