One cornerstone of your professional brand is Focus – telling stories that convey your value.
In his book, The Power of Story: Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny in Business and in Life,” Jim Loehr notes that we tell stories to help us navigate through life because they provide structure and direction. The stories we tell give our lives meaning.
Loehr argues that the most important story we tell is the one we tell ourselves: “if you aren’t the author of your own story, you’re the victim of it.” At the heart of our story is purpose. Purpose gives our life story meaning, it is never small, but grand, heroic and epic, it’s our ultimate mission in life, that which continually renews our spirit. Our ultimate mission spells out our most overarching goals and how to achieve them.
As one of the four cornerstones of your professional brand (the others being Purpose, Clarity and Strategy), Focus is about the stories you tell that convey the value you bring.
Are you telling the story about your career that you want people to hear? Are you telling it in a way that they can hear it?
Regardless of where you are in in your career – looking to achieve the next level, from tactician to strategic decision maker; or as a senior leader to an organization – you need to tell a story that demonstrates value.
If you’re relying on old stories, you won’t be successful in achieving your goal. If you’re a subject matter expert that wants to rise to a leadership role, and you are telling stories of your technical prowess, you’re not showing how you can exercise leadership. If you’re a senior leader that relies on stories emphasizing 25 to 30 years experience, you’re telling potential employers that you’re too old, too experienced, too expensive.
Your story needs to convey value. Stories that speak to responsibilities don’t show accomplishments; stories that begin with 20 plus years experience, don’t demonstrate current value.
So how do you tell a story that conveys value? This is one of the most difficult challenges for people seeking new positions. What you do well, you do intuitively. You don’t think about it. You come into a situation, size up the challenge and act. While you’re often relying on past experience, you’re also influencing outcomes, that is, creating value.
Your story needs to show how you have influenced positive outcomes; how you’ve improved the situation. This is not reflected in technical competence or in past responsibilities. It’s reflected in accomplishments.
Tell your story in a way that can be heard by the potential employer. First, it needs to be relevant to their situation. If you’re telling a story that’s not relevant, you’re not conveying value. Second, your story needs to be concise. Briefly outline the challenge; describe your actions to resolve the challenge and conclude with results – the impacts of your actions. Sometimes, these results are expressed quantitatively – revenues generated, costs saved, sales increased. Other times they’re qualitative results. Regardless, make sure you convey their significance.
So can you tell stories that reveal accomplishments; that show how you’ve influenced positive outcomes; that demonstrate value? Can you tell them briefly and succinctly?
What’s your story?
This post originally appeared in the Portland Press Herald on July 30, 2014.