Career Success: Mastering the Art of Storytelling
by Jeff Herzog, President, FPC National
Storytelling is the single most powerful tool in the job seeker’s toolkit. Being competent, producing meaningful results, and developing a track record of success are all terrific assets, but without the ability to effectively convey these qualities to a prospective employer, it will be difficult for you to stand out from the crowd.
Let’s be clear: Storytelling in this sense is not fiction or fabrication; it is the conveying of your background in an impactful and meaningful way. Effective storytelling has the ability to bring significant accomplishments to life, elevate mundane job responsibilities to superhero proportions, and capture the attention of prospective employers.
Storytelling on Your Job Search
When it comes to your resume, there’s nothing more bland and uninspiring than a long, bulleted list of your job duties. In most cases, recruiters and hiring managers are well aware of what you are “responsible for” or in other words, what you are “supposed to do” just by reading your job title.
On your resume, you need to go beyond what you are supposed to be doing and focus on how well you’ve done it. Merely performing the act is not enough to include on your resume. Instead, you must convey the result that this act has produced.
But the result is only one part of the equation, as standalone achievements can fall flat on a resume. Stating: Generated $2 million in sales within the first nine months in the territory” leaves the reader confused and wanting more. Is $2 million good? It sounds impressive, but was the goal $4 million or $1 million? Did your $2 million place you as #1 in the sales team or dead last? Merely stating an accomplishment is not enough; you need to provide context. Storytelling provides this context.
The final ingredient is showing the impact that this $2 million had on your department or company. Did the $2 million in sales include penetrating a new region or vertical? Did it land an important account that was previously unattainable? With storytelling, these details come through.
The same rules apply during the interview. When discussing your accomplishments, don’t skimp on the relevant details. Your job is to bring your career highlights to life. Interviewers are giving you the opportunity to state your case and demonstrate your value. Wow them! This is not an invitation for you to ramble on about irrelevant details; rather, it’s a forum for you to help recruiters and hiring managers understand why your achievements are a really big deal. You must answer the “So what?” question for every result you cite.
The Secret Formula
So, you like the idea of conveying your value through storytelling, but you are unsure of how to do it. I’ve got you covered. Here is the secret formula to weaving a compelling story:
Use the “STAR” method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). This time-tested formula is an effective technique for crafting and presenting persuasive, compelling stories. Let’s break it down:
Set the stage to provide the reader context. If your story involves showing how you transformed an important part of the business, make sure you give a vivid picture of the “before” scenario. Think about every weight loss ad you’ve ever seen. Just showing the fit person at the end of the process doesn’t have the same impact as when you contrast before and after photos. When you were hired in this position, was your company experiencing a multiyear revenue decline due to increased competition? It’s important to convey this so the interviewer understands the impact of your achievement.
Now that you’ve set the scene, it’s time to present a challenge you faced: To expand the reach of your product line to a new market. And considering that the interviewer now knows why this was important (because the company’s revenue was declining), the challenge becomes more meaningful.
What exactly did you do to meet this challenge? Did you win acceptance into a new trade show? Did you leverage your 10,000 LinkedIn connections to cultivate new relationships in the target market? Cite specific examples of your actions to show how you tackled the challenge.
Result: Now that your interviewer is on the edge of her seat, this is your cue to deliver the conclusion of your story. How successful were you? Did you meet the challenge? And more important, did your achievement have a positive impact on the company?
If you can proudly state that you established a strong foothold in this market, achieved your revenue goal in six months (well ahead of the one-year projection), and that your efforts played a key role in reversing the company’s revenue decline, then you just told a powerful and compelling story!
By incorporating storytelling into your job search, you are on your way to truly demonstrating the value you offer.
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