Why do I need to craft my career story?
Recently I was in Waco, TX, to visit the Magnolia Silos. For someone interested in home décor and design, it was on my list of experiences I wanted to take in. It didn’t disappoint. It was a crisp winter day, and the sun was out. On the side of one of the buildings was this message. Being in the career business, I immediately thought about the unique career story or stories everyone has.
We all have a story to tell. It is yours and yours alone. If you look up the word story in the dictionary, one meaning is “an account of past events in someone’s life or the evolution of something.” Your past events and your evolution can only belong to you. The key is to develop well-narrated stories that resonate with the audience and leave an enduring impression.
You have a unique career story.
When looking for new career opportunities, your story is your power. You may have multiple stories. Each one will support an accomplishment or situation unique to you.
Polishing your story- or stories – and being able to tell it through your career campaign documents and deliver them in interviews and networking conversations will set you apart from your competition. Your stories should weave a consistent and unifying message. Think résumé, LinkedIn profile, executive bio, cover letter, etc. They all need to connect and help your audience see your value.
What you don’t want to happen is that you must think of your stories and narrate them on the fly. Unless you are highly trained in extemporary speaking, this often spells disaster.
What goes into creating your career stories?
I’ve outlined three steps to capture and own your unique stories.
Identify the best qualities or capabilities that you want to project.
Qualities are different than capabilities. Qualities are often what some call “soft skills”. Confidence, resilience, humility, and empathy are examples of qualities that resonate. Capabilities are the “hard skills” you bring to the table. Sometimes your story will highlight a quality; sometimes, it will be about your capabilities. You want to have both types of stories ready.
Indeed.com published an article that can help you understand the qualities and capabilities you might want to showcase.
Structure the story that makes it easy to follow and memorable.
Begin with an opening sentence or two that sets up your story or the situation.
Move into setting the context and providing background. Talk about the problem, who was involved, your role, and the business impact or risk. There needs to be enough information so your audience is in lockstep with you but not so much that you are droning on. Test to see if the information you are providing is relevant. Is it addressing the quality or capability you have been asked to discuss?
Finally, reveal the result or breakthrough moment in the situation. The story is about you and how you persevered or made an impact. Be the hero in your story. End with a moral or a lesson learned that ties you to the work you are seeking.
If you work your story into a cover letter or LinkedIn profile, make sure your writing is grammatically correct. Write tight and leave out extraneous information. Use the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method for covering the essential information). On résumés, your information needs to be succinct, and the sentences or bullets are well crafted.
If you are constructing your story for an interview, don’t just practice in your head or in front of your mirror. Practice WITH people! You need to see and hear their reactions to how you are telling your story. Are they following along with you? Or do they look confused?
Remember to be brief – about two minutes. You want to know your content but not memorize it. You need to internalize the story, so it is authentically delivered.