The Power of Your Story to Catalyze Change

The richness of our narratives shapes our character, defines our path, and seals our legacy.

The individual encounters we have throughout our our lives; those small moments when we experience a win. When we break into a new career field and reinvent ourselves. When we decide to fire an underperforming employee. The moment when we pick up our self respect and walk out of a toxic job situation.

Likewise, the moments when we encounter racism, sexual harassment at work or even in the streets as we’re simply walking home from our day. These are the stories that define us. They are a culmination of our lived experiences that what makes us who we are. Our stories are born out of those experiences. Those lived experiences that happen to us in isolation are also experienced by the collective.

So why should our stories matter in the context of running our own business, making an impact, and playing a bigger game in the world?

Simple. Without your story, how will change for the better happen?  Without your story, how will you know who you are or where you are going? Without your unique perspective, how will they know you are the right person to hire/fund/lead the team/work with?

Our stories give the work we do deeper meaning and adds a dimension that humanizes our business. Through our stories, you see the real person behind the logo. It provides an opportunity to create real connections, bond over common values, and be a bit more conscious in how we buy and sell. As leaders going for it, storytelling helps you rally the team behind an initiative, win clients, and woo partners. As a tribe, when people share their stories, amazing things happen, and in that “me too” moment, you feel empowered and emboldened. We get the push we need to leap and live our truth.

Your story must encompass these 4 elements.

  1. Be Authentic

  2. Be Relatable

  3. Get the listener to feel something

  4. Inspire action

5 elements for you to begin crafting your story:

    • How did you come to do this work? Look for the hook that will capture hearts and minds. This can be: defining moments that changed your life, triumphs you’ve had, painful challenges you overcame, lessons learned, etc. Dig deep.

    • What are the top 3 values that show up in your story? Courage. Authenticity. Reinvention.  Freedom. Equality. Purpose. Etc. These are the components that create connection and impact for your clients or your audience.

    • What’s the energy behind your story?  Inspiring, educational, victim to victory, reflective, visionary, to evoke shock, influence, etc. Focus on the intention behind your story.

    • Write out a script and revise.

    • Practice, practice, practice.

I recommend having 2-3 defining stories handy. That way depending on the setting and who your listener is, you can share the story most relevant to the situation.

Your Story in Action

So you have your story, know what? Test it out!

Share it with your colleagues at networking events. Use it in your elevator pitch. Weave it in when you’re guest speaking on a podcast or on stage at your next speaking event. The possibilities are endless. Your stories are endless.

Choose the stories that you are most inspired to share. The rest will fall into place.

What’s in A Selfie: Why Posting Self Photos Are An Essential Piece of Your Brand

Selfie photographs are not new. It is only recently that self portraitures emerged as a global phenomenon. Historically, self portraits were usually produced by the elite and revered. Fancy pants people who were adored, from artists to politicians. Now, anyone with a smartphone can be instantly zapped into stardom with just a selfie stick and a click.

Google estimates that roughly 24 billion selfies were taken in one year alone. A quick hashtag search for #selfies will yield you over 342 million post results on Instagram.

It’s no doubt we are living in a selfie-nation.

In my work, I most often come across three types of people: the selfie lovers, the dabblers, and then there’s people like me who hate the idea of being in photos. It’s why I spent years BEHIND the camera instead of in front of it.

Over the years, I’ve embraced a new idea. As the woman behind Project She Went For Her Dreams, a global brand that champions this movement of building a legion of confident women in business, I knew that I had to stop hiding behind my work and start being the face of it.

I was inspired by my mentor and many other countless women change-makers who unapologetically capture themselves in a good ‘ol fashioned selfie every now and then while giving absolutely no fucks about what others think of them while doing so.

And isn’t that what stops many of us? The fact that we care a little too much about what others think of us. There’s a little voice in our head that says, who am I to post this photo of myself? And another voice that says, who do you think you are, some sort of celebrity? Or we may buy into this false sense of humility, that shames us for daring to tie our name and face to the work that we do.

This is a problem I see mostly as women, while the men of our time have no issues being front and center of their work and accomplishments.

Without going too deeply into the social conditioning and systemic challenges women face as it relates to being seen and credited for their work, we can all agree that self promotion has always been a tough nut to crack for women.

I’m in favor of women amplifying their professional platforms and with that building mediums of expression and communication -- including the selfie. Selfies have an incredible ability to create a magnetizing power. Whether snapshots taken “on the go” or posed and non-spontaneous, the visual aesthetic of a person captured in their essence, helps us create an understanding of ourselves and establishes our existence to those around us.

In a world where we are our own brand builders, here’s a few statements that make the case for selfies as a brand advantage.

  1. Selfies are a form of self expression

  2. Selfie’s build trust

  3. Selfies humanizes you

  4. Selfies are an extension of your career

  5. Selfies are a form of reputation management where you can control how you are perceived

  6. Selfies can be empowering and encourage motivation and online support

Selfies, while they can be used as a form of self expression, they can also be dangerous forms of validation and sources of approval that if mishandled can drain you of all self esteem.

"The key is to make sure you avoid the psychological pitfalls. If you’re so keen to promote your ‘brand’ that you start to become reliant on likes and validation as a key to your success and if you just identify yourself as a brand, your self-esteem can become solely based on your pictures. You relinquish your control to people you don’t know and negative comments can be very hard to deal with." - Dr. Aaron Balick, Psychotherapist.

If you have a service, a mission, a cause you believe in, are an activist, a change-maker, thought leader, and have a message you want to get out to the world, make selfies a vibrant part of how you express that yourself and grow your platform.

Now I'm off to lunch to grab lunch at a beautiful Mediterranean bistro in midtown. The spicy shrimp risotto looks amazing. But first, let me take a selfie.

When You Don't Feel Qualified

"God is going to send you places you don't feel qualified to go. God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the CALLED!"

When I posted this quote on my Instagram a few days ago, it got double the likes of my normal posts. I knew this one struck a cord with a lot of folks. It was one of those posts that when I read the words, I stopped what I was doing and gave it my full attention. He qualifies the called.

I find that so many of us, especially women but some men too, often don’t feel qualified to step into the next chapter of their career story. If it’s a book we want to write, we disqualify ourselves by saying, I’m not a writer. If it’s a new role we want to take on at work, we disqualify ourselves because we don’t have enough experience. If we want to start a business but don’t consider ourselves savvy enough. If we want to change directions completely and go into a career path that is completely foreign to us, we disqualify ourselves because we don't have a Master's in that field. When we feel called into something we've never done before, we instantly feel unqualified for the job. We begin measuring ourselves by what we don't have rather than focusing on the strengths we already possess.


I believe we all have intrinsic qualities that sometimes lie dormant untilthe moment we need to call on them. Like the new mother whose never parented before, she’s filled with all sorts of nerves and anxiety over being responsible for another human life. But the moment she steps into it, she realizes motherhood is as innate to her as being good at finance or bringing friends together.


We almost always feel uncertain about venturing into unknown territory. The doubts are just a natural part of being human. We crave growth but a big part of the growth process is not always feeling ready for the thing you want to grow into. We must give ourselves permission to venture into unknown territory and the room to grow within spaces that at first seem too big. You won’t know what greatness you’re truly capable of until you allow yourself to be great. While you may not believe you have what it takes for that next big step, consider that there is an untapped part of you that was born for it.

Now it’s your turn. What are you feeling the call to do? What if stepping into it, made you more qualified?


Project She Went for Her Dreams has openings for 5 new clients. If you’re feeling the call to greatness, get started with filling out our application.
 
Cheers to your dreams,
 
Ariane

 

Leaving the Herd

The herd mentality is pervasive throughout our culture. Researchers discovered that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 per cent follow without realizing it. We find safety in numbers. When we belong to a group, this makes us feel warm, safe, and content. Having a sense of belonging is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s how we build community and connection. However, when we succumb to a programmed, unconscious way of existing, we sacrifice individuality in favor of comfort. This showed up for me in my career in a profound way.

In my mid-twenties, I moved to NYC after grad school to start my career in corporate but the 9-5 thing quickly ran its course. Looking out of my office window down to the street below and seeing the tiny hoards of people during the height of rush hour make their way to work. The same way they had done previously the day before and the day before that. I had become one of them. I was part of the herd. I realized that the corporate cubicle life wasn’t for me.  So while most of my peers worked traditional jobs and climbed the corporate ladder, I had the nutty idea to leave the pack and start my own business.

Herding in our careers

I am always fascinated by how we choose our career path. But what I found is that we oftentimes choose our professions by default, not intention. We fall into a career because someone told us we should get into it or it just seemed like a good idea. An example of this could be following our parent’s advice to become a lawyer or go into finance because it’s stable and lucrative. Good advice but can become problematic down the line if you don’t truly love the work.

Breaking away

I believe one of the ultimate acts of leaving the herd is: the decision to stop following and lead.

Three things will happen when you decide to break away from the herd and how to handle it:

1.      Isolation. Leaving the herd can be a lonely place. Seek community immediately! Join groups of likeminded people who value thinking differently and freely. You can find them in meetup groups, within your community, shared spaces like co working offices, and events.

2.     Odd looks. Be ready for awkward conversations and puzzled looks from your friends & family. You may even get naysayers that challenge you or try to tell you it’s a bad idea. This is normal. People fear those who leave the pack but secretly they yearn to do the same. Be the example. Sometimes your decision to be bold inspires other to do the same.

3.     Temptation to return to the heard. It’s hard to walk to the beat of your own drum and dance when no body else hears the music. Resist the urge to go back to your comfort zone. Only you get to decide if herd life is for you or being the bold, daring black sheep.

Leading as the black sheep

The choice to be different is just that, a choice. If you’re someone who challenges convention and loathes conformity, you just might be a black sheep. Embrace it and do not hide. Our differences are what make us come alive. Being the black sheep is taking the lead for your own life, knowing what is best for you and acting on that knowledge unapologetically. Naturally, you will have those who you will inspire so being a black sheep is not just about you, but those you impact. Leaving the herd can be costly, but worth the price of admission.

Crafting Your Professional Narrative

What’s your story?

You know that thing you say to people that solidifies your entire work history and vision within a few sentences? Oh! You don’t have one? Well, today you’re in luck. I’m going to teach you how you can build a compelling, strong professional narrative so that when you get asked the inevitable question, “So, what do you do?” or “Tell me about yourself” so you can answer with confidence and ease.

But first things first.

Ariane, why do I even need one?

Great question. Most of us walk around with a hazy idea of our professional identity. It can be hard to articulate who we are and what we do and want to do in a clear and concise way. We have gotten by just winging it or saying our role and the company we work for, i.e. I’m the VP at Goldman Sachs. The problem with this is that it gives the listener an incomplete picture of you, it stops the conversation short, and can limit your own confidence in defining your professional path. The story you tell about who you are and how you operate which is supremely important to not only hiring managers but to investors, collaborators, sponsors, co-workers, or even your clients.

If you’re someone who is seeking a career change, building your professional brand as a leader or expert, or even if you’re an entrepreneur looking to grow your business, having a solid career narrative is key to making it happen.

So, what is it exactly?

Let’s start with what it is not. Your professional narrative is not:

  • Your resume
  • Your LinkedIn profile
  • Your Business card
  • Your role or title

What it is:

  • It tells where you are coming from and where you are going.
  • It’s your sense of purpose, or your mission.
  • It’s your compass in navigating uncertainty and an unstable marketplace.
  • It’s an opening to deeper conversation and connection.
  • It’s an opportunity to create a positive first impression at professional events or social settings.

The conversation of sharing your career story can last anywhere between 5-7 minutes. It is not just a pitch but an opportunity for deep meaningful connection. The key is to shift into the mindset of sharing, connection, and curiosity.

How do I create one? 

The 7 elements for you to consider in developing your career story are:

1.     Who are you, where you’ve been and where are you going?

Your previous experiences both in life and professionally shapes your core beliefs, value system, and the desired impact you’d like to make. Look at these experiences like chapters of a book. These are events that have built your character and determine your leadership style. Envision what you want your next career chapter to be and how you want to get involved.

How would you describe your career path to date? What career milestones have you hit? What challenges have you overcome? Epiphanies received? What are you now interested in exploring?

2.    Look for the common thread that bounds your story together.

Whether you’ve been in the same field your entire career, starting in a new direction, if you have a side hustle or all of the above, there is bound to be one or two things that ties them all together. Perhaps the thread might be teaching, impacting others, storytelling, problem solving, etc. Be open and curious in discovering the thread because two seemingly different fields of work may reveal a powerful connection.

3.    Define your core purpose in 20 words or less:

What do you really aspire to do? What lights you up and makes you come alive? What frustrates you (think: societal challenges, personal frustrations or concerns)? What do you want to accomplish in work and life? Why is this important to you?

Draft a phrase of 20 words or less that describes your purpose? Write from your gut and reflect on your responses. Does your purpose move you?

4.    Who are you here to help?

Who do you really want to serve? Be around? Learn from and impact?

Consider - environment, family issues, group of people, education, media, government, healthcare, energy, health/nutrition, government, business, non‐profits, human development, animal rights, human rights, technology, etc.

5.    Define your desired tone.

How do you want to present yourself to the world? What is your authentic voice? Are you shy and reserved? Introverted? Extroverted? Humble? Funny? Passionate? Bold? Envision all of your actions being influenced by your tone and keep it simple.

What’s the energy behind your story? Include energizing words:

  • “I believe”
  • “I’m passionate about”,
  • “I love”,
  • “I get excited about”,
  • “I’m obsessed with” (i.e.“I’m obsessed with finding creative solutions to higher diversity and inclusion in the tech field” or “I’m obsessed with helping women find and express their voice”)

6.    End with an open-ended question.

Use your professional narrative has a conversation starter, not just a statement. Remember the goal is to create a meaningful memorable positive connection. Follow up with an open-ended question that ties into your story.

  • What kind of work lights you up?
  • What are you working on lately that inspires you?

7.    Continually revise and practice, practice, practice!

Crafting your professional narrative will take some time so be patient and stick with it. Once you've have it, practice saying it out loud with a mentor, colleague, coach, or someone you trust.

To give you a better idea of what it would look like, here's an example of mine:

“I love helping bold women get their big ideas out into the world. In the last decade, I’ve always found myself in roles helping trailblazers, thought leaders, big thinkers, change makers, and creatives to uncover their unique essence and get their work out there in a meaningful way. I enjoy having move-the-needle conversations that go beyond the surface and lead to transformational change in our lives and businesses. What big ideas are you working on right now?"

Crafting your narrative is one of the best things you can do for yourself in telling your own career story rather than having one defined for you. Hopefully this guide helps but if you need more support with creating your narrative, work with me to get started. Schedule a free session with me today!

10 Tips for the Career Conscious Professional (Part III)

The last few weeks, I've shared part I and II of my 10 tips for aligning your career with purpose. Many of you responded with your comments especially for tips #3 and #6. Today, I'm thrilled to share with you the final four tips. They are:

7.  Assume Success
Begin with the end goal in mind and decide that what you want is possible to achieve.  Whether it is a new job, higher pay, or successful relationships; it all begins with a shift in attitude and the mentality of success. When you believe that you will be successful, you begin to take actions that support that belief. Switch every doubtful thought you have for more empowering supportive one’s and see what differences you notice.

8.  Accept Failure
Failure is a breakthrough in disguise. Learn to embrace it and see past any feelings of defeat and embarrassment. For every failure you experience is an opportunity to see what worked and what didn’t work. Be willing to learn with failure as your teacher.

9.  Be Gentle On Yourself
We can be our own worst critic especially when making a major life move like changing careers or starting a new business. The stress makes us more prone to negative self-talk, taking on too much, inadequate rest, and skipping meals. Remember, you are no good to anyone when you’re tired or burnt out. It is not selfish to take care of your needs before others. Learn to make self-care a top priority and practice doing things that help replenish your energy and elevate your mood.

10.  Start From Where You Are
You have everything you need in this current moment to take you to the next level in your career. Never lose sight of this. Be grounded and put one step in front of the other, one moment at a time. Each moment is a clean slate to a fresh start.

I hope that you will join me in integrating these tips in your work and personal wellbeing. Like exercise, we must keep practicing and repeating to see results. Print out all 10 tips and put them in a place where you'll see them everyday (Click here to download).

Practice them well and keep me posted on how it goes….ariane@arianehunter.com.

P.S. Know a few women who are going through a shift in their career? Share the 10 Tips with them: http://bit.ly/LrNWEz