The Five Stories Every Job Hunter Must Be Ready to Tell

I've written before about a critical skill that job hunters must hone: the ability to convey their past accomplishments via well-crafted PAR* stories, where PAR stands for Problem-Action-Result.

But in today's "jobless recovery," this skill is taking on a greater significance. Many job hunters are getting little to no response from employers. They are starting to suspect that the jobs they once held may not ever be coming back. The realization that they need to reinvent themselves is slowly starting to dawn on them.

If this sounds like your predicament, then heed this: More than ever before, you must be ready and able to convey your Value Proposition, the reason why they should hire You! The power of a story can go far beyond recounting a past event to illustrate your achievements. A well-told story also demonstrates your practical wisdom and reveals the essence of the storyteller.

To "wow" the next interviewer that invites you into their organization, consider these Five Stories Every Job Hunter Must Be Ready To Tell.

1. The Idea - Every one of has a "bright idea" now and then. This story tells about a time when you had an idea, maybe a solution to a dilemma your team was facing, and how you presented the idea to others to gain their support. Were you successful? Did they resist your idea? Were you able to overcome their objections? Even if the story ends with the idea being shot down (Hey, that's life on the Idea Food Chain sometimes), this story can illustrate such aspects of practical wisdom as imagination, patience, persistence, communication, and selling skills.

2. The Ordeal - Every one of us suffers through an ordeal at one time or another. A difficult and possibly painful (even if only psychically so) time of stress. This story tells about a time when you, and perhaps others on your team, had to suffer through a prolonged trial, such as the uncertainty that comes with an impending acquisition by another organization. What did you do to help yourself, and others, through this trying time? This story can illustrate such aspects of practical wisdom as optimism, hope, fortitude, and solidarity with others.

3. The Transition - Every one of us has had to adapt to a change. Maybe there was a merger and you found yourself working for a new employer, adjusting to a whole new organizational culture. Did you rise to the occasion? Did you seize the opportunity? Did you learn as fast as you could? Did you prove yourself to the new regime? This story can illustrate such aspects of practical wisdom as adaptability, flexibility, customer-focus, results-focus, organizational savvy, and learning.

4. The Setback - Every one of us has been knocked down. Maybe it was a minor setback such as enduring a budget cut. For many others, it may have been a major setback such as a termination. Did you stay down? Or did you get up, get creative, get moving, and galvanize into action? This story can illustrate such aspects of practical wisdom as belief in oneself, courage, resolve, creativity, and resilience.

5. The Team - Every one of us has been part of a team at one time or another. Though you may not have been the team leader, it may have occurred to you that there is no "I" in TEAM. That it takes everyone to succeed. When you realized that you shared responsibility for the leadership, and for the ultimate success of the team, you broke through (whether you knew it or not) to the essential meaning of leadership. This story can illustrate such aspects of practical wisdom as teamwork, taking responsibility, following, and leading.

So the next time an interviewer says "Tell me about yourself," you will be ready.

*Don't like PAR? How about CAR stories: Challenge-Action-Results. Or SOAR stories: Situation-Obstacle/Opportunity-Action-Result.

This post written by Terrence Seamon. For more tips on job search, careers, and storytelling, contact Terry. Visit his website and invite him to speak to your organization.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, May 18, 2010


Dick Richards said…
Very very nice Terrence. I've forwarded this to a few friends who are searching now. Thanks!
Terrence Seamon said…
Thanks, Dick. Appreciate the kind words. I do hope it brings some inspiration to your friends.
Dave Summers said…
Very practical T. I should print this out, laminate it, and carry around in my backpack.

Terrence Seamon said…
Thanks Dave. I appreciate your kind words.
nisha said…
This article simply ROCKS ! That was a great read for me. keep it up with all the good work..

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