12 Jul 2023

The art (and science) of telling your generalist career story

We dive into: The 4 Archetypes of a Generalist, a framework for squiggly career progression, I'll then spin these into real-world examples of what a *delightful* generalist career flow could look like

And then... a pinch of spice 🌶️ I'll be busting the myth that generalists can't reach mastery

Picture this. 🤔 We’d just kicked off a hot seat session & were knee-deep in reviewing a member’s CV. As I scanned past keywords and experiences, I could feel my eyes glazing over.

By the end, I couldn’t really tell you anything overly compelling about her background. BUT THEN... We paused. And we asked her to tell us her story.

Well, let me tell you.. 🤯 Suddenly, her story came ALIVE. A wildly impressive background unfolded with twists and turns and reinventions and expertise and cross-functional excellence. It was her story that made a world of difference.

Turns out her CV simply wasn't communicating what an absolute superstar she really was. And the thing is - I've seen this again and again (it's especially a pain point for generalists!)

This is what I’d like to explore with you today. Katie is back with an epic dive into:

🎨 🧪 The Art and Science of Telling Your Generalist Career Story

Here’s the thing. Many Generalists, based on their CV alone, struggle to make it past initial screening by talent software, recruiters, and hiring managers (we’re looking at you ATS!) 👀

However, once they land ‘in the room’ for a real conversation, something unlocks. Through conversation, they explain the context behind their journey. They provide a compelling narrative that connects the jobs, projects, and degrees.

Data vs. story: The art and science of career storytelling

Presenting an impactful career story as a Generalist can be a challenge, especially within the confines of a resume or a list of experiences and accomplishments.

In the world of candidate searches, data often takes precedence. Concrete indicators such as degrees, GPAs, promotions, and years of experience serve as clear-cut requirements.

On the other hand, stories tie the data together. They reveal the underlying themes and motivations. Stories illuminate how someone approaches situations and showcase their strengths in action.

Due to the nature of Generalist career paths, the ‘data’ might not cleanly correlate to job requirements.

Stories are the key to getting potential employers to think about your future potential instead of anchoring to past experiences.

Blending the art of storytelling with the science of data

For Generalists, the most effective strategy is to blend data (science) with storytelling (art) when presenting their professional package - in person, and online.

By defining your journey and offering a story that ‘makes sense’, you remove the burden of synthesis from the other person.

The objective is to highlight not only the what (roles, degrees, etc.) but also the why and the how in a way that is logical and memorable.

When working with Generalists on their career stories, I guide them to reflect on their proudest achievements, peak performance moments, and problem-solving approaches.

Instead of focusing on the discrete aspects of their career journey, I look for the patterns and similarities that connect their diverse experiences and use that to form the overarching narrative. These themes represent the superpowers they bring to any role.

Uncover your generalist story with a little reflection:

  1. List three problems you are proud to have solved. Look for commonalities in your approach, the collaborators involved, and the outcomes achieved.

  2. Reflect on when you typically experience a flow state. What kind of work are you engaged in? Who are you working with? What are the outcomes?

  3. Consider unique solutions you have developed. How did you think outside the box? How did you inspire others to see new possibilities?

Once you answer the questions, step back and observe the links and common threads. You might notice recurring themes or a shared purpose underlying your achievements. These patterns serve as the foundation for your Generalist story.

Online: incorporate the insights into your resume summary, experience descriptions, website bio, and LinkedIn "about" section. While this may not guarantee success in bypassing automated screens, it will provide a more holistic picture for those reviewing your profile.

In-person: use the commonalities to draw comparisons between your discrete experiences and explain the path you have chosen.

By skilfully blending data and story, you can present a narrative that showcases your unique value as a Generalist.

💡 Here's a final tip: Generalists, leverage your unique blend of art and science to capture the attention of hiring managers in creative ways.

For instance, if you're a video producer/product manager, consider shooting a quick video to follow up on a topic covered in your initial conversation. Alternatively, if you're a process engineer/artist, design a visual solution to a specific problem and include it with your introduction note.

These creative approaches leave a lasting impression and demonstrate your capabilities.

📚️ Further Resources…

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Our content is brought free to you, courtesy of the Generalist World community memberships.

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Subscribe our newsletter to never miss an essay

Our content is brought free to you, courtesy of the Generalist World community memberships.