by Melissa Hunter, Assistant Director, Career and Professional Development Center, Nicholas School of the Environment

Are you interested in improving your organization’s communication style and outreach? If so, congratulations! You’ve recognized the importance of continually updating your organization’s ability to reach its customers.

Organizations and their audiences are comprised of people who bring a blend of perspectives, skillsets, personalities, and values to the workplace and their community. Two of the greatest challenges organizations face when developing a communications strategy are: 1) finding alignment around a set of core values and 2) understanding their audience.

So where do you start? This article is the first in a two part series on identifying and communicating your why. This month, we’re starting with you.

Before we dive in to your organization’s communication strategy, let’s take a step back and bring it closer to home—let’s talk about you. If I were in front of you right now and asked you to tell me about yourself, what would you say?

I find that professionals often immediately begin talking about their current role or their organization rather than sharing their passions and skillsets.

In short, they tell me the how versus their why. They focus on telling me about the projects their company is focusing on, the clients they are working with, and the outcomes their team accomplished.

While I love to hear about productive teams fighting the good fights for environmental wins, I want to hear what motivates you to get up in the morning and keep you energized during 8, 9, or 10-hour work days. What motivated you to pursue a career in the environmental field in the beginning? How have you made an impact in your current role, company, or broader community? What specific skills or strengths do you possess that separates you from others?

We’ve all had the experience of listening to someone speak about something they are passionate about. Hearing their story, hopes, and dreams affects the way we feel; energized, more connected, and motivated to get involved.

If you are reading this and saying, “I’m not sure what gets me energized” or “I have lost the spark that I originally had”—you are not alone. Ask yourself, is a way that you can bring more joy or happiness into your work? What are you good at and how can you apply those skills to a new project, task force, or work group? Over time, your perspective will shift and when you talk with someone about what you do, you will focus on explaining why you’re doing what you do rather than how you are doing it.