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!