How to craft your personal story for a career change
With the pandemic accelerating a tectonic shift in the world of work, millions of people are considering resigning from their jobs and pursuing different career paths. Discover the power of your words in your career change journey in this guide from The Amani Institute.
With the pandemic accelerating a tectonic shift in the world of work, millions of people are considering resigning from their jobs and pursuing different career paths. But many stumble when deciding which path to take, unsure what opportunities best matches their needs and passions.
More often than not, even when they see an opportunity, they lack the confidence to go for it or the trust from the people around them.
“I’m tired of my job, I’m not passionate about it, I would love to change my career but I’ve always worked as….[a job title] OR at….[name of company] OR in [sector]...”
“I’ve been let go from my company, and I must admit that on reflection I’m not too upset about it as I really didn’t like working there. However I’m nervous about who else will hire me, having lost my job and currently out of work.”
“I’ve always worked for someone else. Although I’m truly passionate and strongly believe in my personal project, I worry that people won’t trust me. I just don’t feel credible as an entrepreneur.”
If one of these sentences sounds familiar, you are not alone!
Each year, the Amani Institute supports dozens of professionals who are looking for a more meaningful career in the impact sector. Through our programme, the Post-Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management, we teach participants how to use storytelling to achieve their goal. Be it finding the right career path, building a movement for changemaking, or fundraising for their organisation.
Words can open doors, storytelling can create change. And by telling your personal story in a way that captures people's attention, you’ll be one step closer to where you want to be on your career journey. Read on to find out how.
1. Don’t let your current profession or job title define you
The how and the why of your professional experience counts more than the what.
Let’s say you’re a marketing manager. Look at your experience and rather than just technical skills, think about the life skills you could bring. By saying you are confident at managing campaigns or an expert in Google AdWords, chances are you won’t end up far from your currrent position.
To help with your career change, it’s key to consider what you have practiced and learned at work that would apply to your personal life or to any other job. Planning, coordinating people, supporting a creative environment, measuring results, managing clients expectations, budgeting. What else?
Beyond work, what has life taught you? Some scenarios that may resonate with you could include:
- Flexibility and adaptability, as a result of living in many different cities during my teenage years due to my father’s job.
- Having practiced sport at a professional level, I am adept at managing stress in highly competitive situations.
- With three brothers and sisters, I’m very used to managing conflict and finding common ground.
- I have harnessed empathy through volunteering experiences with homeless people.
- I completed a degree alongside working my day job.
As you can see, your ‘life CV’ offers so much more than you may first think. Sharing scenarios to demonstrate the personal skills you have to offer.
The next step is to connect the potential shown through your personal skills to your desired career path.
2. Find your purpose
If you don’t reflect on it deeply, purpose can be just a buzzword, but if you ask yourself the right questions it becomes a powerful tool. It keeps you grounded in disruptive times, helps build your identity, triggers intrinsic motivation, and broadens the range of career possibilities.
Let’s look at another example. “I want to be a counselor.”
If you focus on the role, your next steps will be to gain the qualifications, combine it with work experience, start your own venture or work as a career counselor in an institution…
But who knows, one day an algorithm or automation process could perform almost all the functions of your job and you are back at where you started!
If instead of focusing on the role, you focus on your purpose, it could be framed as
“I want to make the world a happier place by helping people build purposeful careers.”
This already opens the door to more opportunities. You can become a career counselor, a primary school teacher shaping young minds to be conscious and compassionate citizens, a university professor or vocational skills trainer helping people become competent professionals, a mental health professional who helps people deal with stress and burnout, an inspiring manager who mentors and shapes talent in an organization, an entrepreneur leading a purpose-driven organization, a philanthropist who funds and supports career development initiatives…
Can you see how many opportunities there are to have a fulfilling career once you know your why?
There are a few key questions you can ask yourself to help find your purpose:
● What impact do I want my work to have on people?
● What impact do I want my work to have on the society and communities that I live in?
● What impact do I want my work to have on the planet?
● Where is change needed most?
● How can I contribute to that change?
● Where are my strengths and skills needed most?
3. Craft your story
Focus on your strengths: do not share only what you know, can do or the skills you have. Instead, focus on those activities that make you feel energised and fulfilled. Give room in your CV to your past career achievements, those that came from activities that made you feel stronger and happier.
Remember your CV should not be your history, but your letter of intention. Explain where you are coming from, but more importantly, the focus should be on your direction.
Stories will make it easier for others to accept and support your change process.
A well crafted story will help others make sense of seemingly unusual decisions and actions during your career transition phase. By owning your story and sharing your why, you will be able to explain certain elements of your journey. For example those gaps in your work experience (I’ve been traveling around the world as I wanted to expand my horizons. I was looking after a seriously ill parent. I had a commitment to compete with my sports team for a momentous title. I was taking care of my newborn child as I believe in equal opportunities and wanted my wife to focus on her new job).
Or it can explain why you accepted a role that doesn’t relate directly to your education (I came from a family of small business owners and wanted to experience life in a large corporation to learn more about larger complex systems. Although I want to be a software engineer in the future, I started working as a project manager in a non-profit in SubSaharan Africa because I wanted to build my expertise around human centered design.)
Potential employers, partners and coworkers come to know you when they know and accept your story as legitimate. A story can help you explain to yourself as well as others, why you are changing. It’s important to show up with your full self when you craft your story.
And don’t forget to share why you are reinventing yourself and your career; who you are becoming and what impact you want to create (your purpose); and what opportunities and actions will help you achieve your vision. With a clearly communicated story people will be eagerly waiting to support you!
If you are looking for an opportunity to meet other people, make the leap towards a career in the impact sector, and gain the skills and network to find your impact job, consider applying for the Amani Social Innovation Management program. For more information and to apply click here.