Sharing Your Power Story
In my blog post Four Areas of Focus to Get That Promotion, I called out the importance of being able to share your story in a powerful way. It is a critical skill, not only for getting promoted or landing a new job, but for building relationships, trust and credibility.
Having the courage to share your story and to embrace the stories of others, allows you to create what is by far your MOST valuable career asset – your network.
We all have a story in our mind about who we are, what we are capable of and what we’ve done with our lives thus far. Our stories consist of a small number of objectively defensible facts (degrees, job titles, company name, awards, etc.) and a whole lot of optional and subjective thoughts. The power of your story is determined by the power of the thoughts you have about those facts…not by the facts themselves.
The ability to share your story in a powerful way requires you to embrace your amazing self and to know your audience.
Embracing Your Amazing Self
Most of us are really good at connecting to the “average”, “pretty good” or somewhat “duller” version of ourselves. We often choose to look at our achievements and experiences as if they are not that big a deal or not good enough. This isn’t surprising when many of us, particularly if we’ve been socialized as women, were taught not to seem too ambitious and not to brag. Instead of being encouraged to be authentic, confident and proud, we are told how important it is to be humble. It’s no wonder that we feel awkward or uncomfortable talking about ourselves. How easy can it be trying to share a bright and shiny version of our story when we’ve been telling ourselves the smaller, duller version of it over and over for years? If we don’t believe that bright and shiny story, it is very challenging to share it with anyone else in a powerful, authentic way.
What if being humble is highly overrated? What if it keeps us small and dull, preventing us from finding all the ways we can meaningfully connect with others?
The following is an exercise to help you start to embrace your amazing self and to craft your power story.
Write a very rough draft version of your story, as if you are telling a friend. Be sure to include your personal and professional experiences. Be genuine. Just let it flow and do not worry about grammar or spelling - this isn’t being graded!
Give yourself permission to believe that you and your story are amazing and extraordinary. Rewrite your story through the eyes of your amazing self. Be genuine. Provide as much evidence as possible that your story is extraordinary. Ask yourself: So, what? Why is this amazing? What barriers/complexity/challenges did I overcome? How did I stretch myself? What are my superpowers and how have I demonstrated them?
Reflect on the rewrite and notice what thoughts you are having about the new version.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 a couple of times and then compare your current draft with your first version. What did you learn about yourself and your story? What version are you choosing to believe and why?
Here are some examples to help illustrate this exercise:
I led a large technical organization for 2 years during which time we consistently delivered on all our commitments.
I led a 200+ team of technical professionals over a 2-year period. Despite my budget shrinking by 40%, my team met all our deliverables and had high employee engagement scores. I did this by creating a strong innovative culture that encourages learning, failing forward and provides space for all employees to have their voices heard (superpowers).
I started speaking English a few years ago. I found a job in an English-speaking company due to my strong technical skills.
I moved to Canada a few years ago. I had no network or family here and knew very little English. I am resourceful and learn quickly (superpowers). With determination (superpower), in a few months I was able to find a role that fits my interests, and to articulate my technical capabilities in an interview (conducted in English) so well that they offered me the job!
Notice that both versions are equally true, but the power version provides a much fuller and clearer picture of what the person has to offer.
Knowing Your Audience
It’s one thing to share your power story with yourself or with people you trust. It’s another thing altogether to decide what parts of your story to share with people you may not know as well. Whether you are preparing for an interview, coffee chat or meeting, I suggest you ask yourself the following 3 questions:
What do I want to get out of this interaction?
What might the other party want to get out of this interaction?
What am I willing and able to offer in this interaction that would be of value to me and/or them?
If you find yourself unsure of the answers to the last 2 questions, ask for clarity during the interaction itself and/or reach out to someone in your network who might be able to provide some insight.
One of the most powerful things you can do when sharing your story is to intentionally discover ways to connect your story and theirs. I call this building bridges.
For example, perhaps you have work experience in different industries or countries. How can you translate your experiences to the industry or country they may be more familiar with? Take the time to determine how you can build a bridge of understanding from your story to theirs in a way that makes sense to them. Don’t assume their understanding – ask about it and be prepared to close the gap should one exist. This is a great exercise to help establish a stronger connection up front. It also forces you to consider your story from different perspectives.
Some questions to consider when building bridges:
Am I using acronyms or language that is familiar to me but unknown to them?
Am I providing context about the relevance of my company, job or expertise?
What questions can I pose to better understand their story in order to find more connections between us and offer more value to them?
Although each of us will have our own unique story, one ingredient I believe every power story must include is authenticity.
Always strive to share the best version of who you are – not the version you think others want you to be.
I have helped many clients uncover and revisit beliefs about their story that do not serve them. I teach them how to connect to the amazing version of themselves, in ways they cannot on their own. If you need help sharing your power story in order to land that next big job or expand your network in meaningful and lasting ways, be sure to check out my Get Unstuck coaching program here.
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