Tell me a bit about you?
Easy, right? We’ve all been asked this question before. In fact, you were probably in autopilot before your interviewer finished the question, or busy worrying about what question was coming next.
Wrong! While not technically a difficult question, failing to take the time to craft your career story is a wasted opportunity. Even if you have a great CV, it’s critical to think about how you bring this to life — particularly as more job opportunities come through referrals, conversations and social media.
But what happens if you are looking for a change, and your career path doesn’t make sense on paper? Or you’ve hit a rough patch at work, perhaps you are in a team you hate or have just lost your job? Or perhaps you are looking for a promotion and up against some stiff competition?
Telling your career story is critical to stand out from the crowd. Here’s five tips to help you craft your narrative.
1. Create a starting point
Like every good story, your career story needs a clear introduction. Set up your story by thinking why you got started. Were you motivated by a particular passion, or perhaps you explored a few things to get you to your current job?
Remember, you choose your starting point. If you’ve had a career change, think about crafting your story around a critical point when you realised you were ready to do something different. What inspired you to seek out something new, and how did you make the change?
Having a clear introduction in your mind will help ease any interview nerves and get you off to a strong start.
2. Use stories to strengthen your narrative
Resist the temptation to fill your story with empty buzzwords. Skip the jargon and build your story using real life examples. If you have words like team player, innovator or evangelist in your CV, think about times where you have embodied these qualities in your current job.
A cohesive career story has examples that people can instantly relate to. Take some time to craft mini stories, where you focus on the challenge presented to you, your response and the ultimate result.
Whether it’s a challenging client or difficult brief, think about what you did and how this directly impacted on a business outcome. Examples demonstrate your skills and passion and ensures your story is engaging.
3. Re-evaluate your challenges
Every good story has highs and lows, and everyone's career story has some low points. Prevent yourself from falling into negativity trap by carefully thinking about how you approached the bumps on your road and ultimately prevailed.
This is particularly important when someone asks "why are you looking for a new role?". If you are currently in a bad place at work, feeling frustrated, unhappy or undervalued, it’s important to remove the emotion from your story.
To do this, take your story back to the facts. Explain the situation and acknowledge the challenge. But also show your strength and maturity by setting out the steps you took to overcome it. Instead of focusing on your evil boss, bitchy colleagues or toxic workplace culture, think about the great work that you have done, and how the experience will set you up for your next job.
4. Own it!
… and don’t let anyone else tell it for you.
When I started looking to change careers, I was an unhappy lawyer, who had spent eight years of my life working towards something that wasn’t right for me. My desperation — and misery — was evident a mile away. It wasn’t until I realised that I had the power to control my own narrative that things began to change.
Find a common thread throughout your story. I had always loved helping people and writing. Funnily enough, life as a lawyer didn’t fulfil these passions. Once I started blogging, and discovered a new passion for digital media, suddenly the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place. I was a lawyer who loved helping other young professionals, using digital and social media to help communicate my message. My story became my launch pad.
5. Think about what the future holds
All good stories have a clear introduction, middle and end. It’s easy to focus on getting the perfect introduction, then getting on a roll through the body of your story before losing steam and quickly wrapping up. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to finish strong.
What are your next steps? Where do you see yourself in five years time and how has your journey to date set you up for this?
Your career story is a powerful tool in your job hunt toolkit. Carefully crafted your career story will help open doors, so don’t miss the opportunity to tell your unique story.