How to Use Storytelling to Hone Your Personal Brand

How to Use Storytelling to Hone Your Personal Brand
This article was written by Angela Howard, one of our CC mentors. You can book a session with her for one-on-one help with your career.
Honing your personal brand will help with your job search. But do you know how to sell your story?
Once upon a time, there lived a job-seeker who ran out of luck. Applying quickly turned into a full-time gig, and she spent most of her job search landing interviews but never getting past the initial screen. She knew she was qualified, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something must be missing…where was the happily ever after?

Storytelling is one the oldest forms of passing knowledge from one person to another, which is why it’s an incredibly powerful tool that you can use to build your career and breathe life into your brand story. 

Understanding what your story is, making it compelling, effectively embedding it into career platforms such as LinkedIn, and using it in key interactions with potential employers will ultimately lead to success whether you're actively searching for a new job or just open to career opportunities. 

What's So Important About Storytelling?

In his book, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, Brian Boyd explains that a story is “a thing that does” rather than “a thing that is." Storytelling will help you gain the attention of your audience and keep it. That's exactly what you need when you're one woman in a giant applicant pool. The ability to win the undivided attention of your interviewer will set you apart.

Wait, Aren’t You Talking About An Elevator Pitch?

“Tell me about yourself.” Isn’t that the famous question every job seeker prepares for when interviewing? Having a compelling story will help you answer this question easily, effortlessly and with flair because, frankly, recruiters are tired of hearing the same story from candidates. Giving yourself a competitive advantage might just be the “that thing” you’re missing.

A pitch is simple: it's who you are, what you want, and what you have to offer. You can break a pitch down into bullet points, but that doesn't mean you should. Storytelling is what turns those talking points into a dynamic visual of who you are and why it matters.

So How Do I Write THE STORY OF My personal brand?

Step 1: Identify What Kind of Story You’re Writing (and Give It a Tagline)

Before you begin writing your story, you need to know the subject you're covering. Just like a thriller, autobiography or self-help book, you’ll need to think of a theme and a tagline you can use to encompass your unique career journey. Are you a creative innovator? Are you the leader who will unite teams? What's your narrative? 

You’ll also want to include your value proposition. In other words, what do you provide that makes you awesome? What about your experience is compelling and would drive someone to hire you? For example, if you’re a project manager that has a knack for cultivating collaboration, you may want to lead with: “a professional collaborator with an eye for optimizing process efficiencies through people and process.” 

Quick Hint: Use this as the tagline in your LinkedIn profile or resume.

Step 2: Get to Writing

Talking about yourself is always the hardest part so if you have trouble figuring out what makes you amazing, ask some people you trust. Take the time to think through their feedback, jotting down your thoughts along with what they're saying about you: 
  • What is your competitive edge? What do you offer in your arena that others don’t? 
  • What would others say about you?
  • If perception is reality, how do you want to be perceived?
  • What energizes you? What gets you excited?
  • What makes you compelling? 

Step 3: Understand Your Audience

Think about who's listening. Although you may want to initially write your story with a recruiter or interviewer in mind, you’re going to want to keep it flexible. Think about how you can tweak your story when networking with others in your industry or looking to take on that next side project. The goal here is to humanize yourself—in Elizabeth Gilbert's TED Talk, she argues that the best public speakers let their emotions show.

Who is your audience? What are they passionate about? And how do you relate?

Step 4: End Your Story with a Strong and Memorable Line

Regardless of who you’re telling your story to, it’s important to finish strong. A strong, memorable finish doesn’t need to be well-rehearsed, but it must be genuine and relevant to the context of the conversation. Make your intentions clear when leaving the conversation and close the loop on any next steps.

Step 5: Flaunt It

Once you feel confident about your story, you can begin practicing and applying it.  The 80/20 rule is important here. Your story will change every time you tell it, and that’s OK. Sharing your talents with others can take many forms—use what works best for you and what resonates with the audiences that matter the most to you.
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How have you used personal storytelling in your work?