Want a Great Job? Communicate Your Value!

Want to find a great job?  Be a great storyteller.  The ability to communicate the value you offer an organization is a critical skill.  Interviewing well, receiving plum job assignments, and getting promoted are a result of good preparation that allows you to distill a lifetime of experiences into digestible ninety-second to three-minute stories.

If your stories ramble on too long, people will forget the main ideas and their attention will lapse.  If your stories don’t provide enough detail, you risk coming across as stiff and not likable.  I advise clients to hone their storytelling ability in two steps.  First, identify the key points you wish to communicate using the “Mapping Your Experience” tool, then tell simple, but effective, stories using the STAR Method.

Map Your Experience

To get a role, you need to build a bridge from your skills to the needs of the hiring manager.  In human resources, we call these “transferable” skills and experience.  The first step is to identify the skills and experience you have and then select which you wish to highlight.

To get started write down on a piece of paper one of your many accomplishments.  In my book I use the following example:

“Implemented a new strategy that increased year-over-year sales by 15%.”

Next you want to list all the skills you used to achieve that accomplishment.  Then narrow the list to the top five skills you believe would be the best match or fit with the desired opportunity.  In our sales example, we listed the following top five:

  1. Problem-solving
  2. Project management
  3. Motivating others
  4. Learning on the fly
  5. Financial management

The above list describes which skills we used, but the best stories have compelling plots.  To complete our experience map we want to share the steps to achieving our accomplishment.  Key milestones to reach your accomplishment serve as your plot points.  In our sales example, we identified the following milestones:

  1. Conducted market analysis
  2. Created sales projections
  3. Developed a distribution strategy
  4. Got corporate funding
  5. Launched a promotional campaign

With your skills and milestones identified, you are ready to tell a compelling story…

Use the STAR Method

In a business setting I tell people to use the “STAR Method” to create full but concise stories.

  1. Situation: outline the situation – when, where, etc.
  2. Task: review the specific tasks you were given and what your supervisor or client expected you to do.
  3. Action: share the major actions you took to accomplish the task.
  4. Results: describe the results or impact of your work.

A movie director gets to decide how the story unfolds.  They may tell the story chronologically, going from beginning to end.  Or they may start at the end, then flashback to the beginning.  When you interview, however, you don’t get to decide.  The interviewer asks the question and then you must fill in the rest.  Your story must cover all for components of the STAR.  The interviewer begins by asking you a question (the starting point), then you tell your story filling in all four components.  Below are two examples to illustrate the point:

  1. Describe a situation when you were asked to do something above and beyond your day-to-day responsibilities. In this case, start with the situation and then cover all the other points.

    “I was working as a store manager in Rhode Island (situation), when I was asked to join a project to increase sales in the New England region (task).  I was responsible for leading the five-person team that developed a new sales, distribution, and promotion strategy in ninety days (action).  We implemented the new strategy last year, and overall sales have increased fifteen percent year to date compared to the same time last year (result).”

  2. Tell me about a time when you worked on a team project, what went well and what did not. In this case, we are telling the same story but starting with the task.

    “I was responsible for leading a five-person team charged with increasing sales in the New England region (task).  I was working as a store manager in Rhode Island (situation).  In ninety days, we developed a new sales, distribution, and promotion strategy (action).  The planning phase took longer than expected and I made mistakes getting everyone on board, but the implementation went well.  We implemented the new strategy last year, and overall sales have increased fifteen percent year to date compared to the same time last year (result).”

Bottom Line

Practice becoming a master storyteller by developing powerful and concise stories that demonstrate how you will add value to the organization.

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