To get the best jobs, we all need to tell our story

Your career is a story. It has twists, turns a plot line and hopefully a happy-ever-after.

Most HR departments and interviewers are very bored by people recounting their past in basic chronological order. If you are in the habit of doing it, you are effectively asking your interviewer to construct a narrative around your choices; that takes effort and engagement, qualities you won't find on every interview panel.

Your story is what draws interviewers towards you and encourages them to believe in why you will be a success. Hiring isn't just rational; it is an emotive decision for managers who typically use language like 'I believed in them' or 'felt they would fit in'. Belief and trust aren't transferred by a test results, they are emotive reactions to the authenticity of how you present yourself.

In short, to get hired by the best companies you need to know how to tell your story. Some people will find it easy to talk about themselves and can spin a good yarn; but for most people elements of nervousness and self-doubt creep in at interviews that disturb their thought processes.

At Go.Show.Do we help people get much better at selling themselves and making sure they get their unique qualities across to employers, both as a professionals and as an individual. If you write notes on each of the following before you start an interview process, we hope you will be further forwards in explaining your value to employers.

1. Know the value of your work to a company

  • Can you qualify how success or failure in your job would affect the success of your employer? Do you shape their success?
  • What effect do your endeavours have on colleagues or departments further up the chain?

For sales professionals or those of us working in small companies, this is easy to define ; but even in a multinational, knowing the real value of your work is a crucial first building block.

2. Define why you work hard? Personally.

Careers require hard-graft. Sometimes in Financial Services, it is very hard indeed. Most companies would rather hire a hard worker than a talented slacker. If success in a certain job truly matters to you, be prepared to say why. Small nuggets of honesty will put your interviewers at ease and hold your narrative together.

  • If you need the money, say why (not a sob story)
  • If you need the promotion, say why (where is your career story going?)
  • If you have always been driven to work hard / outperform others, say why, where does it come from

3. Why Success Matters. Professionally.

Most corporate employers want to hire people with ambition. It is difficult thought to balance eagerness with a willingness to 'do your time'.

To get the right balance try to:

  • Be clear about how success in a job would develop you professionally (skills)
  • Know how success would change your prospects or career trajectory
  • Identify all the rewards for success that are not monetary. Because you will be a rich and engaging person to interview
  • Give indications about your risk appetite

4. Show the drama in your journey

Condensing your professional history, past lessons and successes into a ten-minute explanation is very difficult. The basic facts of your past are in your CV. At an interview you need to give new information which adds richness and personality to your story. If there is a crux to your journey, be sure to point it out. E.g. 'it was project Y which first showed by how fun multinational projects are and took me in this direction'.

5. Be excellent at something!

No-one is excellent at everything, yes, even you. The things you are really good at need to be made crystal clear at interview and directly related to the new job in question.

Giving yourself USP's is a bit weird, because you are a person, not a commodity BUT it is a necessary evil if you are trying to get your message across. It is a competitive world out there and being able to tell your own story and articulate your strengths is a strange skill, just like networking and the 'elevator pitch'.

By just writing notes on the five areas in this article, you should feel better prepared for interviews and clearer about your potential value. For more on how to tell your story try this short video.

Or for those with a bit more time: this more conceptual lecture is really good (the sound quality is terrible though):

A blog page

Olivier Vidal is MD of Go.Show.Do.

Go.Show.Do personally coach ambitious professionals to tell their story to employers online, on paper and at interviews.

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