Owning the narrative around your career is one of the most powerful things you can do to make progress towards your goals. So thinking carefully about the story you want to tell - whether it’s for a job interview, an event, or just around the dinner table - is really important.
Storytelling is incredibly powerful when it comes to influencing decision making or building empathy with others. And when you combine it with facts and data about the choices you’ve made and the things you’re proud of, it’s unbeatable in winning both hearts and minds.
Telling a good story about your career can also be a great way to combat negative perceptions you have about yourself, or to ensure that people see you in a different light. By reframing your journey to reflect a narrative that you own, you can present yourself and your choices in a positive impactful way.
But remember authenticity and vulnerability are also key in creating a story that connects with others. No one likes a show off, and it’s as important to talk about what you’ve learned from hard times, difficult decisions, low moments, as it is to present a catalogue of successes and achievements.
Building empathy with someone else is about seeing yourself in their position and vice versa, so telling your story openly and honestly can be the fastest way to find common ground.
Here are some things to consider when you’re thinking about how to tell your story...
- No one’s career journey is perfect. It’s the complexity of everyone’s experiences that is interesting, and people will relate to you more if you remove the sugar coating.
- Be real. Set out your failures as well as your successes, and try and think about what you’ve learned from the things that haven’t gone right, as well as those that have.
- Think about the obstacles you’ve encountered along the way… How have you avoided them? How have you clambered over them? Or did you crash right into them?
- Offer up your biggest regret or biggest mistake. If you could have a do-over on one element of your career, what would it be and why?
- Remember you don’t have to give a blow-by-blow account of everything you've done or every job you've had. Create a narrative that talks about where you want to go, and the choices you've made in order to get there.
- Weave a tale about your destiny, not your history. Yes, use points and experiences in the past to frame the story, but don't get too hung up on every little detail.
- Prioritise your key themes and messages, talk about where you're at now and where you want to go.
- Know your audience. What part of your story will they find most interesting and engaging? How can you tailor some of your experiences to reflect what they’d like to know about you?
- Drop in proof points and qualifiers when they add context and enhance your overall narrative; avoid trying to shoehorn in accomplishments if they don’t have a place in the story you’re trying to tell.
- Remember all good stories have a beginning, middle and an end…
- The most important thing - and we’re saying this again for effect - is owning your narrative - it’s your career and your story after all!