Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Back to the Future: How to Find a New Vision in Your Back Story

Lots of people are looking for jobs or want to change careers these days, but don't know how to go about it.

Among 70 people who showed up recently at a “Story for Job Seekers" workshop at the NY Public Library for Science, Industry, and Business, a number were confused about how to describe their experience when looking for work in several areas; or how to "change the story" when seeking to change careers.

In this constantly shifting marketplace, there’s no longer a strong segmentation between job seekers, consultants, and solopreneurs. Self-employed people are supplementing their business cash flow with part-time work; job seekers are working as freelancers until they land a full-time position. The question for many is how to create their unique niche in the ever more packed and competitive work place.

Are you feeling lost and unsure where to go and what to do next? Elizabeth Perea’s story may hold inspiration and guidance for you.

Perea is founder and president of NYC Real Estate Advisors, an innovative consulting and training firm for real estate professionals.The company offers a range of services from marketing trainings to investor bus tours in the New York and Philadelphia metro areas. What's really interesting about this company is how it evolved from a journey through other fields, through trial and error, enthusiasm and disappointment, piece by piece -- as Perea learned what she liked and was best at. Her story illustrates how taking a good hard look at your back story can lead to an inspired vision for your future. 

In 1998, Perea entered graduate school with the idea of becoming a university professor. “I absolutely love teaching,” she writes in her About Me story. “I love it when I’m speaking with someone and I see that light of understanding shine in their eyes or when they have that 'ah ha' moment and then stop to write something down and I know that 'something'“ is going to be an action step that can change their life.”

However, though teaching was a passion, academia wasn’t.

Perea's other passion was business. By that time, she had already had a successful marketing communications career. So in 2006, she launched a marketing communications company. As that firm grew, she came to realize that what she really loved more than anything was real estate, specifically New York City real estate.

Out of those passions, she envisioned a company that would help NYC real estate professionals brand and market themselves and successfully own their own business. That's how the "Open for Business" sign went up on NYC Real Estate Advisors.

I always listen for subtext -- that is, the deeper story beneath the one I'm being told -- the one that connects at a visceral level where decisions are really made. What Perea's deep story told me was that this was a woman of passion, creativity, courage, competence, and self-confidence who has been able to integrate what she loves with making money. If she could do that for herself, says her story, she can do that for me. I want to work with her. 

What's your back story?

Take a look at your back story to get clear about who you really are and what you’ve accomplished. You may get a clearer picture of where you’re headed.

1. What have you done that’s meaningful in your work history? What have you enjoyed most? Least?

2. In what kinds of environments, with what kinds of bosses, co-workers, employees, customers, do you do your best work? Where and whom do you hope never to run into again?

3. What challenges have you met along the way? How did you deal with these obstacles?

4. Of what are you proudest? When have you been a hero to yourself or others?

5. What areas of weakness in yourself have you had to address? What mistakes did you make? (Did you know that people more easily trust someone when they’re honest about mistakes or failures? One of the hardest lessons to learn in our culture is that “vulnerability is strength.”

6. What have you learned from your journey?

7. What do you now bring to the market place that will benefit others?

Write the answers and share them with others who support you. Ask yourself what stands out in your experience? What do you want to carry forward? What do you want to leave behind?

You're now ready to create your vision story. And by create, I mean write. In her best-selling book Write It down, Make It Happen: Knowing What Your Want -- and Getting It!, Henriette Anne Klauser puts it this way: "Putting a goal in writing sends a signal to the brain to wake up and pay attention. Don't miss this detail! Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to signs and signals that were there all along."

You can think of visioning in two ways: First, it’s your vision of your business fully realized and prosperous in the world. In this vision form, you take what you’ve gleaned from your back story and create a vision for the business, job, or position you want. Second, it's the vision you paint for your customer that leads them imaginatively through the use of your product, service, or the benefits of supporting your cause -- actually "rehearsing" the process in their mind.

What’s your business vision story?


Articulating your fully realized vision as a story and then imaginatively working backward through your process of getting there can serve as a platform for strategizing and a springboard for measuring your company's performance. 


1. What does your fully operational business, practice, job look, feel, sound like? Write out the vision of your ideal working environment and offering.

2. Whom do you serve? Who are your ideal customers, clients, or employer? What is it that they want most from you? What are their pressing needs? Write down how you address those needs.

3.  How does your offering make life better for those who purchase it?

4. How much will you make? Write it down. How does that feel?

5. What do you need to turn your idea into a business? A mentor? Business plan? Capital? Write down the vision of having everything you need. Capture the feeling!



And now, what's your customer vision story? 


This story is based on the needs of your audience. It can be a good story to use to close a deal, end a presentation, or to serve as a way of advocating for a policy or practice.


1. Walk your customer through the use of your service or product so they can rehearse it in their minds or sell it to their higher-ups.


2. What are the concrete benefits of using your product or service, or donating to your cause. How will your target market feel? Authenticity is all: If you have an inner conviction about what you offer, they will believe you.


3. What are the obstacles you and they need to overcome to do this successfully?


4. Do you have supporting data, research, or quotes to support your claims?


5. What's your call to action or main point you want them to remember about your offering? Ultimately, what's the emotional quality or personality of your brand?

Write, write, write. And see what happens...