If done right, your career story stimulates precise, meaningful perceptions among your audience. Your story should create a strong, unique, and favorable association in the minds of others.
This takes time to do right. You must decide on the messages, give meaning to them, position them, communicate that meaning, and manage it over time. Your story is a combination of your talents, skills, qualifications, knowledge, and experience. In order to create your story, spend some time thinking about what distinguishes you from others. Creating your career story involves the following steps:
- Determine What You Want to Say: Make a list of messages that you want someone to know about you. Mention those things that are relevant to your future career direction. Review the list several times and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is relevant about what I am saying?
- Why do I feel the need to communicate this specific message?
- What will the listener learn about me from these messages?
- Determine What you DO NOT Want to Say: Make a list of those areas that you feel could create stress or contention. It is important to be prepared to answer those things that might make you nervous or uncomfortable.
- Know Who You Are Talking To: Who is your target market? What are their needs? Who are you meeting with? What do you know about this person?
- Know Your Strengths: Be prepared to talk about why someone should hire you if you have no experience.
Responsibilities versus Accomplishments
After you have addressed these steps, consider two main aspects of your experience: responsibilities and accomplishments. Responsibilities are the activities that you have been accountable for in your career. Accomplishments refer to what you achieved as a result of your responsibilities at work.
Responsibilities and accomplishments do not necessarily go hand in hand. Your responsibilities might include making sure that the water coolers never run dry. Fulfilling this responsibility is part of what is expected of you. Your accomplishments might include reducing overall costs to the company by negotiating a new contract with a water supplier. The more measurable your accomplishments, the more effective they are in portraying you as a significant contributor.
Regardless of how or why you have left your last job, or are leaving your present position, your story will be crafted around your responsibilities and accomplishments.
The primary focus should be to represent those Career Assets closest to the new career choice. Take stock of your professional background to understand what projects, programs, skills and more that you have worked on to gain a better perspective of what should be discussed in your story. This information develops your career tools and improves your interview skills.
To help you craft your story, we describe two situations below and provide you with examples of stories that were created to assist with the transition.
Situation 1: VP of Engineering to CEO
Situation 2: User Interface Designer to CEO
Situation 3: CIO to National Speaker
What to Avoid When Crafting Your Story
Assume that you have a limited time in which to share your information. Assume that your listener has limited interest in hearing your story. How will you communicate the most pertinent, relevant, and interesting information in the shortest amount of time?
An interview or meeting is not an opportunity to ramble on about your life, goals, and experiences, jobs, and joys and disappointments. Your best approach is to leave out anything that is not relevant to your listener.
You will find at times that your interviewer is a warm and receptive person who seems genuinely interested in you. Do not take this as a license to detour into personal discussion, or into sharing your “true” feelings. Stay focused and clear on your goals and the purpose of the interaction.
Avoid bad-mouthing your former employers. Regardless of the circumstances of your departure and your feelings about them, most potential employers will be put off by negativity. In the same vein, avoid being overly critical of your management, your co-workers, or the company’s customers. While the management may have seemed to you to be ineffective, or your co-workers incompetent, or the customers ignorant and demanding, sharing this perspective in blatantly negative terms will be detrimental to your chances.