In a recent blog, we talked about the importance of making a good impression at a job interview. Typically, that starts with your answer to the question, “Tell me about yourself?” Before you can answer, you need to understand the journey that has brought you to where you are today.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘career narrative’, it’s a personal account of how you moved from one job to another, how you came to make particular career decisions, what you have learned about yourself along the way, and what insights you have acquired from the roles and experiences you have had.
If you have the opportunity to develop your own career narrative, it’s a great tool for reflection and you may even want to share it privately with someone who knows you well, and whom you trust, to get their feedback. But it’s certainly not intended to be a substitute for a well-crafted resume, nor is it the same thing as your personal ‘elevator pitch’ – and no way should you simply regurgitate it at a job interview! However, it may be appropriate to draw on relevant parts of it in support of your suitability for a job during the interview process.
As we face changes in work patterns and employment structures (from linear to ‘zig zag’ careers; from a single career trajectory to a portfolio of interests; from traditional jobs to protean careers), it’s important to know how you got from one role to another. In fact, last month I heard the CEO of a start-up business state that when interviewing prospective candidates, he is more interested in how the person moved between jobs, rather than what the roles were or what functions they performed.
I have also been struck by the commonly held notion that you have to ‘establish’ a firm or future career path by the time you are in your mid-twenties, or that if you change jobs too often in the early stages of your career, employers might not take you seriously. I heard this notion expressed on an episode of a well-known TV culinary competition, where a participant was being congratulated for considering a career change at the ripe old age of 24! And again, at a recent networking event for young professionals, where a trainee told me that if she took a ‘non-traditional’ role once she qualified, she was worried she might never be able to return to professional practice. While those early years can be critical for making appropriate career choices, it’s also the time to experiment, to explore different options, so that you can make more informed career decisions – and the experience will make it easier to navigate career transitions later on, especially if the changes are forced upon you.
In my own case, I probably had about a dozen jobs by the time I was in my late twenties (including several different roles during my gap year), before I found my ideal job – and I then stayed within that particular industry for many years. I continue to draw on all those experiences as I pursue a portfolio of different interests in the ‘third phase’ of my career. Did I choose all stages of my ‘zigzag’ career path? Probably not, but I have built a strong career narrative along the way, so I can confidently explain, when asked, how I got from A to B (even if it included an unscheduled diversion via C).
Posted by Rory Manchee
If you are in the process of changing job, or simply want a career “health check”, please contact Bravo Consulting about how we can help you achieve your career development goals.