If you’re among the millions of Americans who decided to leave their jobs in the past year, then you’ll likely find yourself preparing to interview for new positions now or in the near future.
To help you land your new dream job, an important thing to consider is your “career story,” which is basically a narrative that tells the story of your professional life clearly and honestly, and in a way that will convince people of your transferable skills. This is something that is especially important if you’re looking to change direction completely. Honing your story will help you deliver better elevator pitches, finesse networking conversations, present your resume, cover letter, and eventually interview well.
Though the form and length of your story will vary depending on your circumstances, the best career stories start with these five steps.
Decide on your storyline
First things first—for a compelling career story, you need to know who you are and be able to articulate a general backdrop of your identity that includes where you’re coming from, what you’re looking for, why you’re ready for a new role, what you’re looking for in a company, and what you can bring to the table for the hiring company.
Once you’ve figured out the meat of your story, each networking meeting, interview, and answer given should align with this story. The narrative doesn’t have to be linear (it can include exciting pivots or weave its way from one point to another) but the key is to establish its trajectory beforehand.
Develop your character
As the storyteller, it’s your objective to paint a winning picture of yourself, but in an authentic way. As one senior recruiter puts it: “I get turned off when candidates tell me things they think I want to hear. They might say, ‘I’m goal-driven,’ but I want to know what makes them goal-driven. I want to find out about them personally. When I do meet with a genuine person who speaks from the heart, they get my attention more than 100 resumes do.”
Try to pinpoint what your best qualities are and highlight those. Also, be sure to remember that your story is exactly that—a story. It doesn’t have to be focused on work experience alone, but also on other accomplishments that you’re proud of, or other areas and experiences that you feel you truly learned from.
Have a message
Once you have your story trajectory and main character down, it’s time to develop your message. Establishing a strong and consistent message about who you are will invigorate your conversations. More often than not, your job journey is not decided during a one-off interview but is a culmination of the many encounters you have along the way, so ensure that all of the meetings, chats, and discussions you have are cohesive with the message you decide on.
Structure your scripts
So, you’ve followed all the steps and now have a clear broad story and message. Now, you’re ready to write out scripts for each encounter. For every occasion, be it a networking event, initial interview, a meeting with someone that you’re hoping will provide you a reference, or final call-back, you’ll want your script to be well structured and thought out. Each script should have four parts:
- An opening or grabber
- Your message
- Reasons that support your message
- Engagement or a call to action
Learn your lines
Lastly, you’ll have to learn your lines. While reading over your scripts and quietly internalizing the message will help, practicing out loud is the best way to learn your career story inside out. Practice delivering it to yourself first, and then when you’re ready, try it out on a trusted friend or family member. If rehearsing with someone else isn’t an option, try recording yourself with your phone or computer camera so that you can analyze your performance and note areas you can improve upon.
If you do all of this, then you’ll be better prepared to present yourself and your career story with confidence and enthusiasm that will hopefully inspire others to seek you for their team and get you the job you’ve always dreamed of.