Each week members of our community pose a tough question they’re facing in their career for Valerie Sutton, our Chief of Workforce Navigation & Transformation. She posts her response in our community and we then share her advice via our blog. Got your own career-related questions? Share your questions with us via Instagram or LinkedIn!
At ExponentialChangemakers we have a saying, “Own Your Career, Change the World.” But, how do you do that? Before you search for a job or advance your career – at any stage – it’s really helpful to first evaluate the unique qualities, needs, and preferences that underpin your career and life decisions at any given point. We call this “Your Career Starts with You” because it is a practice of putting yourself first so that you can truly drive your career – it’s one of our hallmarks and we take it very seriously! (In fact, we have a learning module & journal around this topic that we include in our £0/$0 membership level.) Doing so can save you hours of wasted time scrolling through and applying for jobs that are not right for you, enabling you to focus on those opportunities which are best aligned with your unique qualities, needs, and preferences.
In addition to considering your identity, this includes using tools in our Career Journal to reflect & get clear about your:
- values and purpose;
- skills, knowledge, and qualifications;
- work culture preferences; and
- the unique life needs that will drive your career and life decisions.
Doing so enables you to create what we call a career narrative, which is a written statement of your unique qualities, needs, and preferences that reflects where you are at a given point in your life, starting with where you are today. Through this process, you’ll be better able to express not just what you may want to do for work, but the reasons why, the unique strengths you’ll bring to a role, the conditions under which you do your best work, and your unique life needs that any role you consider should support.
How a Career Narrative will Support You in Applying to & Interviewing for Roles
Ultimately, your career narrative helps you to be clearer about what you might want your early career and roles to look like and gives you a way to better express your career aspirations to others who may support you. Many of our members have just finished working on their career narratives, and others are still wondering how it might support them as they focus on applications and interviews.
The career narrative serves 3 purposes:
- effective career decision-making,
- the ability to clearly express your interests, and
- guiding your professional networks on how to best help you.
Let’s walk through the typical application and interview process using your career narrative to base your work.
Match Your Career Narrative with the Job Description
- Check that the responsibilities in the description include skills you have and that you like to use. Ideally, you’ll look for positions where you can do 60-70% of the responsibilities and enjoy most of them.
- Compare your mission alignment or values to the company values on the website to determine a close match.
- Make sure the position meets your life needs. Check for public salary information and the company benefits page. Once you confirm that the job is a match, it is time to apply.
Develop a Resume for the Position
- Start with the resume, as this document is usually the first one scanned by human resources. Your narrative will guide you in developing sections that are relevant to the position and to you.
- Prioritize the skills you love to use and that are in the job description. These skills will be in the top bullets as these are often the interviewer’s focus for their questions.
Write a Cover Letter
- Focus the first paragraph on why you are interested in the position leveraging your narrative.
- Tell the story of your passion and how the company is working to solve it, you can talk about the work culture and how it aligns with your values, or both!
- In the following paragraphs, you’ll come back to your skills and weave your story to reflect how you can get the job done.
Reach Out to Professional Contacts
- Use your career narrative to navigate and cultivate professional relationships with people who can support you in learning more about a role, sector or organization – narrate for people the alignment between the role and elements of your career narrative.
- Scan your career narrative for gaps and use those to drive the types of questions you might seek to have answered by professional contacts.
Prepare for Your Interview
- Prepare for the question, “Why are you interested in this position?” by sharing how your career narrative matches the mission alignment and values of the organization.
- Prepare for the question, “What are your strengths to the position?” by sharing the skills that you love to use and which match the description.
- Answer work culture questions by sharing what environment supports you best.
Get Ready for Your Negotiation
- Show your excitement about the offer by expressing how you align with the mission of the organization.
- Match your skills to the goals of the job description to emphasize the individual strengths you bring to the position.
- Negotiate your salary with more ease basing it on the value of your skills, strengths, and experience, as well as matching your life needs and goals.
Moving Forward with Your Career
- Revisit your narrative to determine which areas are holding the most importance, as this will guide your decisions about new positions you may want to take on.
- For example, you may currently prioritize working in an area of passion or a role in which you might gain certain skills; perhaps income or career progression is not as important right now. However, as life continues, your priorities may shift. Perhaps you want to buy a home, or need to support family members or friends; you may then choose to pursue a path where salary and career progression become the priority.
Knowing your career narrative gives you grounding and flexibility in your choices that align with your life. Owning your career starts with you – acknowledging and capturing your unique qualities, preferences, and needs at a given point in your career, and making career decisions based on what’s most important.