What's your story?
When you look back over your career so far, does it make sense?
I don’t just mean does it demonstrate linear career progression – something I suspect an increasing number of people will struggle to do as careers become more fragmented – but, more importantly, does it reveal consistent themes that connect one role with another?
When I look back over my own (quite long!) career, I can list a range of roles:
teacher, entrepreneur, lecturer, adult education tutor, career consultant, literature festival programmer, interviewer, university career service manager, career coach, careers educator, blogger, book group convener
Some career changes have required re-training, others have relied on transferring skills and a record of success into a new context. But how can I make this a coherent story that a recruiter or potential client can understand and value?
Joining the Dots Backwards
In his Stanford commencement address, Steve Jobs famously claimed
‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.’
Well, I certainly agree that the dots you connect looking back over your career offer valuable insights.
But I also believe that the themes you can identify from HOW and WHY you made certain career transitions and choices can also inform what you create next and how that might be achieved.
Some career transitions are a reflection of changing personal circumstances, or evolving priorities, but others are a more direct expression of what matters most – your values and purpose.
By identifying the motivations that drove each shift in your career history, you can start to make sense of your personal career narrative.
Looking again at my own list of roles, it’s quite easy to identify some common skills and themes:
teaching, communicating, reading, innovating, leading, analysing, planning, delivering… and many others.
Joining the Dots Forwards
This is useful, but the more valuable thread in the story is what actually motivated each transition – the WHY.
By asking WHY I wanted to change from:
· being a secondary English teacher to creating and deliverng my own women returner programmes
· from running my own tuition business to lecturing in university
· from teaching academic writing to designing a university career service
· then promoting reading through an international literary festival
… only then does the real story starts to come into focus.
The common themes reflect:
who I love working with (adults who want to make changes in their lives)
the impact I want to have (empowering them to believe in and make their changes, and enjoy greater fulfilment)
why this matters to me (I value the freedoms of choosing to live a full and aligned life, and I want to inspire others to dare to create their own inspiring life)
Armed with this awareness, my career story is much more compelling.
This narrative identifies values and purpose – and together, these succeed not only in joining the dots looking backwards, but also outline a potential path for future, ‘joined up’ career decisions.
If you can tell your own coherent career story, and link it to why you are targeting your next role, you are much more likely to persuade a potential employer or client that you know where you’ve been, where you’re going, why that matters and how it relates to the next chapter.
And in practical terms you’ll also have the compelling answer to that perennial interview question ‘Tell me about yourself.’
Are you ready to shine the spotlight on your own career transitions and use that intelligence to tell your own story more clearly - or even choose a more fulfilling career path that allows you to express who you really are?
I’ve developed a simple resource to help you gain these valuable insights. Just leave me a yes in the comments, or send me a message and I’ll send your free Joining the Dots in Your Career Transitions workbook straight across.
This will undoubtedly give you a great starting point for a coherent career story.
What will you then choose to do with this knowledge? That will be the next exciting instalment of your ‘joined up’ story!