When you reflect on all the jobs you've ever held, some will be especially relevant to your career narrative, and others will not. Your job is to tell the story of how you've developed into the professional you are now. Remember the career highlights, the unexpected obstacles, the talents and skills you've honed and the most influential people and organizations who have shaped who you are.
Much like an elevator pitch -- when you've got 60 seconds or less to tell a wealthy person why your idea is a good business investment -- your career narrative must be simple enough to retell and remember easily. You want your audience to be able to retell it your way, too. It's better to have a career narrative you've created and not to let people in your network define your career journey in their words. A strong narrative connects what you've done in the past with the specific opportunities you require now to develop yourself toward your individual career goals.
Heidi K. Gardner and Adam Zalisk offer an example of a weak career narrative on the Harvard Business Review blog: "I wanted to work in biotech, so that's why I joined the firm. I've had a lot of experience in labs, and I'm still considering graduate school." This narrative gives paltry information about where the individual has worked -- in labs -- and a couple of goals -- biotech work or graduate school. It lacks direction or continuity between past, present and future. Instead, create a bridge for the audience that makes your story easy to follow.
Share a story-based approach to your career progression, especially to help potential employers or senior leaders in your organization understand what next projects would benefit you. Rewrite a short career narrative to be stronger and more informative. Here's the weak example of the lab worker revisited: "The science labs I worked in during my college years helped me develop an affinity for helping health care clients. I also grew more confident at using quantitative skills on the financial side of health care. Now I would like to work for business clients in other industries and choose the industry that's best for me."
Use your background to help you write a narrative. Consider questions like these: What did you want to be when you grew up? What is your ideal career? How did you get into your present career? How can you move from your present job to your ideal career? You'll probably find powerful stories and moments in your life and maybe excuses and habits that have been holding you back. Cull your career narrative into a memorable story of one to three sentences and make it authentic. Your voice must be evident throughout the story.
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