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On The Job Hunt? Never Be Afraid to Tell Your Story

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Today’s career musings is not only based on a quote by actress Angie Dickinson, but also contains elements from the Foreword of my new book, Tell Stories Get Hired. Credit for the Foreword goes to Sharon Graham, one of Canada’s foremost Career Strategists.

While Dickinson’s quote may relate to life in general, this post is written from a job search context and targets mid-career professionals, managers and executives. It is also relevant to job seekers, people in career transition, and even those who are happy at work!

When it comes to job search, we cannot underestimate the importance of storytelling. Your job search story literally starts with “Once upon a time…”. If you can articulate your value effectively, you can succeed in your job search. Career storytelling can help you build credibility, but its benefits don’t end there. It can also help you to identify your dreams, strengthen your values, find your true assets, and build your self-confidence.

Never be afraid to tell your story. Storytelling is an integral part of your job search. It’s a technique you must use to communicate why you are the best person for the job. It’s a strategy you should employ when networking to demonstrate your industry expertise. You cannot afford to be seen as ‘a shrinking violet’, “someone who is shy or modest and does not like to attract attention.”  Don’t be afraid!

Your story should be interesting. When writing your resume, when networking, or during an interview, create a vivid and interesting picture of what role you played in the story. Were you the lead actor, or did you play a supporting role? In fact, take them on a ride in your CAR, and explain the Challenges you encountered, the Actions you took, and the Results.

Your story is unique. Even if your story is similar to someone else’s, it’s not the same. Find ways to showcase your uniqueness. Brand your story in a package that stands out. According to Sharon, “Our current job search environment is very competitive and the only way to differentiate yourself is to tell “unique signature stories.”

Your story is worth sharing. If you don’t toot your horn, no one will know you are coming. Don’t expect the interviewer to read your mind to determine how great you are. One of my clients lost out on a promotion to project manager because he assumed his boss knew what he had done. He failed to share his success stories.

It’s your story. If you accomplished it, it’s yours, so claim it. If you don’t, others will autograph your work with their name on it. Too many people complain that their bosses or coworkers have taken credit for their work. Don’t let that be you…tell your story!

Every career has many interesting twists and turns, but few people are naturally confident storytellers. Most people find the thought of having to “sell” themselves to recruiters, hiring managers, and other potential company representatives daunting. You may know what you want to share, but are not certain of how best to do that. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Want to learn more about storytelling for the job search? Listen to this podcast, or visit Tell Stories Get Hired to grab your copy of the book.

5 Job Search Mistakes You Should Avoid

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From time to time job seekers, prospective clients and clients discuss with me the difficulties they face in finding a job, or getting interviews. Sometimes, these conversations come from unexpected sources: mid-career professionals, managers, and executives.

Most times I empathize with these individuals because the job search process can take a toll on anyone; people get into panic mode, and all rational thinking goes through the window. Sometimes, though, I have to be direct and tell them to hit the delete button on negative thinking. Professionals at these levels should be focusing on who they are and the value they have to offer, rather than how difficult the job search process is. It is said that whatever one focuses on, expands. Focus on negative thinking and it breeds more negatives.

Over the past few days, I have had some email and face-to-face exchanges with several job candidates and identified several job search mistakes they were making. This prompted me to write this post on five job search mistakes you should avoid:

  1. I am overqualified. How do I handle this in the interview? Do not spend your time focusing on being overqualified. Think about what you have to offer. Prepare to explain that you may be overqualified, but only if the company is looking to remain where it is. But, if they want to benefit from your years of experience delivering results; if they want to surpass their competitors, then you are the right person for the job. Of course, back that up with concrete examples that demonstrate your point.
  2. The company indicated only those selected for an interview will be contacted. Follow their rules. Don’t contact them directly, but no one said you couldn’t contact them indirectly. Find employees willing to talk with you about the company, and the position. Ask them for specifics: contact details for the person responsible for hiring, major problems the company is facing, workplace culture and fit. Check out the company’s blog and online presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook). What’s being discussed? Who are the influencers? Also, search for former employees who will be able to give you the inside scoop on the company. All this investigative work could pay off, and place you and your resume ahead of others competing for the same job. Some companies offer incentives for internal referrals, and this extra research might just helped you to find one.
  3. I don’t have any interviews lined up, so I am going to wait until I get a date before I seek help. This the most crucial part of the job search. Don’t wait for the last minute on something as important as an interview. Review some interview questions that you are sure they are going to ask, such as ‘Tell me about yourself’, or ‘Why should we hire you?’ Practice with a friend, family member or a career or interview coach. Be prepared! “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” Whitney Young
  4. My friend in HR reviewed the resume you did, and said it does not have an Objective. This is ‘old school’ thinking, in my opinion. But, on a more serious note, keep in mind that if you show your resume to ten different people, you will get ten different opinions. So, while I respect your friend’s opinion, current resume practice, especially for mid-career professionals, managers, and executives, is to substitute an Objective for accomplishment or value-based statements that speak directly to the position. If the statement focuses on the company’s pain points, and grabs attention, you have just made the hiring manager’s job easier.
  5. I have a LinkedIn Profile, but don’t want to upload a photograph. This is a huge mistake. Without a photo on your LinkedIn Profile, you are considered invisible by hiring managers and recruiters. Go ahead and upload a photo, and when you do, make sure it is professional, and does not include other people. As of today’s writing, I have 27 LinkedIn invitations waiting to be accepted, but they fall into the categories of: no photo, a group photo, or a sketchy profile. I am sure they are great people, but they are hiding. As a job candidate, if you want to grow your network on LinkedIn, or get connected to other people, stop making these mistakes.

Are you making any of those mistakes? Are there others you could add to this post? You are welcome to comment below.