A few years ago, I got some terrific advice from a friend when I parted ways with my employer. The friend said my first concern was to own my story.

What he meant, in essence, was that I needed to create a story that described my actions in a way that anyone could understand, and be satisfied with. This story needed to encapsulate my actions as part of a journey to creating a better career, and better future.

Fast forward to today. The current business climate isn’t making anyone feel terribly secure about their job. In this setting, I believe more people would benefit from crafting their own career story into a personal pitch.

What is a personal pitch?

A personal pitch is a structured story that describes your hopes and aspirations, your career path to this point, and the next step you’re hoping to take to get to the promised land.

This pitch weaves a narrative through your experiences, victories and setbacks. Done well, it convinces any listener that you’re trustworthy, creative and motivated by the big picture.

Why is this important? For three simple reasons:

  1. It helps you create a unique ‘positioning’ for yourself in the brain of a potential employer or advocate,
  2. It helps you ‘glue’ together your life experience into a story people actually want to hear,
  3. It helps you do a reality check every once in a while – is your current gigreally aligned with your vision of what your life should be?

Most people never take the time to craft this narrative. Ask them about their career and they give you a verbal resume. It’s an oral version of death by powerpoint – painful, slow, and inhumane. Not surprisingly, this bland list of achievements won’t do you any favours if you need to hunt for a new job

How do you create a personal pitch?

A great place to start is with a hero’s journey framework. If that isn’t a familiar term, get up to speed here.

Essentially, the hero’s journey is the foundation for most great stories – from Beowulf to Star Wars. It tracks a humble character on his / her journey through adversity, trials and tribulations, only to emerge stronger, more resilient and fulfilled.

Sound useful? It is. And who hasn’t wanted to chart their life in a way that could lead to a Hollywood script? Well, in our imagination, anyway.

Once you have noted the core elements of your story, the next step is to brainstorm with a trusted outsider. Elements you might find vital to the ‘plot’ may be confusing; details you may find unimportant may actually add colour and interest. You won’t know unless you treat this as a team sport.

Finally, try out your pitch. A rough version is all you need.

Tell your life partner the story. Tell your kids. Try it out on the in-laws and your co-workers.

Like any great story, it will get better with retelling. And with every telling, it will give you a greater sense of meaning and self-awareness.

You can’t change the economy. If you’re on the wrong end of a company downturn, chances are you can’t control that either.

But if you have your personal pitch, you’ll control the story. And that’s a big step in the right direction.