by Meg Guiseppi
"We can never get away from traditional oral narrative culture because we think in story; that's how our brains are wired." -- Katharine Hansen, PhD
Capturing the attention of people assessing you through your resume, LinkedIn profile, and biography -- typically rather dry, business-oriented content -- can be a challenge.
Sure, you need to include all the right keywords representing your skill sets and areas of expertise . . . but that's just to keep pace with your competitors.
How will you catapult your value and good-fit qualities above the crowd, in these often anemic personal marketing materials?
By using the time-honored tradition of storytelling.
If you've ever listened to a great storyteller, you know how connected it made you feel to the person and what's being said.
In job search, storytelling works similarly. Building stories around your skill sets, accomplishments, and good-fit qualities helps attract people to you and differentiates the unique value you offer.
Storytelling helps you make an emotional connection with employers and generate chemistry for yourself as a candidate, compelling hiring decision-makers to want to learn more about you by asking for an interview.
Storytelling helps employers get a feel for the kind of person you are and how you make things happen and envision you contributing on the job.
First, before you can write your resume, LinkedIn profile, biography, and other job-search collaterals, you need to know who will be reading these materials, so your content will speak directly to that target audience.
Narrow your job search by targeting specific employers, researching their current challenges, and identifying how you can help them right now.
Then define your brand and promise of value to them so your content will resonate with the values, vision, attributes, passions, and driving strengths they're looking for.
The C-A-Rs (Challenge - Actions - Results) method of job-search storytelling is a good way to start. You'll showcase a few significant contributions you've made to past employers by describing in depth the Challenge you faced, what Actions you took, and what the Results were that benefitted the company.
But you can take storytelling a few steps further, beyond the metrics-driven accomplishments the C-A-R method is designed to elicit.
Here are some questions to prompt career brand stories around your personality and attributes. Use abbreviated versions in your resume, LinkedIn profile, and especially your biography -- a vehicle tailor-made for storytelling -- and rely on them as you network and interview:
1. What are you most passionate about doing -- in your personal life and work life?
2. What differentiates you from others who do the same work -- your competition in the job market? What combination of skills and personal attributes do you have to offer that no one else does?
3. What drove or inspired you to become involved in your field?
4. What are 2 or 3 defining moments for you as your career progressed? Events that shaped your career path, had the most impact on making you who you are today, and led you to add value to your employer organizations.
5. What 1 or 2 things are you most proud of accomplishing in your career?
6. Which of your personal attributes proved most beneficial in your career and why?
7. Describe a few times when you drew upon your best attributes and strengths to accomplish something that benefitted the organization you worked for.
8. How have adversity and challenges made you stronger and a more valuable worker, manager, or leader?
9. What aspects of your professional journey do you consider unique and why?
10. To what do you attribute your success as a manager or leader (if applicable)?
11. What are the two or three most important lessons you learned along the way that others could benefit from? How did you use those lessons in your career?
12. Do you have a code of ethics or set of beliefs that dictate the choices you make. Were there times when this code was challenged?
13. Talk about some of the people you've mentored. How did you help them? What were the circumstances? What impact did your guidance have on their career progression? How did your mentoring impact and benefit the company or organization?
14. Talk about a mentor of yours who helped shape your career or who most influenced you. How did they help you be a better contributor to your employers?
Final Thoughts on Creating Your Brand Story
Yes, it takes time to dig deep and do this work on crafting a great stories that showcase your career brand. But, if the content you create based on your stories resonates with your target employers and results in more job interviews for the jobs you want, isn't it worth it?
For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers:
- Personal Career Branding & Self-Marketing Tools for Job-Seekers and Career Activists
- Career Storytelling Tools for Job-Seekers
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.