Crafting Your Career Story: How to Masterfully Package Your Varied Experiences
I entered college undecided and if you asked me what my one role is today, I would answer in a way that might still sound a bit... undecided. This is normal! However, I did not know this and felt hopelessly confused and indecisive until I stumbled upon the book, The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine.
I had found my tribe! And we are in good company, with many notable figures, scientists, and entrepreneurs running billion-dollar companies having varied interests and career backgrounds.
But here's what I learned in life: All people--even those that have chosen a single life-long career to focus on--are multi-faceted and multi-passionate. It is unreasonable to expect anyone, especially a teen who has not even experienced all the world has to offer, to know for sure the one thing they would want to do for the better part of the rest of their lives. Herein lies the conundrum:
We accumulate varied careers and interests but we want the people we trust to work for us to be clear and committed to their chosen role and expertise.
Silly? Perhaps, but such is the contradictory nature of human psychology & society. *long sigh* Therefore, we must learn how to package ourselves in a way that clearly and powerfully conveys what we have done, what we do, and why we do it.
To package your experience and offering in a way that translates to potential clients or employers, you should perform this exercise of answering the following questions and compiling the responses in a cohesive manner (as outlined below):
1. Focus Area/Intro: What do you want to focus on or highlight as your main role or offering?
This does not have to be limited to one function (e.g., selling cakes, preparing taxes) but you should try to narrow down your focus to the space you want to enter next (e.g. event planning & catering, professional services & consulting, etc.). If you are seeking a career change, state the career/role you plan to move into next. List your functional title, along with any other relevant titles/roles you hold.
The answer to this question will allow you to craft your introduction statement: I am [or First Name & Last Name is] a [insert roles/titles].
2. Experience: What are all of your interests and roles held?
Your career or entrepreneurship story is going to have to cover your background. What are the roles, hobbies, or other interests that you have held? Make a list. This list will serve as pre-work for question 5. For us multi-passionate folks, the list will long and random but do not let that scare or deter you. We will package what we need to write your story. Once you have your list, move on to the next question.
3. Opportunity: What problems or gaps have you noticed in your focus area?
There may be issues that immediately come to mind. Other things to take notice of are:
who is not in the field (e.g. women, people of color, poor, etc.)
what seems homogeneous, monotonous, or boring
how the field is not reflective of how you see the world
Note which problems/gaps are most pressing for you and where you hope to make an impact. This will inform your opportunity statement in a way that showcases your unique perspective.
4. Transformation: Where did you start and where are you now?
The art of storytelling has taught us that people love a hero’s journey because overcoming adversity and triumphing over setbacks is central to the human experience. People are interested in what you do but also how you came to do it. What did you have to triumph over? What were your pain points? What is your testimonial? Think evidence (in the form of work-related or lived experiences) that you have that makes you think you will succeed in this focus area.
Some examples are:
Growing up with minimal resources, meant I often lacked new and stylish clothing and wore cheap, improperly fitting items. This negatively impacted my confidence and thus, my ability to perform my best in school and at work. Now, I bring my accumulated fashion knowledge and consulting expertise to style my clients in looks that reflect their power and personality at any budget.
I suffered traumatic experiences in silence before learning how to harness the power of storytelling to combat shame and inspire others.
I applied the principles of investing that I learned and went from $20K in credit card debt to a multimillionaire.
If you do not have a personal story of transformation (or even if you do), consider including how you transform your clients' lives or the organizations in which you have worked.
This answer to this question will be your transformation statement/story. It will serve the purpose of showcasing your passion, resilience, and personal experience, all of which convey why you are the perfect person to solve the problem you identified.
5. Competitive Advantage: What are the connections and transferrable skills?
I often say “nothing is wasted” because it is so true! This philosophy encourages us reflect on the useful skills, lessons, and abilities we have developed in every role, hobby, and lived experience. This is your value-add, your unique lens, and your competitive advantage. For each role and interest you highlighted in the beginning, you will write one or more skills or perspectives that you’ve developed as a result of serving in that role. Highlight the ones that would be helpful in your new role.
For example, my background in consulting on operational risk and internal audits might seem unrelated to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. However, when I think about transferrable skills (e.g., data analysis, managing different stakeholders, identifying process improvements, consulting, etc.), I can see that this background means that I bring a lens of process improvement, operational execution, data-driven strategy, and consideration for downstream implications to the work that I would do in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Executive.
What are the skills or expertise have you acquired in all your noted roles and interests? How might they make you attractive and effective in your new pursuit(s)?
The connections you make here will inform your unique competitive advantage. If there are roles, hobbies, or interests that do not have transferrable skills or if the connections to your focus area are quite weak, consider omitting these roles from the story as it may be distracting or confusing.
The connections you make in answering this question will inform your competitive advantage statement (e.g., Given my background and experience, I bring XYZ to my approach in ABC new focus area).
6. Mission: What is your personal mission?
Taking all of the work we have done in answering the prior questions, we can now develop a personal mission statement. If it's easier, you may want to think about this as your purpose. How do you want to impact the world in the focus area that you have chosen?
Think about all the different passions, talents, areas of expertise, and roles you serve in (paid and unpaid). What is the common mission that threads through most, if not all, of them?
For example, I have held corporate roles in risk & consulting and diversity, equity, & inclusion and I am also a poet, writer, mentor, educator, artist, investor, financial literacy advocate, motivational speaker, etc. If you merely state the myriad of things you do in an exhaustive list, prospective clients or employers may just see you as a jack-of-all-trades, someone who follows the wind, or worst, someone who is confused, aloof, or a flight risk.
(Heck, you might think you're all of those things too! But I hope that after completing this exercise, you will see that you were a lot more focused than you originally thought.)
Instead, you should consider what driving passion connects all of your roles and who you most enjoy serving.
My mission is to educate, empower, and inspire people, especially women, people of color, and first-generation wealth-builders, to thrive in life and work.
This mission statement gives me the freedom and flexibility to achieve this goal in all the various functions that I enjoy: teaching, writing, speaking, creating art, problem-solving; on all the subjects that I enjoy: personal development, financial literacy & wealth-building, career development, diversity, equity & inclusion and with the specific people I can most help: women, people of color, and first-generation wealth-builders.
As references for this step, you can check out the mission statements of companies that you love and review this purpose-driven career worksheet.
Put It All Together in A Powerful Package
Now that you have all the individual components, this is the order that will logically tell your career story, which could be used in a bio, presentation or speaking engagement:
Intro Statement (from step 1)
Mission Statement (step 6)
Transformation Statement/Story (step 4)
Opportunity Statement (step 3)
Competitive Advantage (step 5)
Alternatively, you can switch the positions of competitive advantage and mission statement. This might more sense in a professional bio where you want to immediately convey your value before getting to your personal passion/mission. Feel free to move the components around in a way that makes the most sense to you and for the various applications.
I hope this exercise is helpful in packaging your varied experiences and roles in a cohesive manner that conveys the value you bring to the world.
While making sense of your story is helps convey your experience to others. I want to remind you that everything you do and are does not have to make sense in a career journey. Take the pressure off. Do things for fun or simply because you are interested.
Your worth is not measured in what you do but in who you are.
Let me know what you think about this exercise in the comments.
If you are interested in performing this workshop in your organization or are looking for an experienced woman of color or Black motivational speaker to inspire your audience to action, request Monique Y. Murphy.
Monique is the award-winning author of Home For Hurricanes, and a passionate Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and Motivational Speaker and Leader in New York. She speaks about diversity, equity & inclusion, career, and resilience, customizing the content and experience to meet the desired outcomes of her clients.
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