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Should you "hide" your earlier professions?

An HR professional, who had hired for my team, moved on to another company. There, he switched to a different profession. During a casual conversation, when I mentioned his hiring expertise, he said something as if I never knew him before: "No, I'm not an HR expert. Actually, I ..."

This guy perhaps wants me to forget him as a former HR professional. He believes that he should build his personal brand around his current new profession/discipline. I appreciate it because I've had my own similar experiences. In terms of disciplines, I moved ...

From Technical Writing in the 1980s (here, I innovated a software usability driven approach, which I published and presented at conferences) ...
To User Interface Design (here, I innovated a business process centric approach, which differentiated former employer Cognizant Technology Solutions and gave the company competitive edge right from its early days) ...
To Business Process Management (here, I created a business process centric software approach, a brief note about which you'll find at the Columbia Business School website).
Not only was I moving into different disciplines, within each discipline, I was "moving into" a different approach.

At each move, I wanted to eliminate the potential for confusion with my previous profession/approach and wanted to strengthen my current brand.

Excellence guru Tom Peters, who is also master of personal branding, says in Re-Imagine:
"I was very proud, I tell you, of the persona called ... California Tom. And quite willing to bury Maryland Tom back in Maryland."
If you have switched disciplines, how did you deal with the associated challenges?

PS: By talking about my earlier disciplines/approaches, have I confused readers about who I am today?


  1. AnonymousJune 15, 2010

    For most people, switching discipline means switching companies or switching biz units within a large company. In both cases, the ecosystem of people will very likely change, making easier the problem of transitioning. However, it is very difficult to deal with people who know us in both the lives. Radical changes are easier to handle - a chemical engineer who switched to IT. Subtler changes - like switching from training to HR or (within HR) recruiting to performance management - can be complex. I believe by making sure people are not judging personal qualities based on your branding, one can come out very successfully. Infact, if done right, people will even help you with your branding.

  2. I think it is silly and immature to try to hide your previous careers. Different experiences in life bring a broad perspective. One learns from everything. In fact, if you have switched careers that says something about your character, courage, ability to change. Someone who started in class 9 and did nothing but programming and IT and after 20 years is today a VP of an IT company (like myself, for example) is hardly interesting and hardly the kind of person who will bring fundamental change to the world...Of course, having said all this, the people looking at your profile and evaluating you, interviewing you and so on are not so enlightened or even open minded. Sometimes for their sake, you have to package some of your old experiences.

    It is also a cultural thing. If an Indian has a even a six month gap in his CV and says he took a personal break for 6 months, then all antennae are on high alert!!! He is surely lying or hiding something is the immediate conclusion...Now, imagine you are interviewing a German or an American who says I took a couple of years to travel the world or work in a rock band, we are willing to immediately accept that story...are we biased? is a rich life really that bad?

    I dont think so. Indian society really needs to get more open minded about these things and encourage people who have lived interesting diverse lives rather than monotonous planned lives!

  3. Thanks for this important observation you made ...

    "(A person focused on climbing the corporate ladder) is hardly the kind of person who will bring fundamental change to the world."

    Hope many are listening.



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