The importance of knowing and owning your story

By Timothy Castle, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

Timothy-CastleRecently I have been intrigued by the number of times I have been asked ‘so tell me what’s happening?’ in relation to my career by a potential employer, mentor or advisor. I have recognised just how critically important it is to be able to articulate my story at a moment’s notice and that it’s an increasingly valuable skill to have on my tool belt.

So many times in this world we have opportunities to shine, to share details of our story with others that can elevate our careers or make transitions into new fields more seamless. A key driver of whether transformation happens is the relevance of the information we reveal and if we’re memorable.

Another thing that got me thinking was over the past couple of months I attended a raft of start-up events all geared around securing investment. One of the key takeaways I got from all of these was that during the pitching process, there is a formula for success. Keep it short, sharp and hit the highlights first. It was then the light bulb went off, could this advice from some of the world’s top investment firms be applied to my own life to serve me better on my journey? Well in fact, yes it could. If I don’t take the time to understand how to authentically and succinctly convey my own message, I run the risk of losing opportunities to connect that could further advance my career. Companies spend millions of dollars a year and dedicate countless hours on marketing all to get the right message. It’s foolish to think that I don’t need to do the same, well, minus the millions of dollars. Ultimately, it is counterintuitive to my own business objectives and my career progression.

Similarly to the start-up world, where a product is geared towards certain investors at different stages of growth, so must we apply this same agility to our own story as career minded, forward-focused achievers who adapt to appeal to the markets at different stages of our growth.

What I’ve realised is how important it is to share my vision with others, yet if I don’t dedicate adequate resource to developing and crafting my own story, then my plan is flawed. Prior to this realisation, my default answer was to begin with my job title and work backwards from there, mentioning a few key achievements.

What I have found is that knowing and owning my story is easier when it’s broken down into three areas.

Future, Job, You.

Future

By starting out describing my aspirations first (future) I allow the receiver to understand my goal for the maximum amount of time possible. Therefore, they can start to figure out how they can help. I believe there is an element of psychology to this. By getting your listener to visualise where you want to be at the start, they imagine you in that job, role or company. So you have started with the possibility that it can happen and worked backwards through the obstacles almost like a top down approach. Rather than building it from where you are now with the mindset that if you do all of this then and only then might it be possible.

Job

People need to know who you help and how. This gets you to think about the very core of your job role. Keep it short and sharp and hit the highlights.

You

Make it authentic and demonstrate what makes you different.

No longer is my job title my story – it’s about being creative with what I have so it can be delivered with maximum impact.

Your story, your journey and your goals – own it and love it, for this is the tool that’s going to transport you from A to B. This is the vehicle to practise with friends, family, even the local coffee shop guy and if you have the opportunity take it. Get that practise.

So the next time someone asks you ‘so what’s been happening?’ You can start with what’s about to be happening, move through your successes and finish with the key differentiator that makes you memorable.

Remember people love a story; they just need to know where they can fit in.

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