Frame Your Career Story: The Pixar Pitch

LampIf you had to describe the bigger story of your career, what would you say?

No, I don’t mean the information that would normally find it’s way into your elevator pitch. Rather, I mean the bigger story that frames what you do – and propels your career. That is, the backstory of conditions that exist before the hero (you) even show up, and the flashforward to show the bright future your work brings about.

Sounds complicated, right?

Well, actually, there are career-related story frames that can guide you. Yet, I have a new favorite that I learned about from my friend Carol Ross. It’s the Pixar Pitch. Described by Dan Pink in To Sell Is Human, it goes like this:

Once upon a time _____. Every day, _____. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

 It’s powerful. In fact, I’ve already used it to help people identify the words to best convey their vision, tell the story of their business, clarify their mission – and of course, quickly uncover the why of their careers.

Frankly, I believe working with a coach to uncover your story is the very best way to gain powerful insights for future success. Still, if you want to begin to think about the context for what you do, the Pixar Pitch is a great tool. [Tweetable] So, to give you a feel for the kind of context it can create, I thought I’d share the story that led me to create Success Reimagined:

Once upon a time, most people had the view that career success meant joining a big company, climbing the corporate ladder, and retiring with a gold watch and pension.

Each day, every day, people went to the office and demonstrated their loyalty, and always believed that their companies would be loyal in return, and take care of them.

Then one day, big companies realized that technology allowed them to get by with fewer workers. They decided that loyalty wasn’t really a two-way street.

So, they started displace employees by showing them the door.

Because of that people saw they had to take care of their own careers, and because of that they tried new ways of working, and because of that the idea of becoming a free agent became really attractive for the independence and self-reliance it represented.

So, more and more people chose this path, until finally the culture changed and people started to reimagine success, defining it in their own terms. And even better, they realized they had the power to work and learn and grow by seeking help from other people. And so they built powerful communities of practice and trusted networks to sustain them.

Oh, and that gold watch? Displaced by the technology symbol of an empowered work force: Smart phones with productivity tools and social apps.

Notice that this does not convey my experience. Rather, it sets out what I see has happening in the world, gives a hint of why I do what I do, and conveys the context for my work.


What about you? How would you frame your career? Try it out. And if you’d like to share, leave your Pixar Pitch in a comment to this post. I’d love to see yours!


  1. says

    Hi Walter! Thanks for the advice. It helped me look at my career in content marketing from a broader context. I thought I’d share what I came up with!

    Once upon a time, companies used paid media channels like television commercials and newspaper ads to persuade people to buy their products and services.

    Every day, marketers dedicated themselves to crafting one-way messages to encourage consumers to take action.

    Then one day, technology changed the way businesses and people communicate. The advent of the internet gave us a new ways to reach out and connect with people – something that is both amazing and overwhelming.

    As the world became more digital, marketers recognized opportunities to communicate with consumers and not at them. Because of that, inbound marketing started to gain momentum. Opposed to traditional marketing where brands needed to interrupt someone’s flow of activity to get attention, inbound marketing allows brands to earn attention organically, without disturbing.

    So, we’ve lived through a tectonic shift in how people work and live and finally, marketers are starting to adapt. Engaging consumers is about connecting with them in the places and on the devices they prefer. It’s about integrating content and context for a richer, relevant and personalized experience.

    We still have a long way to go. This digital frontier is yet to be fully realized. We’re the ones pioneering it. We’re the ones shaping how brands will interact with consumers.

    • says

      Wow, Lauren!! I LOVE your Pixar Pitch!! Not only is it well written, but you also nicely capture the overall context for inbound marketing. It’s like the bigger picture for your career, and adds meaning and vision to what you do!

      I’m a big fan of story as a way to gain insights about career direction and personal brand. Although I have a pretty complete template and process, I love the simplicity and power of The Pixar Pitch.

      Thanks for taking the time to capture the broader context for your career, and for sharing your result!

    • Sheila Krejci says

      Walter and Lauren,

      These are great examples of how use the Pixar Pitch in career transition. I’d love to use your examples with my audience in an upcoming book, “Networking is a Lifetime Skill.” Would you grant permission? I will definitely credit you with name, title or whatever you prefer. Thanks! Let me know.

  2. says

    Hi Sheila!! Thanks for your great comment. Your book sounds awesome, and I look forward to seeing it one day!! You can absolutely use my example. I imagine Lauren would appreciate seeing her example quoted as well. I’ll follow up with each of you directly.

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