For a long time I couldn’t.
25 years ago, the show I co-developed and produced, Changing Rooms landed in the homes of the British public. It smashed all records for ratings of a factual TV show, invented a new TV genre and changed the landscape of the interior design industry in the UK…but it’s taken me at least 20 years to learn how to tell you that. When I left the show after five series, I couldn’t tell you why I was a good producer or a good hire. I had been too immersed in the job to reflect on my contribution – and my seniors were not queueing up to tell me.
I have been reflecting on this with all the renewed interest in the format as Channel 4 launch their own version this month. (For the record, I thought it was pretty good, and has improved each week, but I would not have cast those two designers opposite Laurence.) I have really enjoyed being able to enjoy the interest this time around, but I have also been wishing that I knew then what I know, now about telling my own story.
In this strange time when many of us are looking for work, looking for a new role, or returning to reacquaint ourselves with our colleagues in an existing role, we may not be feeling at our most confident. This traumatic period has undermined many people’s professional confidence. If that is how you feel then be assured, you are not alone and you can do something about it. Personal confidence is like a muscle – it can be built up and if you don’t use it, you lose it. Recognising your unique qualities and then articulating your value to an employer, a customer or in fact anyone, is a skill that very few people possess without a bit of work.
Since setting out as a story coach in 2011, it’s been my absolute privilege to support people defining their unique professional story and learning how to tell it. With the right framework it doesn’t take long at all to pull the right threads out from the pile of info in people’s head to see what they bring to the table here and now. I have seen how transformational it has been to my clients to be able to articulate their own value. It takes thought, it takes some research, and it requires a change in mindset.
Here are some first steps to really drill down into professional story as we all cautiously return to actually-meeting-people-at-work again.
When you talk about your skills and achievements. you are not boasting, you are helping that person understand the benefits to them of working with you.
You are there to be on their side, not to judged.
You bring a unique set of skills and experiences to this role, different from anyone else.
Write down and practise talking about 2 or 3 examples of your successes and your failures. Successes are a useful marker of what you have achieved in the real world, own them, and failures are likely to be where you learned most.
Ask your colleagues current and past what it feels like to work with you. From this you will learn the strengths you are blind to i.e., the energy and character that you bring to a team, just by being you.