Happy New Year!
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a great time for quiet reflection. A friend who was in Nashville for the holidays gave me something to chew on, and share, with you in this letter.
Matt is a new friend and was asking lots of “getting to know you” questions during our lunch. I confess I usually feel a bit uncomfortable in situations like this because it seems like my work history is a mess. He helped me think about the context of my career and I realized how critical this is. The context of our experiences , the circumstances, situation, and background we come from, matter.
Some (like me) in their 60s, who aren’t ready to retire and have lots to contribute, are worried that they are “too old.”
New college grads worry they don’t have any “real world” experiences to draw on.
We each need a story, a context, to help others (and ourselves!) quickly see what we bring to the table.
Whether you’re a company leader, looking at your people, or trying to decide your next career move, context matters.
The reason context is so important is because humans love stories. We love to hear them. We use stories to help make sense of our lives, to give us meaning and purpose. Each of us has a unique story to tell.
How you tell your career story can be the difference between success and failure.
Here are some great examples of career stories—of people I know.
One man dropped out of high school and went on to found a successful startup, and, remarkably, a successful CEO. He is now an executive with a large publicly traded tech firm. The context of his experience makes a compelling story.
Then there is Mike, who was an executive for several companies whose products are in your cupboards. He was able to make the transition from a leader with armies of people to CEO (very successful!) of a company with fewer than 100 employees. In my experience (interviewed dozens of Fortune execs), this is one of the most difficult transitions anyone can make.
- Teachers who have moved to success in business;
- Tech leaders who run local non profits that have nothing to do with technology
- Video game playing nerd who recently graduated college
- Software Scrum-master who sees how Agile practices can transform an entire organization
- Full time parents who realize they have a slew of important people management skills from learning to communicate with small children
- Volunteers who raise money, put on events, etc. who are incredible leaders and managers.
What possibilities might they draw on to craft a compelling story?
How to find your story
First, you have to see your life in a positive light.
I was reading the personal inventory (an exercise I give) of one my clients and was impressed by her significant accomplishments. Then I read her answer to "what did you learn from doing this exercise?" and was stunned that she only saw the things she hadn’t done, rather than her entire body of work.
While you may (as I did) find new perspectives by feedback from others about your story, don’t stop there. You have to tell your own story!
- Take the time to do it for yourself.
- Don't discount your own story
- See your life as a "body of work"
Here’s my story (yes, I take my own medicine!)—
I took my friend’s advice and here is what I came up with. I hope this helps you craft your story.
My background in performing arts, classical music, my early ethical grounding from Christianity, plus decades of experience in: Sales, Management, Technology, Talent Management in multiple industries ranging from high tech to financial services is capped by my MBA in 2009. I learned that while I was the oldest, I was not necessarily the smartest, in the room. I discovered the capability and creativity of my younger peers and benefited by all they had to teach me. This is my story as I move forward and expand my consulting work in innovation strategies.
I hope this personal example helps you craft your story.
As you can see, crafting your story requires perspective and objectivity. While coaching is great, the costs add up quickly. It takes a team to craft a great career experience.
This is what I was thinking about when I created the Corner Office Guide course. How could I provide information from decades of experience and the intimacy of personal coaching?
I have been working very hard to bring my new five-sesion self-directed course to life, The Corner Office Guide. Well, I'm excited to say, I'm finished!
This course was inspired by much of the work I did with my clients, many of whom are you. I was inspired by the sharing of their dreams, frustrations, failures and successes. I combined this inspiration with my knowledge of the inner workings of search firms, HR departments, and enterprise hiring practices to create this cohesive five week course and I want you to have first access to it.
The program provides my best thinking on how to craft a career of purpose and meaning that pays well. You can get the benefits of coaching at a fraction of the cost PLUS the extra benefits that come from the collective wisdom of others in a collaborative, private mastermind group.