Do You Know Your Story?
The story you tell yourself throughout your personal and professional life is one of the most important parts of building an excellent relationship with prospective employers, clients, prospects, and peers. You are the only person who can tell your story. And when you do, it will establish trust and a special connection with your listener. Whether you are on an interview, pitching new business, at a networking event, or on a first date, your story is what makes you intriguing and memorable. Click for one of my favorite professional story examples*
*My fascination with the Cuce Sisters’ story may or may not be influenced by the fact that I am #shoeobsessed and passionate about NFL football.
How to figure out your story
Think about your life and the people who have impacted your value system. Maybe it’s your mother and father. Maybe it’s a former boss or professor. Identify the key people in your tribe who can instill something important in you.
You have had pivotal life experiences that shaped you into the person you are today. Did you study abroad? Did you backpack the Continental Divide for 2 weeks? Did you have a “modern” family with siblings a plenty that made you a natural caregiver and responsible, diligent student? These are some of my character-building chapters, what are yours?
Throughout your life you will remember messages and events that were trying, even physically or emotionally traumatic. What happened after these tests? How did you prevail? Did it become a turning point for you, leading you to where you are now?
In a previous role at an agency in Chicago, my client was in the midst of being acquired by a parent company, creating a new corporate brand campaign, and a complete re-vamp of their website. The new campaign and entire website had to be reviewed and approved by a freshly appointed Legal, Medical, and Regulatory team and then submitted to the FDA. My successful navigation of these circumstances was contingent on accurate communication of the feedback from the external reviewers to our internal team and diligent management of timeline, deadline and budget. It one of the most challenging, rewarding experiences of my marketing career and 6 years later, to this day, I still keep in touch with my former client, the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications.
Current sitch: when you’re in a bad place
The people, events, and challenges and triumphs led you where you are today. If you do not like where you are, it could be because of the story you are telling yourself. I spent an hour skimming some of my old journals from 4 years ago. The patterns I found were a mixed bag of disappointments, inspirations, feeling lost, and hopeful. Note that journaling when you feel depressed can sometimes be bad for you. It can perpetuate wallowing and self-obsession. If you’re in a tough spot, it may be time to ask for assistance.
Current sitch: when you’re in a good place
Reviewing more recent writings, I noticed a consistent trending of positive, self-assured thoughts. That didn’t happen by accident – it was intentional. I sought guidance to become a better version of myself. I learned how to become an outsider to my thoughts and feelings, allowing me to simply observe them without judgment. I identified solutions and actions I could take towards a resolution. I became more solid and self-trusting. I was not surprised to find writings chock full of positive reinforcement of my values, gratitude for people in my life, and continuous forward momentum.
In the book, The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey, readers learn that Gandhi never used any notes for his speeches; he did not need to as he spoke from the heart. His thoughts were the same as his words. His words were the same as his actions. The quote below encapsulates Gandhi’s “no need for notes” beautifully:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Having a grasp on the story you not only tell yourself but also your interviewer, your clients, prospects, peers, and dates can solidify your professional and personal relationships and contribute towards your success.
Pick a story that includes influential people (in the previous example, my former client), include notes that reveal your values and work ethic (trust, communication, reliability), and a successful result (on-time launch of the new corporate website and an immense sense of professional accomplishment).
By revealing your meaningful previous experience to someone, you are genuine, earn their trust, and create a personal connection.