by Sharon Fleshman
You may have career goals which seem clearly aligned with your background or you may be seeking a career transition. Either way, you will want to develop a compelling career narrative which would include the following:
— An experience that exposed you to a given career and served as a catalyst for you to pursue that career.
— An experience in which you were energized and made a positive impact, confirming for you that a particular career or job is a good fit for you.
With these kinds of defining moments and accomplishments, you can connect the dots between your work history and the next step on your career path. Consider the following scenarios and career narrative examples:
A student completing a BSN degree and planning to apply to Registered Nurse positions.
“I became drawn to nursing in high school when volunteering at a pediatric hospital and shadowing a nurse. I continue to enjoy community service work which allows me to mentor and empower children. In my recent clinical rotation in pediatrics, I was able to bring comfort and clarity to the anxious parent of a patient, which was noted by the parent and my supervisor. This affirmed my desire and ability to offer patient care that has a positive impact not only on children at the hospital but on their families as well.”
An alum who has worked as a teacher, returned to school to study policy, and plans to apply to policy research positions.
“As I worked as a teacher in public school, I began to ponder the best ways to assess student achievement in the classroom. As I did this, I also saw connections to broader and more systemic issues. This discovery led me to attend a graduate program which allowed me to cultivate skills in policy analysis and data analysis to complement my teaching background. I found that in my internship, my track record as an educator paved the way for me to build rapport with teachers and administrators whose participation was vital to my research. I hope to leverage my mix of experiences and skills to conduct policy research and analysis that promotes increased equity and access in education.”
There are a number of contexts in which you can apply your career narrative:
Cover letters: Cover letters allow you to address a specific employer about a specific job. Therefore, you do not want to merely repeat what is on your resume. Instead, adapt and build upon your career narrative to highlight experiences that demonstrate why you are interested in and qualified for the job, and a good fit for the employer.
Career Fairs: Career fairs allow you to engage representatives from various employers, usually in brief conversations. The career narrative, adapted to a particular employer, can offer a great way to introduce yourself and pave the way to ask a thoughtful question or two.
Networking: Whether you converse with your networking contact at a reception or an informational interview, your career narrative is a great tool to offer a bit about your background and career interests before you ask for perspective or advice.
Interviewing: Many interviews open with the “Tell me about yourself” question, which can be a bit daunting. Having a career narrative that connects your key experiences and career goals to the employer and the job will help you begin the interview with enthusiasm and confidence.
Feel free to make an appointment with a career advisor to discuss how to craft your career narrative. In the meantime, take a look at the following articles for more insight:
What’s Your Story? – by Herminia Ibarra and Kent Lineback, Harvard Business Review, January 2005
Younger Workers Need a Career Narrative by Heidi Gardner and Adam Zalisk, Harvard Business Review, February 15, 2013