by Frank Traditi
Companies hire you based on your ability to demonstrate what you can do for them and how you can solve their problems.
While a hiring manager expects you to have all of the functional skills necessary for the job, her or she is much more interested in how you can use your special abilities to handle the challenges given to you if you were in the job. The big question is how do you demonstrate this ability in an interview when they haven't seen you at work yet? The most effective method is to tell a story.
Often during interviews you'll get the opportunity to highlight your unique talents. A very effective way to do so is to introduce your career success stories about how you overcame significant challenges. You may have suggested a creative idea to handle an employee performance problem. Maybe you instituted a step-by-step process to reduce customer complaints. Perhaps your persistence paid off to close a multi-year contract with the largest customer the company has ever seen.
All of these actions resulted in great accomplishments throughout your career. Now you get the chance to tell the story of how you did it. To help you tell your story in the most convincing way, you need a simple format to work from. Here's an easy, three-step process to put the pieces together for your success stories when you get the opportunity to tell them.
1. Describe the problem or opportunity you faced.
Here you should describe the situation you were up against. It may have been a special project that you were assigned or a highly volatile customer issue. Perhaps it was an aggressive sales objective never attempted before. You're setting up the plot of your story here.
2. What did you do?
How did you deal with the challenge? Perhaps you devised plans, assigned tasks, coordinated meetings, created a system, or mobilized a team to tackle the problem. Describe the process, step-by-step, of how you attacked the problem through to resolution. Remember, you are explaining and marketing your ability to solve problems.
3. What was the positive result?
Describe, as specifically as you can, the positive outcome of your actions. How did you save or make money for the company or department? What changed for the better as a result of your initiative? Did a difficult communication problem disappear after you got involved? Did you repair a big customer problem? The more you can point to specific, bottom-line results, the more convinced a hiring manager is that you are the person for the job.
Final Thoughts on Career Storytelling
Another great place to incorporate storytelling is with your network. When your contacts have an opportunity to refer you to their contacts or even a potential hiring manager, they can tell your story. A memorable story shared with a new contact creates a place mark in his or her mind about you. That simple connection can help create a new relationship with someone influential in your career. We've all heard stories about the service provider who showed up and solved a huge problem at our home or office. It works the same way for job-seekers. Your network is out praising your abilities to their contacts, and the connection is made.
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.
Have you seen all our Career Storytelling Tools for Job-Seekers?