Telling your professional story can set the stage for your future of work — for to see yourself and experiences differently and for others to know what is important to you. You can find inspiration from multiple sources to build your story. Read on for some methods from design thinking, acting, and cooking.
Design thinking is a popular method to tackle a multitude of problems, including finding your career voice.
One of the steps of design thinking is ideation, coming up with many ideas that can be used to solve a single problem. An example of a problem that you might want to solve is how to find your professional story-your past, present, and future self. Step outside of yourself and brainstorm as many options as possible as if you were looking at yourself from the outside. What have you done already? What do you hope to do next? What possibilities exist? It is helpful to get out as many ideas as possible without judgment.
Turn off your immediate “yes, but” reaction and replace it with “yes, and.”
“Yes, and” is a popular improv game that helps build listening, thinking on your feet, and creativity. I find it to be a helpful mindset shift that has allowed me to be more open to listening to others, and more importantly in considering wild ideas that I would not have thought about otherwise. What would it look like for you to think about your career future without regards to salary, job location, or what your parents, spouse, or friends think. This will allow your real voice to come through and you might even surprise yourself with what you hear. Perhaps you will see many ideas or even see a theme. Take your best three ideas, the ones that speak to you best, and start developing a narrative that could be the basis of your story. Remember, this is a time to imagine and play and think of yourself differently.
Once you have your talking points, rehearse them. Out loud. With others.
Think like an actor during rehearsal learning all about a character’s voice. At a workshop I attended a few years ago, an actor said, “when actors rehearse, they improvise, they play, they find the character’s voice.” She went on to say that the others in the cast provide feedback and help develop the story. Likewise, your story will get better with practice and feedback. Practice in a low stakes way — with friends and trusted colleagues. Even after just a few rounds your story will get clearer, your voices stronger, and the delivery more confident.
Now that you have the basics of your content, your ingredients, and you’ve practiced a bit with your technique, you can turn to the delights of cooking.
Try out your voice and see how it changes in different situations. Think of your story as a dish that you can make without looking at a recipe, the dishes you have practiced many times that you have the ingredients memorized. Sometimes you might need to change up the recipe to add a different flavor or for a different take on the dish. This will help you to be prepared for your tested stories to have different nuances depending on the situation. An interview, networking conversation, or a meeting with professional colleagues might require you to refine, change, and flavor your basic recipe of talking points.
While design thinking, acting, and cooking are all quite different and are not about telling your professional story, they all provide insights in developing your story.