By Chris Olsen
What do you do? This is quite possibly the most commonly asked question at networking events and dinner parties and on blind dates. In each of these settings, it leads to responses that include job titles: I’m a bookkeeper. I’m a floral designer. I’m a writer. And an answer like that leads to how long you’ve been doing the work, the roles you’ve held in the past, perhaps where you went to college—all the basics.
We’ve been conditioned to communicate this way. We focus on WHAT we do instead of WHY we do it. Those questions and our standard answers start as we’re getting ready to enter the professional world. We create a basic business bio chock full of facts and key words and phrases that a potential school, employer, or business partner might look for. It includes a whole lot of stats and very little story. These classic answers barely scratch the surface of what makes you uniquely you. Your LinkedIn profile is the perfect example of this.
Ditching the basic business bio for a Whyography is a powerful way to connect with others who have similar values. It sets you up for success in your professional life. More than ever, businesses and their investors, employees and consumers are connecting over a shared commitment to making a difference in the lives of others and the world. There is no better time than now to start communicating your WHY with confidence.
Step One: Get Clear on Your WHY
Your WHY is your purpose, your values in action. But before you can lead with it, you have to get clear on it. The best place to start is creating a list of your top 10 values. Choose verbs, which indicate action. Narrow your values down to five by focusing on those you live by rather than those that are aspirational. This Values in Action Tracker activity helps you identify the values that show up in your day-to-day life.
Next, look for connections between your top values and specific people or causes you’re passionate about supporting in your work, your volunteer efforts, etc. This Tiny WHY Statement activity helps to quickly articulate your WHY.
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.