STEM PPG Module 2: Building your Professional Narrative

Objective: Construct a professional narrative that effectively markets all of the relevant skills and experiences that you bring to the table.  Gain confidence in telling this narrative in order to effectively network, especially with employers or individuals currently working in a role you might be interested in.

Individual Activities

  1. Read our tips on how to create a compelling professional narrative.
  2. Understand the full range of skills that you have acquired through your training and work experiences.  The skills that might be most important to a prospective employer may not be the technical skills related to your subject matter expertise, but the broad range of  “transferable skills” you also have developed.
    1. Read about PhD transferable skills to learn more about the broad array of skills you bring to the table and how to describe them.
    2. What transferable skills are important in your career families of interest?
    3. Consider other  character traits or principles that you want to communicate as a professional.  What experiences, stories, or information can I provide which would convince someone of those traits or principles?
    4. Think of of experiences in which you developed and successfully practiced  transferable skills; these experiences could be internships, full-time jobs, or non-paid positions with student clubs or volunteer organizations.
  3. Complete this worksheet on Accomplishment Stories to help structure your professional narrative. Make sure it emphasizes the skills and experience most relevant to one of your preferred careers.
  4. (OPTIONAL) If you are concerned about your stories sounding unnatural, do the following activity:
    1. For each section of your STAR story, take your answer and reduce it to 3 or fewer bullet points
    2. Condense each bullet point into 3 or fewer words
    3. Pretend you have been asked to tell your story and practice giving the answer by only looking at your bullet points for reference
    4. Make a recording for 3 different scenarios:
      1. You are a super confident, bombastic big-shot
      2. You are a humble and well-spoken leader
      3. You are a graduate student on their fourth cup of coffee

Group Activities

  1. Sharing with the group is an opportunity to build your professional narrative! Speak your desired skills, traits or principles into existence: go around the group and share those skills or traits you feel is important to convey professionally. It’s perfectly alright to use traits which you might not have fully developed yet, and say “I want to come across as ___” instead of only using “I am ____”, but be confident.
  2. Share ideas about transferable skills and how to build them:
    1. What transferable skills did you identify and how have you been developing them in graduate school?
    2. How important are they to your careers of interest relative to more technical skills?
    3. What ideas do you have regarding ways you and your group members can continue to build relevant skills while in grad school?
  3. Work on developing your professional narrative with the following exercise:
    1. Pick a role or position relevant to your career interests
    2. Pair up in groups (2-3 people) and pick one partner to first be the interviewee
    3. As the interviewee, tell everyone 2-4 desirable traits for someone in this position/role
    4. Then provide stories or describe related experiences (reference Individual Activity 3 if needed)
    5. Listeners should then give feedback based on the position and desirable traits: did the elevator pitch adequately showcase any or all of those traits? Did the delivery of the elevator pitch help or hinder its message?
  4. It may be difficult to find the right opportunities to prove your character, and doing so explicitly may sometimes feel unnatural. Can your group brainstorm any alternative methods to communicating your professional identity?
    1. For possible discussion jumping points: LinkedIn, attending workshops and talking to others about them, affirming your accomplishments by reviewing progress with your supervisor or yourself, etc.
  5. (OPTIONAL) Help give and respond to some leading prompts:
    1. Share a resume (even a draft is okay) with a partner
    2. Have the reader comment on something in the resume, for instance saying “so I see you like ____ topic
    3. Have the resume owner use that comment as a quick 30-second springboard to tell a relevant story or further elaborate