Introduce yourself with a story

“What do you do for a living?” This is, undoubtedly, one the most frequent questions in business meetings and social gatherings. The typical answer is “I am …”, adding next to the verb a business title and, possibly, a qualifier about one’s exact role. “I’m a lawyer” or “I’m a marketing director at a multinational company”, for instance.

Such answers are, certainly, valid. Our profession is an extremely important part of our lives, largely indicative of our world -yet it doesn’t suffice for someone to get to know us. A reference to our professional title leaves out a whole lot of information that can introduce us properly, giving other people the opportunity to find out who we really are.

We tend to give similar answers when talking about other aspects of our lives. “I studied xxx” and worked at “xxx” and went on to “xxx”… Literal as they are, such phrases refer to only small parts of a rich professional journey and, more importantly, a full life.

How can go we beyond a professional title to introduce ourselves, finding a balance between the need to be understood and the hesitation that often accompanies professional presence? A story can introduce us properly, giving depth even to a brief encounter. Stories that introduce us to others, both in the professional and the social realm, may be short, but they say a lot about us.

How do we find the right story? The first step is to go beyond describing “what” we do, illuminating the reasons behind it. Instead of listing professional titles and milestones, we can invest in explaining “why” we followed a specific path, thus connecting our journey to our interests, aspirations, goals and even difficulties. How did we start doing what we are doing now? Was it always part of our plans? Have we been preparing for it our entire lives? Did necessity or chance ever open new opportunities to us?

Starting with “why”, we have the chance to talk about our purpose and about the problems we intend to solve. All of us are potentially agents of change in our own world. Through our choices and actions, we can do much more than simply tick the boxes of a to-do list. We can support those around us in manifold ways, improve their everyday lives, take care of the environment, or promote equality. Our contribution is our true value -value that goes beyond our current profession and role. Thus, when introducing ourselves to others, it is important to refer to the problem we seek to solve and to our goals.

Communication is not about conveying information to our audience, but about seeking authentic connection. To do this, we need to highlight what we do and why we care about it in a way that touches the audience.  For instance, instead of saying “I am a lawyer specializing in employment law,” try saying “I believe that changes in the world of work are one of the most important problems of our time. In my profession, I help people who are facing big and painful changes to not lose sight of what they achieved.” Thus you will introduce yourself and your work in a memorable and personal way.

Reciting our CV is not the best way to talk about us. By moving away from dates, names and titles, we can turn to the essentials, to our unique characteristics. We can highlight the mix of attributes that no one else can claim, but us. Our passage on earth, our experiences and successes, the mistakes that shaped us and our goals do not fit into one or many titles. We are our journey, our beliefs, our goals and our values. And who we are is only justified and conveyed through stories.

March 8, 2023

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