Looking for a job can be a time consuming, stressful time for just about anyone. It’s an incredibly pivotal moment in one’s life – looking for not only a source of income but also trying to maintain as much control over the place where they will spend the majority of their time each day. Because of these factors, people tend to approach the search from the wrong perspective. While it’s always important to give as clear of an indication as possible of who you are, what you can do and why you’re the best fit for a position, these things aren’t necessarily what you’re trying to accomplish.
What you’re really doing is trying to tell your story.
What’s In a Story?
As long as time, people love stories! Whether considering the New York Times Best Seller list or the weekly top ten films at the box office, they all share the same core quality – a strong narrative. This goes beyond just a beginning, middle and end. A great story is compelling. It resonates with people. It stays with people long after they’ve heard it and captures their attention in a way that is difficult to forget.
In job searching, you are attempting the same goal – to resonate with people. Instead of using words in a novel or a screenplay, you’re doing the same thing with your cover letter, your resume, your interview style and more.
Building the Perfect Story
As you sit down to start designing your cover letter, resume and other materials, think about things in these terms: “Who you are, where you are, how you got there and where you’re going.”
These are the pillars that will make up the story you’re trying to create, all of which will go a long way towards letting you tell a better story and making the job search as easy as possible.
Take your cover letter, for example. Submitting a form that looks identical to the template you found online doesn’t just overlook an opportunity for creativity, it’s also derivative. As the first thing that many hiring managers will see as they begin to consider your candidacy, consider the cover letter the first chapter in the book you’re writing – what is the impression of you that someone needs to know in order to understand the rest of the story?
Create a unique introduction of yourself that not only sets the stage for the type of employee you are, but that also begins the narrative you’re trying to tell. Tailor it to the specific company you’re applying to so that it seems like the natural “next chapter” in your story involves working at this particular place in this particular position. This is Storytelling 101.
Write With an Ending in Mind
Another technique that writers of all types use is to write with an ending in mind. If you know exactly where you’re going, you get a better idea of what your characters need to do to get there. The same basic concept is true of your resume, which means that to properly tell your story you’re going to have to arrange information in such a way that it seems like getting a particular position is an inevitability, not just “one in a series of many, many options.”
Arrange the information on your resume in a way that broadcasts a clear beginning, middle and end. Pick the elements that make the most sense for the job you’re applying for. Paint a clear picture of your educational background and personal life (“who you are”), your previous work experience (“how you got there”) and the skill set you’ve been building over time.
This sets you apart to show someone that you’re an ideal candidate, and why it is important that this position becomes the next part of the story that is in the process of being written. If you can master techniques like this, you’ll find that you don’t just make an impression – you connect with someone in a powerful and long-term way, the same way a great story does.