"Body of Work" book cover

How to Create Your Own ‘Body of Work’

Figuring out your own story can improve your financial well-being. 

"Body of Work" book cover


By + More

How do you create financial stability in an unstable world? That’s one of the questions Pamela Slim asked as she worked on her new book, “Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together.” She had previously focused on start-ups and helping people leave corporate jobs in favor of the entrepreneurial life through her website and book, “Escape from Cubicle Nation.”

She wants to encourage people to consider a variety of ways to create wealth in their lives, instead of focusing on just one method, and even to shift fluidly between different forms of work at different stages of their lives. “People can move between different work modes – working for a company, starting a business and then going back and doing something else,” she says. The key is stepping back and considering the bigger picture of your skill set and “story” around your life and career.

Slim offers these three tips to people looking for ways to improve their own financial health through their work:

[See: 10 Ways to Upgrade Your Finances in 2014.]

1. Find your laser focus.

“Really focus on what it is you are creating in your career. What are the specific projects, the deliverables and the things that you create that you’re very proud of?” she asks. If you work for a large company in a role where it’s hard to define specific outputs, she recommends working on an outside project that allows you demonstrate your skills. “It could be an amazing SlideShare presentation, writing a book or working on a volunteer project,” she suggests.

2. Build relationships.

“Make sure you’re building relationships outside of your immediate environment, so you’re connecting with people who might have access to different client bases,” Slim says. That advice is especially important to those who are self-employed, who might not naturally rub shoulders with too many people, especially unfamiliar faces, throughout the course of a typical day. She emphasizes that it’s important to look for people who work in different types of environments than your own. “It will keep you fresh, creatively,” she adds.

[See: Your 10-Step Financial Recovery Plan.]

3. Tell your story.

“Make sure that in every situation, when you’re talking about who you are and what you do, that it is a strong, compelling story that focuses on your strengths,” Slim says. That includes in social media: She suggests making sure your LinkedIn profile and Twitter account shares your results-oriented story “that presents you in a positive light.” If you have your own website, which she says is usually a good move, it should also share that same story, so people can immediately understand your strengths.

Mastering how to tell your story can also help you during job searches, Slim says, because you can readily explain to hiring managers what you have to offer. “You need to be able to describe how your whole life experience contributes to you being the perfect person for a position,” she says.

If you don’t tell your story, Google will do it for you, she warns. “Google is curating the story of our lives whether we like it or not,” she says. “If you hear about someone, first you Google them – what have they done, what have they written,” she says, and it’s important to know what people are learning about you, and to make any necessary adjustments. If nothing turns up on Google, that can be an even bigger wake-up call that it’s time to tell the world what you’re all about.

[See: The Best Side Business Ideas for Busy People.]

One of Slim’s main takeaways is that in this economy, nothing stays the same for long, even success. “When you’re very clearly preparing for volatility and [the fact that] you’re not going to have super-consistent income, you’re going to adopt different financial habits. You’ll have more savings, you’ll be more aware of spending patterns and you’ll have a side business to generate revenue,” she says.

That’s important, Slim says, in a world where your job can suddenly disappear, and your career can change very quickly and sometimes unexpectedly.