How To Career Hack - Self Case Study Series #2
Just a quick note: I accidentally posted #3 as #2 in the series. This post is supposed to be the first in my How To Career Hack - Self Case Study Series. Apologies for that! If you would like to skip this one (crafting your personal story) you can find how to update your resume in How To Career Hack - Self Case Study Series #3.
Welcome to the first official deep dive into my career hacking series. If you haven’t read my first post, How To Career Hack - Self Case Study Series #1, I highly recommend it so you can get a background on why I’m doing this and how I’m scheduling posts. Also, if you haven’t read my post, Career Hacking - How To Get The Career And Money You Want, click on that link and you can read all about my career hacking story.
Growing up, I would stumble along the path through the woods to my grandfather’s house next door. I would yell “Hi Pop!” which echoed through his old but massive house, I would hear a faint reply “I’ll be down in a minute.” I would sit myself down at his kitchen table ready to listen to whatever stories he wanted to chuckle over. See to be a storyteller, or to be known as one, will instantly make people sit down and listen to your life; past, present and future. Though at the time I thought they were just stories, he was actually teaching me how to use my life story to get where I needed to be in my career and personal life.
You see, everyone loves a good story. Heck, how I started this blog and my personal story is one of my most popular posts. Everyone likes a background, peak and where that story could take you later on. This goes for anyone whose hiring you. They like to know where you came from and where you are going.
Nailing your personal story will help you land your dream job.
How to craft your personal story
There are two steps I take to this approach and it might sounds backwards from what I just said but I like to start with “Where am I going?” first.
Where am I going?
Everyone has a dream or goal of what they want to do. Maybe you want to be an engineer and work on bridges or build the next generation of cars. Maybe you’re wanting to become a therapist and help others overcome personal challenges. Whatever you do, do not limit on where you think you can go.
I always wanted to be an artist and the moment I didn’t think that dream was possible, I just got whatever job I could. I didn’t have time to draw or paint, I didn’t have time to be creative, I worked 9-10 hours a day, had a commute of 2 hours and by the time I got home I was so exhausted I just went to bed. When I started picturing being an artist, a creative again is when I was inspired to reach that goal. I searched for hours online for creative fields that pay well, I talked to friends and asked the incessant questions about their jobs, who they know and how they got to where they were at. I finally got all the information I needed to make a change and become the UX Designer I am now, working in a creative field and it all started with the dream of being an artist.
Where have I been?
As you can see, I started that last blurb off about what I wanted and then where I was. Practice being able to tell a story about your past, your actions, your feelings. Once you nail that you’ll go places, I promise you.
But the most important thing here is connecting the dots for those future employers. I had a dream of “fill in whatever goal/dream” and I started “fill in starting place” and now I’m here because “fill in journey”. By connecting the dots you’ll be able to paint a visual for those managers who only know you from that piece of paper and you’ll be able to not only give them a visual but to also allow them to get to know you, your goals, how you over came obstacles as well as where you want to be.
My personal story
This is a bit lengthy but I wanted to give you an idea of the depth my personal story has. Be sure to know your “full” personal story but be able to quickly relate parts to questions interviewers ask you.
I am also italizing the parts that I don’t disclose in interviews but I included these parts to give you the complete story.
I always wanted to be an artist. I grew up in my italian grandfather’s house where my mother and my grandfather always had a huge Tupperware container filled with all the art supplies a kid could need. There were paints, crayons (and not just the little box of crayons, the big one with the sharpener), colored paper and more stickers than one little girl could need. I would spend hours coloring while they would proudly hang any of my artwork on the fridge.
As I grew older my mother enrolled me in Saturday art classes for kids, I was exposed to formal drawing classes, pottery, mixed media and so much more. I honed my skills and proudly announced to anyone who would listen that I wanted to be an artist. In high school is where I flourished. I was lucky enough to attend high school with an award winning fine arts program as well as a real museum on campus in which we could browse the works of art from renaissance statue castings to colonial portraits. I loaded up my schedule with all the fine arts classes I could take, making sure there were no free periods. I wanted to learn and to improve my skills as an artist.
During this time, right when I was thinking about which colleges and art school I would be applying the world fell apart, the financial recession was in full swing. Influenced by my grandfather’s influence of always educating yourself, I read as many news papers and business journals as possible, trying to understand why everyone around me was losing their jobs and their homes. That’s when I decided I would go into business, to try to have a stable career during a tremultuous time.
I went to college in Boston for Business Management and a Minor in Fine Arts. As soon as I graduated I looked for jobs in finance, first a major bank doing mutual fund accounting, then for a hedge fund accounting firm in which I valuated hedge funds based on their investments. During that time I was working almost 80 hours a week and had no time to be creative or even have free time to enjoy. That’s when I knew, I wanted to pursue a career that would pay well and fulfill my creative side. After talking to many friends and friends of friends, my friend John introduced me to User Experience and I was hooked.
I decided that I needed to make this change as soon as possible. I quit my job, applied to only one school that had the program I wanted and a name I could trust and I got in just in time to tell my grandfather I was pursuing art again before he passed away.
I started school at a large university in Boston and spent 6 months working to get my portfolio prepped for job interviews, making sure that I excelled in all my classes and was able to learn as much as I could from my teachers and peers. When the six months was up, I had a strategy: apply to UX job postings in the FinTech (financial technology) field. It made sense: I didn’t need much training on financial concepts and I understood the users because I worked directly with them previously.
I worked in FinTech for almost a year, designing the same software that I used to use while working for hedge funds. I learned how to make even something as complex as trading stocks, something easy and consumable for hedge fund managers and their employees. I was able to think in systems, connect complex workflows together and even code parts of the product.
After spending some time working in FinTech with some amazing mentors, I knew I didn’t want to be in Boston any longer. I missed being close to my family and boyfriend. I decided to make a move out of the city and get a User Experience job in Connecticut. I am now finishing my masters in Digital Media focusing on Interactive Design and looking for jobs that I can help grow and produce the most functional and useable user experience from what I have learned from my education and from my big city experience.
What to take away
I hope by reading my full story you have taken away some points. But here’s a few I would like to bring to your attention:
Always show what you are passionate about
Connect the dots
Show how you make decisions and how you make hard decision during adversity
Show that a diverse background can be a strength since you can pull knowledge from multiple areas
I hope you learned something and I’m curious of what you think of having a personal story in the back of your head for interviews. I’ll be looking forward to your comments below.