Have you ever thought about what it’s like for someone else to meet you? For real.
Imagine walking into a Chamber of Commerce networking event. You spend an hour introducing yourself to people and networking, and then you leave. Here’s the question: Once you leave the room, what do people say about you? Are you smart? Pushy? Funny? Interesting? Shy? Awkward? Sharp?
When people meet you, they size you up. When you tell your story explaining how you came to do what you do, they assess it. Whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand, and it’s not a logo. Your brand is your appearance, your demeanor, and most important, how you tell your story.
Samantha Ettus is a friend, best-selling author and founder of ObsessedTV.com. She tells her own career story two different ways, back-to-back, as a way to illustrate how to do it correctly.
Here’s version No. 1 of Samantha’s story (I call this the rock star version):
After graduating from Harvard, I moved to L.A. and landed a job at CAA, a top talent agency, in one day. I stayed for a couple years and left to move to San Francisco and work in publishing. I started missing television, so I jumped to Nickelodeon and moved to New York City. Then I went to Harvard Business School, where I was the only entrepreneur in my graduating class, and then launched a talent agency that built brands. I had a book idea so I sold it to….
It’s solid, right? Now check out version No. 2 of the same career story, highlighting the negative:
I went to Harvard but had no idea what to do after I graduated so I moved to L.A. I landed a job as the lowest person on the totem pole at CAA, where I fetched coffee and got treated like garbage for several years. I then followed my boyfriend to San Francisco, where I sent out 150 résumés only to get a job at a technology magazine doing sales. Miserable, I moved to New York and broke into an entry-level position at Nickelodeon, where I made photocopies. I was lucky, and got into Harvard Business School. During business school I got divorced from the San Francisco guy and was the only person who graduated without a job, so I was forced to start my own thing.
Both stories are true. Version No. 1 tells the story of a rock star (which Samantha is). Version No. 2… no one wants to hear.
Just like me and Samantha, I’m sure you’ve had a winding path that has led you to where you are today. I’ve personally changed careers seven times, been fired once and have had cruddy positions and some lucky breaks. How do you tell your story? I guarantee you, there is a rock star version of the story and a negative one—and both are true.
When it comes to building your brand, you want the rock star story. To nail yours, Samantha suggests you move forward and back through your life history and curate it.
1) Look back through all of your experiences in life that led you to this moment.
2) Select the moments you can highlight. Samantha suggests any kind of athletic experience, job change, move, life-changing experience or accomplishment.
3) For every piece of the story, figure out how to put things in the most positive light. For example, saying something like “landed a job in one day” instead of saying “lowest person on the totem pole.”
So, back to that Chamber of Commerce example. You’ve introduced yourself to someone important and they’d like to know what you do and how you came to do it. What’s your story?