Allison Cheston, Career Connector


Career Connector Blog

Tell Me About Yourself: Examples of Narratives That Work


Telling the Story of YOU should be a great experience. It should make you feel like you’ve just had a 5-mile run or a great cup of coffee, or both. Instead, if it feels tortured, nervous-making or rambling, just imagine how the listener feels.
This is your story – you get to tell it exactly how you want to, but to get results, it’s ideal to follow a few ground rules.You can also review my previous posts on this subject, to give you a complete picture of how to make your story sing.

First of all, what outcome do you want? It’s important to be purposeful with your story, and to adapt it for the situation at hand. The Story of YOU might be used for:

  • A job interview

  • An informational interview to learn more about a field

  • To network/meet people for work-related purposes

  • To join a group: A Board of Directors, a MeetUp, a social club, a book group – any group would be interested in your story.

  • Your online dating profile!

Start with a Theme. The theme should demonstrate that there has been a method to the madness of your life and career. It’s your job (or someone who can ask the right questions and make sense of your story) to figure out the common thread that makes you special and uniquely positioned for this role.

“My whole career has been about helping others lead.”

“Everything I’ve done has focused on packaging and promoting people.”

“I’m a TV Producer who became an actor in three phases.”

Summarize Your ExperienceAfter you’ve stated the theme, sum up your experience in a couple of sentences so the listener gets a sense of whether you have the right experience for the role and gets involved in your story.

“I spent the first 10 years of my career as a social worker, then realized I wanted to help people more broadly through social impact investing, so I went back to school and got an MBA.”

”I began my career as an attorney working for a big corporate firm. I hated the soul-crushing work so I decided to parlay those skills into a non-profit career, helping illegal immigrants get treated more fairly.”

Connect Your Experience Specifically to the Job Requirements.

“I’m extremely organized. When I worked for CAA, we had constant, tough-to-meet deadlines, and I headed the project management team for my division.”

“I’ve always been a natural salesperson, and I love the thrill of making cold calls. I know you’re looking for someone who’s good on the phone and I’m confident I will exceed your expectations.”

Lastly, Practice Speaking Your Story. It should sound natural, not like you’re reading a letter. The written narrative can form the basis for your LinkedIn summary, which we’ll cover in another post.

Now For a Couple of Examples: 

College Senior

I’m a Tufts Senior double majoring in English and economics, and I’m extremely interested in clean energy policy, hands-on analysis and thoughtful policy-making.

While I have a natural aptitude for math, statistical analysis and technology, I’m also a strong writer and facilitator skilled at applying the right words to address the most sensitive issues. I’ve had hands-on experience in education and donor outreach for The Nature Conservancy, have developed and delivered sexual harassment awareness seminars, and am trained as a beach lifeguard — all of which have disciplined me to think on my feet and problem-solve while maintaining a positive focus.

I have advanced knowledge of Excel and PowerPoint and am very proficient in WordPress, InDesign and Photoshop. I pick up new technology quickly and love to teach myself new software programs.

One of the things I learned during my internship at the Nature Conservancy was how indispensable my organizational and analytical skills were. I spent hours poring over and synthesizing research, creating prospect databases and creating teaching materials. Seeing the appreciation from my bosses and getting a sense of the impact our initiatives had on the people involved made the work more meaningful.

I’m very interested in writing grant proposals or being a research assistant for an environmental or tech policy organization. Working with scientific principles and synthesizing data while translating that data to inform and persuade others
about environmental, social impact or education trends would be a natural fit for my quantitative, communication and people skills.

Mid-Career Executive 

Marketing has always been second nature to me. I understand how to get people’s attention in a world chock-full of distractions. I build meaningful partnerships, and I nurture and support teams so they can accomplish great things together. I help businesses take care of their customers in an authentic way.

My career has unfolded in unpredictable and wonderful ways. With each chapter, I’ve developed a richer array of skills, grounded in my ability to balance creativity with analytical thinking. I earned a M.S.W. in Political Social Work, which inspired me to became the editor of an award-winning magazine serving LGBTQ Minnesotans. That opportunity led to a deeper connection with the performing arts community, which opened up the path for me to move into marketing and sales for theatre. My accomplishments in promoting Broadway tours brought me to NYC in 2001, where for 16 years I managed marketing teams in both corporate and agency settings, honing my experience in branding, creative direction, media buying, partnerships, digital platform development, and social media strategy. And, my extensive management experience combined with my passion for doing meaningful work allowed me to flourish as COO for a cutting-edge non-profit with a mission to help people improve their lives.

Now that I’m now back home in Minneapolis, I’m looking for performing arts organizations whose marketing and communications programs are in need of some fresh thinking.