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Tell Deliberate Stories About Your Career

5 May 2020

The stories about you that you tell to your network, to your colleagues, to managers, customers, and everyone else who interacts with you in the context of career, are your signature stories.  These are stories that communicate to others the approach and values that you have.  They convey important things to the world about you and your career.

Being deliberate and intentional about your career signature stories has distinct advantages.  Firstly, they shape and advance your brand by giving people ideas and words to remember you by.  In thinking about yourself as a small business (which you are), your career signature stories are a business asset.  Being deliberate about your career signature stories enables you to focus the thinking people have about you.  People are better able to understand you through the stories that you tell about yourself.  In addition, sharing deliberate stories about your career, you are able to create insightful moments for others to 'get' what you are about, what you offer, and what your potential is.

For example a colleague of mine often tells the story of being easily distracted by his dogs when he is working from home, yet neglects to tell a story I know about him, of when he went out of his way to track information down for his boss, to the point of getting up at 2am to speak with someone in the United States.  The second story is the one that is so much more accurate in terms of the dedication and commitment he brings to his career.  A story I will often tell new clients about me, as one way I communicate the level of confidentiality I bring, is the story of my grandmother commenting to me as a child, again and again, about how 'tactful' I was.  As an 8-year-old I had no idea what the word meant and it wasn't till years later that I understood she had been trying to get information about my mother's new boyfriends out of me!

A great career signature story has four key elements:

It has a strategic message.  You know that there is a why behind telling the story.  A why that helps build the brand that is you.
It is intriguing enough to grab people's attention.  It is a story that people will listen to because it has good elements such as being thought provoking, novel, provocative, interesting, informative, newsworthy, or entertaining.
It is authentic.  It is not phony, fake or told to grandstand.  It is an appropriate story told at an opportune time.
It is involving.  It is something that has the capacity to draw people in so they add their own little bit to the story.

Over the next month or so do an inventory of the stories you tell about yourself, especially in the context of career.  Check with managers and colleagues on the stories they have heard you tell.  Perhaps you will find that you don't use stories much at all.  Perhaps you will find that the stories you tell don't have the strategic message you might want them to have.  Getting conscious of your career stories you can then take action to use them more.  Develop for yourself a bank of stories that you want to deliberately tell.  List them and record how often you use them.

You are the curator of your career stories.  Stop telling those that don't build your brand, and make sure you collect and share those that move you in the direction you want to be going.

With the current changed work situation that many of us are facing there will be many new stories to collect.  Make your COVID-19 story one of you at your best, whatever it is that the situation gives you.

As always, wishing you a flourishing career.


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