In today's society there's a greater need for connection, authenticity and real relationships, primarily because social media has kept us at arms length.
Many of us are also experiencing information overload, which is anesthetizing us to the information we receive. As a result, it's hard to stand out, get noticed and rise above the white noise of the other 8 million people in the digital space.
So how do you make your mark and send a message to your tribe of people? You guessed it, by constructing and sharing a compelling professional narrative. A powerful story can be useful for you when trying to land a promotion, advance your career or grow your small entrepreneurial business.
Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. We've used stories to educate as well as teach us lessons of morality or the difference between good and evil. From the time we were read fables as children through the time we've read some of the greatest novelists of our time, or from reading comic books to watching them come alive on the big screen, we've always been captivated by a great story.
Stories are such an effective mechanisms for teaching and connecting because they allow others to expand their experiences and therefore, their knowledge. Our brains learn best through experiences. The more we do something the greater the learning is reinforced. When we can find a personal connection to story, it's as if we've experienced it first hand, and therefore, our learning can be reinforced.
Use your professional narrative to give you a competitive advantage, brand loyalty and help you build relationship to those who can be inspired and transformed by your personal tales.
The Key Components of a Great Story
There are three key steps to developing your narrative.
First you need to develop your origin story. This is a story that comes from an event or experience that helped to define why you chose a particular career, or to work for a specific company, or the work you do, or why you work with a particular client.
The core components of your origin story will mimic the hero's journey, which is the classic structure of a narrative. Consider any number of the Marvel and DC origin movies that have come out over the years. Our hero (a) goes out, then (b) encounters and successfully overcomes a crisis -- either of conscious or an external experience, and then (c) comes out of it transformed or changed.
Next you want to be sure to edit your story. When you're sharing your story you have to make sure not to get lost in the details. Get clear on which pieces are important to story and which aspects have no real bearing on the point you're trying to make.
Just keep in mind that sometimes less is more.
Finally you need to connect the dots. The entire point of constructing a professional narrative is connect to the listener. If you're story is designed to connect to your ideal client then craft a story that will help them see themselves in your story or how the story relates to them personally.
If on the other hand you're crafting a story gain employment, shift careers or get that promotion, be sure to tie that back to why you want the position and how you could benefit the company.
In either case you want to highlight your values and beliefs and how they're aligned to either the companies mission or your client's values and beliefs. This will ensure your story is a success.
Here's my narrative (which can be found on my About page):
Driving home from my office one Sunday early evening I was in a massive car accident. That's the bad news. The good news is I'm still here. I'm here because right before the crash I heard a voice say "turn now!"
Now when I heard the voice I was literally stuck between a rock (a hill) and a hard place (a cliff), so my options were less than optimal, but I listened...I turned.
When we make choices in life, the options are rarely polar opposites. They're usually variations of the same, which is why we struggle with choice. What voice do you hear inside that's telling you to "turn now" that you're ignoring because the options seem less than optimal?
While my choices were challenging in that car that Sunday evening, what I knew for sure was that staying the course would have been the end of me. And while I was injured, as I noted before, I'm still here!
So what I've learned from this accident and the months that followed is that when you hear a strong voice inside you that says it's time to turn....listen! Even through it looks like you're stuck between a rock and a hard place there's always an opening.
I not only turned my car that night, I made a complete turn in my life and my career. I stepped into my purpose unapologetically. Now I teach women to listen to that voice, find their opening AND to step into their purpose on the other side.
Once you've constructed your story you'll want to practice. It's not about memorizing it perfectly because you want some fluidity in your delivery. Practicing allows you to remember your main points and feel confident in your delivery. Don't forget to be energetic, passionate, reverent and enthusiastic as you tell your story.