Crafting Your Career Narrative

Confidently answer general questions like "tell me about yourself?" or "walk me through your resume?" and, specific questions such as "why did you move from one company to another?"

While helping people with their job search, we’ve seen how compelling career narratives can help people get responses from cold emails, pass screening interviews, and land the job with hiring managers. 

A career narrative communicates your experience and goals through a story. Stories, particularly during an emotional process like interviewing, helps you to create a connection with people, and can give better insight into your work experience and you. Studies show that stories are not only more memorable, but they’re also more persuasive.

Summarizing your career or goals can seem into a short career narrative is not always easy, so we work off a structure that combines your education, work experience, and your career goals into one overarching theme.

Structure your narrative around a larger theme.

Larger theme 

Developing a larger theme for your narrative makes the task more manageable, solidifies your narrative, and makes your story more memorable. There are no set guidelines for choosing a larger theme and everyone's will be different. If you are earlier in your career, it might make sense to build your theme around your career goals. If you are later, you can build a theme as it relates to your experience. 

Your theme should be the one constant element of your narrative. Here are some examples to help get your creative juices flowing:

  • Industry - Is there an industry that fascinates you and has driven your career choices? (Technology, design, government, climate change, etc)?
  • Skill building - Do you make career decisions based on a focus to learn new things and develop new skills?
  • Singular passion - Have you followed a path that is influenced by a strong passion of yours (Philanthropy, sports, literature, cultural experience, etc)?
  • A mentor - Is there a specific person who has influenced you that you are trying to model your career after?
  • An opportunist - You are always making the best of your situation and leveraging one job into another, regardless of industry or interest.

Your Experience

You should be ready to speak to each part of your experience in a few concise sentences. If you have highly relevant experience for a specific role, or you gained impressive experience at one job, focus on highlighting these roles. You don’t have to mention all of your work experience!

Focus on the strengths and relevant skills you developed during this time and the impact that you had. You want someone to leave feeling like they understand not just what you’ve done but also how you’ve done it.

Example 1: While at Company X, I worked as a customer success manager and helped implement new processes to more effectively relay feedback back to the product team. I’m proud to say that as a result of our new system, we were able to increase signups by 10% and reduce churn by 20%!

Example 2: At college Y, I focused my curriculum around my passion for data science and was able to produce two studies that were highlighted in the local paper and on website X. I was able to leverage those projects and get an introduction to Company Z where I worked with their data analytics team to help drive traffic to A/B test our email marketing campaigns. Our work led to a more than 30% increase in open rates!

Transitions and Decision Drivers

Connect the dots. Why did you change jobs or select that internship? Transitions can help you relate one experience to the next so that they build on one another (as it would in any great story!).

Transitions are especially important because they usually can’t be conveyed in a resume or a LinkedIn profile. They’re a unique opportunity to really show your personality, motivations, and interests.

Example 1 continued: The main thing I took away from my work in Customer Success with Company X, was the realization that I love creating experiences that improve people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. That learning lead me to pursue online courses and eventually enroll in the UX Design course at Bootcamp X.

Example 2 continued: My work on driving data-backed decisions at Company Z and a mentor mentor of mine, led me to realize how much I care about marketing and ads at consumer-facing companies. The impact of a brand’s first-impression on a user cannot be understated. That is why I am now focusing my search on Data Analytics jobs at Brands that I believe can make a meaningful impact through outreach and marketing.

What's Next?

All the work you have done so far explaining your background and experience will lead to the punchline of your narrative: what’s next? This part of your narrative should clarify what your career goal is for your next role, and over the next few years. You can customize this part based on who you’re speaking or interviewing with, but it’s important to be authentic. As obvious as it might sound, people want to hire people for roles that they genuinely want and will enjoy. 

One quick tip: If you are using your narrative while networking, use the “what’s next?” part of your narrative to highlight the intention you have for that meeting such as a referral or a connection.

For the complete guide on Crafting Your Career Narrative, and more guides just like it, sign up for Mento’s job search program! 

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