Before you begin developing stories about how you’ve handled change (Ch. 1) and how you’ve demonstrated other skills (Ch. 3), you will likely find it useful to develop one or more stories that capture the essence of who you are. Your starting point for all job-search stories should be a narrative that truly reveals your character and what makes you unique. The story might disclose what makes you tick, what drives you, what you value, what your goals are, how behave in a crisis (Simmons, 2001) or, as outlined in Chapter 1, a time of change.
You may not use this story in your actual job search, but you’ll use it as a starting point to help you get to know yourself better and draw from it to develop additional stories that illustrate skills and accomplishments.
This type of “you” story is not my original concept. Annette Simmons has coined the Who Am I Story, while Steve Denning dubs his the Who Are You Story. Simmons’ The Story Factor and Denning’s The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling respectively offer excellent techniques for developing these stories.
Denning, for example suggests as starting points a story about a favorite place of your youth, a story of overcoming adversity or an obstacle, a tale involving someone admirable or influential, or narrative about a significant event from your past.
Simmons recommends identifying a quality about yourself and then developing a story about a time you shined with this quality, a time you blew it, a mentor who taught you about the quality, or a book or movie that embodies the quality.
Similarly, Joe Lambert, author of the Digital Storytelling Cookbook, suggests developing a story about an accomplishment.
Decisive moments (Lambert) or turning points are also excellent fodder for the Quintessential You Story and often originate, as Denning points out, in late adolescent years, when young people are leaving the safety of their families and determining their purpose in life.
The various types of “prompts” or starting places for the Quintessential You Story suggest that you can actually have more than one story. You may want to develop multiple stories that illustrate different aspects of your character.
The experts suggest setting a positive tone for your story. Even if you tell a dark story, explain how you derived something positive from the experience. For example, my son lived a story in which he was traumatized in high school when two friends “ star-crossed lovers “ committed suicide by throwing themselves in front of a train. Eventually, though, my son gained an appreciation for the joy and exhilaration of being alive and a desire to love and be loved.