Career Growth Strategy (3): 3. Learn to articulate “your” story by highlighting how your differences are a tremendous asset.

In my previous article Career Growth Strategy (2), I stated that if you want to move ahead in your career, the second step to take is to “Figure out what will get the company ahead.”  The original four steps I introduced to build a long term career were as follows:

  1. Get comfortable in your own skin by celebrating who you are.
  2. Figure out what will get the company ahead.
  3. Learn to articulate “your” story by highlighting how your differences are a tremendous asset.
  4. Articulate how your unique talent, viewpoint, and approach would be a significant advancement for the enterprise.

Today, we look at the third step which serves as your foundation for expressing who you are to the world.  In this article, I will expand on the step:  (3).  Learn to articulate “your” story by highlighting how your differences are a tremendous asset.  This is really about communicating who you are to the world.

In his bestselling book, Please Understand Me® II, Dr. David Keirsey starts out by stating, “People are different from each other …no amount of getting after them is going to change them.  Nor is there any reason to change them, because the differences are probably good.”  Knowing that you are different and that others are different, changes your perspective on how to approach life.  But, having this perspective is unfortunately not enough.  Being able to articulate how you can make a difference is where the rubber meets the road.  Unless you can articulate this, you cannot build a career that involves anyone beyond yourself.

To articulate your story, you have to first lay it out on the table and begin formulating it.  And depending on how you are wired, you may do this differently.  Personality typing experts generally agree that those who prefer introversion “think to talk” while, those who prefer extroversion “talk to think.”    So, if you are more extroverted, you should find someone to share your story “out loud” with—in doing so, others can serve you well as a sounding board.  If you are more introverted, before you talk out loud, you may want to “talk inwardly” to gather your thoughts first—you can do this by sitting quietly to take a breather, and write your ideas down.

When talking through your story (whether it be “out loud” through external talk or “with yourself” through internal talk), some questions to ask are:  What are my greatest accomplishments, and why do I value them?  What can I do consistently with excellence on a regular basis?  What are my strongest talents?  Where have I seen my talents yield extraordinary results?  What are my weaknesses?  How do I work around those weaknesses?  These are just some examples of questions you can start with to get you jumpstarted.  You can take your resume and go through each role you’ve ever played and ask these questions for each role.  The more you run through questions like this, the more you are forced to articulate your story.

For some, going through this type of exercise may feel quite foreign, while for others, this may come very naturally.  Having answers for questions “about you” is the starting point for grasping your story.  From here, you will need to examine it closely to see whether there are parts of your story that need to be translated.  Translated to what you may ask?  Often, one needs to be able to translate raw details/facts into winsome language—and to translate negative language into positive.

For example, an individual who is of the Guardian temperament may say, “I get frustrated when people don’t follow the rules and regulations, or uphold certain standards.  It annoys me when people do not follow through on their commitments.”  This may be true, and if this Guardian were being interviewed by another Guardian, they may resonate with each other.  But, if they are being interviewed by someone of another temperament, this may rub the wrong way.  Instead, one might say, “I do my best to follow through on my commitments, and I hold my teammates accountable to keep high standards, and encourage them to work together on the same page.”  In the first statement, a listener may be left with an impression that the individual is frustrated, annoyed, and difficult to work for.  While in the second statement, a listener is left with an impression that the individual takes their work very seriously, and is a team leader.

Here are some examples of translating statements into a winsome language for the other temperaments:

An Idealist might say, “I get irritated by bosses who care only about performance results.  I am all about people, so I make sure my direct reports know that I care about them.”  To a fellow Idealist, this may connect, but with others, this may not.  Translated into winsome language, the Idealist might say, “As a boss, I achieve high performance results by bringing out the best in my people.  They work hard for me because they know I care about them.”

A Rational might say, “I don’t like to be bothered by others when I am doing my work.  It keeps me from being focused on achieving results.  Far too much time is wasted in the office on unnecessary chit-chat.”  This might resonate with another Rational, but it may not with other temperaments.  Translated into winsome language, the Rational might instead say, “I believe that when each team member can give their best individual contributions, together we can achieve extraordinary results.  I make sure that we are productive with our time by focusing on the goal.”

An Artisan might say, “I thrive in chaos, and can navigate through tough situations by improvising on the fly.  The teams I lead are fast-paced.  When things are not moving quickly, I get bored.”  Another Artisan may see eye to eye, but other temperaments might get nervous by this statement.  Translated into winsome language, the Artisan might say, “When faced with tough challenges which require immediate action, I am decisive, and able to focus in the moment.  I perform well in chaotic situations where others might shrink back because of the fast pace.”

Knowing your story, and being able to articulate it in a winsome way can make all the difference in the world.  Later this week, we conclude this series by looking at how to connect yourself to advancement for the enterprise.

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