What’s your career story?
What’s the work you’ve always wanted to do, but don’t tell anyone about?
When someone else asks you, “What do you do?” you have a choice. You can either:
a) Tell them what they want to hear, which is what you currently do for work (even if it’s making you miserable).
b) Tell them what you really want to do for work (even if you aren’t doing anything about it yet).
Most people choose the first option because it’s safer. We crave social acceptance so much we’d rather hide our true identity. Unfortunately, this leaves us feeling guilty and anxious inside because we denied our true selves.
I want you to be comfortable with who you are. The first step is having the courage to tell your (true) career story.
If you want to transform your lifestyle to work on your terms, you need to own your true identity. You need to start telling the story of your career you’ve always wanted to tell.
I believe telling your story is the most important of the Life Skills That Matter because it is the moment when you commit to the change you want to make in your life.
Here are some “rules” for telling your career story.
Rule#1: Share What You Really Want To Do
If you know what you really want to do for work, tell people (even if you haven’t taken your first step down that path).
Don’t hold back, go for it! Focus on where you want your life to go, not what you are doing right now.
When you verbalize it publicly, the change you want starts taking on a life of its own. The possibility of the work becomes more real to you.
When you talk about the work you’ve always wanted to do, you’ll naturally sound more excited than talking about the work that, while it currently pays the bills, makes you feel unfulfilled.
Your conversation will be more engaging because other people will sense your excitement.
They’ll start asking you questions which will give you feedback and perspectives about how you can make your work possible.
You will leave a more memorable impression and you might even inspire the other person to do the work they’ve always wanted to do!
Rule #2: Share Your Motivation
As soon as you tell someone about the work you’ve always wanted to do, immediately tell them about your motivation for doing it.
Communicate your “why.” Your purpose. Your reason for making a change in your work.
People will be more engaged and even more inclined to offer you help if they believe your intentions are authentic. Communicating your motivation is the way to communicate your passion.
You might even share a personal story. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings.
So what’s my motivation for the work I want to do?
I believe everyone has a great untold story that deserves to be told. I want to help people give themselves permission to create that untold story by helping them design their lifestyle around the work they’ve always wanted to do.
Rule #3: How Are You Uniquely Qualified?
When we start thinking of the work we’ve always wanted to do, we unknowingly think of it as a new identity. In many ways it is.
However, that tempts us to throw out our current identity and all of our past experiences that led us to this point in our lives. That’s a big mistake.
Your past experiences have value. They provided you with marketable skills that you can use in new ways to support your new work. They are part of your new story.
When you talk to someone about what you want to do, share how your past experiences make you uniquely qualified to do it. How did they lead you here to take this next step? Show how they’re helping you work toward your new purpose.
For example, my work at CBS News helped me to tell stories. My work at dot-coms helped me understand the possibilities of the digital media. My work as a sales trainer taught me how to inspire people to change. My work as an entrepreneur helped me understand how to build communities.
All of those experiences have provided me with a unique set of qualifications to build a business like Life Skills That Matter.
Rule #4: Gauge Their Level of Interest
When you tell people about the work you’ve always wanted to do you, you might feel very vulnerable. That’s perfectly normal.
Telling your true story will change your life forever, and that’s scary. It’s a big unknown, but I think it’s a very exciting unknown because it’s on your terms.
Once you’ve told someone your story, you’ll want to gauge their level of interest. There are some people you want to avoid and others you want to engage. Here’s how to spot them:
Unfortunately, there are people that might just not care about the work you’ve always wanted to do. They won’t ask any follow-up questions. They might simply respond, “Good for you.” Just move along and recognize they aren’t your people.
Sometimes people will ask you follow up questions, but you’ll sense they really aren’t interested. They’re just being polite. Their questions are generic, and they don’t really ask you follow-up questions based on what you’ve said. Be polite in return, but as soon as you sense their disinterest, move along.
Don’t Get It
There will be some people who just plain don’t get what you are trying to do. Some tend to be more negative and others more positive about it.
You might feel like you are being interrogated by them. For those that give off a more negative vibe, just move along.
The more positive folks, however, can provide important feedback about the next steps you might want to take. If there are still struggling to grasp what you want to do, offer to keep them posted on your progress.
Pay attention to the people who are positive but confused about what you want to do. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your own understanding of your business idea that you lose perspective. Hearing from people who don’t know anything about self-employment can provide you with valuable feedback, a “reality check” in the best way possible.
Finally, you will meet people that are genuinely interested in the work you want to do.
They will have an engaged conversation with you. You might even feel a real connection with them. They might be as excited as you when they are talking. They might offer advice, help, or even to introduce you to someone.
These folks have the potential for becoming your most important advocates. As the conversation is wrapping up, ask if you can keep in touch and even try to focus on a concrete next step to build a relationship with them.
What to Say If You Don’t Know What You Want
Some of you might have no idea what you want to do, but you do know the work you’re currently doing is unsatisfying. It’s OK to tell people you are exploring your options. You can even let them know what kind of work you definitely don’t like to do and why.
Talking about your career path opens you up to new insights and perspectives that can help reframe your mindset, allowing you to recognize new possibilities.
What’s important is being true to yourself about where you are in life. You never know who you are going to run into that might change your life forever. It all starts with a simple conversation.
You Are a Work in Progress
The truth is we are all works in progress, including me.
As you begin to go down the path of the work you’ve always wanted to do, you will make adjustments to your story. Remember, always focus on your next step, so you entice people to keep track of your progress and provide them with opportunities to help you.
To boost your confidence about telling your story, write it down. Say it out loud in front of a mirror before you tell someone for the first time or tell a trusted family member, friend, or colleague.
When you do finally tell someone about the work you’ve always wanted to do, pay attention to how it feels. Personally, it is one of the most energizing feelings I’ve ever experienced in my life!
A Challenge For You
I coached a woman a couple of years ago who was frustrated by how she identified herself. She worked for a government scientific research lab by day, but was a novelist by night.
When people asked her what she did, she told them about her day job, even though she really wanted to tell them about her writing. She started to resent her day job even though she knew it enabled her the freedom to write without worrying about how to pay her bills.
I gave her a challenge. I told her anytime someone asks her, “What do you do?” she should proudly tell them she’s a writer. If they ask how she supports herself, then she can tell them about her day job.
A couple of weeks later we reconnected and I asked her how the challenge was going. She said it made an enormous change in her life.
It was hard the first few times, she admitted, but she felt energized by being her true self. She didn’t have to hide her true identity anymore. She was even surprised that a few people were interested in learning more about her writing.
Why did she feel frustrated in the first place? Her day job was stealing the limelight from her true purpose, writing.
Telling her real story made her feel less frustrated about her day job because she was able to put it in a new context. It now played an important supporting role to her leading role as a writer (even though she already knew that). This simple exercise immediately shifted her mindset about her potential opportunities.
I offer you the same challenge. The next time someone asks you, “What do you do?” tell them about the work you really want to do, or at least why you are exploring your work options.
Tell Me Your Career Story
Practice on me! I’d be honored if I was the first person you told.