When it comes to the work we should be doing or are meant to do, experts like psychologists and career coaches often urge folks to reflect on what they enjoyed doing as a child.
Not only is recollecting your childhood good for pointing you in a career direction, it's often the best place to start when trying to tell the story -- say on LinkedIn or in a cover letter -- of the career you've built. When you identify the theme of your career, you can tell a powerful, memorable story that resonates with those in your network as well as recruiters and would-be bosses. People love stories -- sharing theirs and hearing others. This is about owning yours.
What did you love as a kid?
When I interview clients for LinkedIn makeovers, I always ask what they did as kids. What sports did they play? What hobbies did they pursue? What did they want to be when they "grew up?" My favorite thing about LinkedIn makeovers is helping people find a common theme to their career narrative, so that I can write a LinkedIn summary story that is memorable and not bogged down by the same corporate speak everyone uses. You know the phrases -- highly driven, results-oriented. Who isn't?
I've chatted baseball with a sports marketer, diaries with a fellow writer, and first jobs and lemonade stands with entrepreneurs. A pharmacist client told me how much he admired his neighbor, who was the pharmacist in his small town town.
There's always a theme, no matter how varied someone's experience is. And it often stretches as far as childhood days.
I once did a LinkedIn makeover for someone who has worked in every industry you could imagine -- from selling group life insurance and teaching corporate leadership courses to owning a bakery, selling waste management services, and more. Honestly, I was nervous about this one. How would I ever uncover a theme?
During the interview, she talked about how she took college courses in high school and finished her degree in three years instead of four. She talked about her love of team sports, especially basketball, which she played in college. She talked about how at every job she seeks to learn as much about every part of the company as possible. A theme emerged: work hard, play hard.
I was meant to be a writer and storyteller.
Sometimes when clients are struggling for a childhood story to tell that relates to the professionally, I tell them mine.
I'm a lifelong writer and storyteller, I say. A visual reminder sits on my desk: a photo from Christmas Day 1979. My sister Cristy and I are wearing pink fleece footed pajamas. I'm hoisting my prized gift, a typewriter.
I still remember how surprised I was as I hadn't asked Santa for a typewriter. I wasn't a big Santa fan after he once mistook me for a boy thanks to the wonderful 1970s bowl haircut my mother inflicted upon me. But that's another story. I had told my mom that my classroom had a typewriter for playtime, but it was always in use by my classmates. Little did I know that this was perhaps my first experience in telling a story that got others to listen, care, and take action. (Thanks, Mom.)
By high school I was writing for my local newspaper, attending journalism camp (yes, there's such a thing) and applying to journalism school. I've been a storyteller in one way or another -- now as a public relations professional -- my entire life.
As you look at your LinkedIn profile with fresh eyes this year, spend some time thinking about what you loved doing as a kid. Get nostalgic. Look for themes. Tell your career story in a new, true-to-you way.