Tag Archives: Story telling

3 more ways LinkedIn is the perfect place to tell your story–part 2 of 2

LinkedIn-is-the-PerfectThe first part of this series began with a story of “The Perfect Place,” a spot beyond my childhood neighborhood that’s vivid in my memory. It was, as I describe it to my son, an oasis for the 10–or was it five–of us kids, where we often spent endless hours of our summer vacation doing the crazy things kids do.

This story is analogous to how we tell our story on LinkedIn. A successful job search includes your stories in your written and verbal communications–stories resonate with employers.

In part one of this two-part series I talked about how to tell your story on LinkedIn with your Photo and in Summary and Experience sections; but there are three more places you can tell your story.

Strut your stuff with Media. You don’t need to bring your portfolio–at least most of it–to the interview because recruiters and employers can see it on your profile. In your Summary, Experience, and Education sections, you can show off images, video, audio, presentations, and documents.

This is a feature more people should take advantage of, as it allows you to tell–no show–your story. The Media section replaced many of LinkedIn’s applications, including Answers; and while many were not in favor of the move, this section proved to be beneficial to people who want to display PowerPoint or Presi presentations, YouTube videos, and more.

You can tell your story through visual representation, which can be extremely effective. Take a look at one of my connections, Anton Brookes, who links to YouTube to strut his stuff. Although he doesn’t use Media–he uses Projects–it’s still a great example of how one tells his story using LinkedIn.

What are your interests? “What?” you say, “I don’t include my interests on my résumé.” That’s right, you don’t; but this isn’t your résumé, is it? Your profile is a networking document–albeit online–that needs to encourage people to get to know you better. You can achieve this goal by talking about yourself in the Interests section.

One of my contacts says he’s into sailing and hiking. In my Interests section I mention the fact that I coach soccer, that I spend far too much time on LinkedIn, and other personal things about me.

Another one of my connections uses the Interests section for SEO purposes by listing her services and accomplishments. This might be the smartest way to use your Interests section if you’re looking for work and trying to attract the attention of employers. Nonetheless she’s telling her story.

Note: When you click on a link in this section, you will be brought to a page where other people have the selected words on their profile. This is a neat way to connect with other LinkedIn members. Teaching the love of soccer to energetic youth is one of my interests. Go ahead and click on it.

Recommendations tell your story. Perhaps the best people to tell your story are those who supervised or worked with you. Their words carry more weight than your own when you’re looking for work. Request recommendations from those who supervised you to strengthen your story. And write recommendations for those you supervised to help them tell their story.

The Perfect Place will always be a fond memory and story I’ll continue to tell about how we sat and watched cows graze in the fields, climbed trees, and unsuccessfully tried to build a tree house–but had fun doing it. And, of course, I’ll always remember that wild dog who chased us for miles–or was it more like a quarter of a mile?

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3 ways LinkedIn is the perfect place to tell your story–part 1 of 2

My son loves to hear a story I tell about the “Perfect Place,” an isolated area with climbing rocks and meadows that seemed to span for miles. He is taken by how 10 of my neighborhood friends—probably more like five—would journey to The Perfect Place and hang out to watch cows graze, climb trees, and how we once tried to build a tree house.

LinkedIn-is-the-PerfectThen there was this time when we saw a wild dog and ran from it until we reached our homes miles away—more like a quarter of a mile. My son likes this part of the story the most.

What does my Perfect Place story have to do with the LinkedIn profile? Everything; LinkedIn gives us the opportunity to tell our story. If done right, it will capture the visitors’ attention and keep them on your profile. But done poorly, it will send them away.

Your photo is the first place to tell your story. I appreciate a person’s photo, especially one that is professionally done. Not a “selfie” like my daughter is constantly taking with my phone. Professional or business casual photos are acceptable as long as they contain only you. A nice head/shoulder shot helps me recognize my connections.

In addition, a photo tells visitors about a person’s character. It tells whether the person is sensitive and caring, serious, authoritative, friendly and outgoing, creative, reflective, etc. The eyes can say it all in many cases, or maybe it’s the wide grin. Note: I read that profiles with photos are 7 times MORE LIKELY to be viewed than those without.

Your story continues in the Summary. The LinkedIn profile Summary puts your story into words, and the limit on words—2,000 characters—isn’t all that restrictive. An interesting story is told in first person. While some prefer third person, most agree it makes the Summary seem stiff and unfriendly.

My workshop attendees ask me what constitutes a story, so I ask, “What is your passion? Tell me about your accomplishments. Where do you want your career to go? How do your combined skills contribute to your career? What is your philosophy? What are your greatest areas of strength?” These are just some of the topics you can discuss.

My Summary starts with: “Bob, I landed a job. Thanks for your knowledge and moral support.” These are words I hear often. Do I hear them enough? No. I’ll be happy when increasingly more people land jobs and tell me the words I live to hear.

Continue telling your story in the Experience section. Begin each job with a statement that describes your role or mission at that position. Why were you hired or promoted to the position? What makes you unique and better than the rest? Do you have a unique selling proposition (USP)? to state in the first paragraph?

I begin my story in my current position with a statement about my role: “I’m more than a workshop facilitator; I’m a career strategist who constantly thinks of ways to better market my customers in their career search. My goal is to provide the career center’s customers, as well as the staff, with the latest career-search strategies.”

These are just three places on your LinkedIn profile where you can tell your story. Although not as dramatic as the story I tell my son about the Perfect Place, your story will be authentic and keep your viewers on you profile. Read the next post that addresses the Media, Interests, and Recommendations sections.  

4 important principles of your job-search stories

Chinese Food2I remember being in a Chinese restaurant in Vancouver, Canada, where my four brothers, mother, father, and I were waiting for our food to come. My father was telling us a story about our favorite topic—how our parents met—and even though the food was late in coming, we were all enthralled.

I think we’d heard this story a bazillion times, but we couldn’t get enough of it. My father’s story began like it always did, after one of us gave him the directive, “tell us about how you and Mom met.”

In a way my father’s storytelling was similar to what job candidates must do at an interview when asked to tell a story. Often at behavioral interviews the employer will ask for specific events meant to extract particular skills from a job candidate.

A successful story includes the following principles:

Meaning. What meaning does your story have? Here’s a big hint: it must be applicable to the job for which you’re applying. Asked how your strong verbal communication skills made a difference at a specific moment or period of time, but instead you talk about a time you demonstrated strong written communication skills does not have meaning.

You’re a skilled writer who has been published in countless trade magazines. You go into great detail about this in your story. But you fail to realize that the employer seeks someone who can verbally communicate with the media, partners, OEMs, and customers. Your story lacks meaning. There was meaning behind Dad’s story for us; so much so that we didn’t mind the food coming late.

Form. In a Complete Interview Process workshop I lead, my participants construct a story using the following form: the problem or situation, approximately 20% of the story; the actions taken to meet the situation, 60% of the story; and the result of the action taken, the remaining 20%.

Some of my workshop attendees have difficulty keeping the situation brief. They feel the need to provide background information, which in effect distracts the listener from what’s most important—the actions taken to meet the situation. The result is also important, whether it’s a positive or negative resolution. Twenty-sixty-twenty is a good formula to keep in mind.

Achieving success. When the candidate has achieved success, a couple of things can happen. First, the employer may smile and indicate approval by saying, “Thank you. That was a great answer.” This likely means that your story addressed the meaning behind the question and adhered to proper form.

Or the employer may come back with follow-up questions, such as, “How do you know you saved the company money by volunteering to take over the webmaster responsibilities?” Bingo. You’ve gained the interest of the employer who follows up with additional questions.

Dad’s story about meeting mom was always met with follow-up questions from all five of us. Mom always blushed.

Preparation is paramount to success. There is really only one way to prepare for telling your stories. You have to completely understand what’s required of the position. Know what competencies the employer is looking for, e.g. time management, leadership, problem solving, problem assessment, and customer service skills. Based on this knowledge, you will construct five stories in anticipation of directives like, “Tell me about a time when you felt your leadership skills had a positive impact on your team…and a time when it had a negative impact.”

With all the practice Dad had telling his story about how he and my mother met, the stories got better and better as time went on. That was a great time in the Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. Not because the food was great—I don’t remember eating any—but because the story was what we all wanted to hear.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Honey Bunny.

Stories are important to the job search, but how many are necessary?

I have a hard time remembering my brothers’ birthdays, so you can imagine how difficult it would be for me to remember the specifics of my customers’ occupations and goals for employment. I need to know more than: software engineer in the defense industry, or nurse in pediatrics, or physics teacher in high school with a dual license in middle school.

I need a story, and not just any story, from my customers. A story that shows accomplishments and highlights  numerous skills. Employers feel the same way; they’re going to remember you best if you tell them compelling stories. You may wonder how many stories you’ll need in your arsenal to succeed at an interview.

How many stories are enough? Katharine Hansen in her blog titled, Create a Memory in Job Interviews By Telling Stories, talks about the importance of telling stories to help the employer remember you.

When I have taught students or conducted workshops about using story in job interviews,” she writes, “I have participants develop three stories—largely because most audiences can develop three in the short time period of a class/workshop. I’ve found that with even just three stories, participants can adapt the stories into responses to many, if not most, interview questions.”

Katharine continues to explain that preparing for an interview will probably require more than three stories. She refers to both Ellyn Enisman, author of Job Interview Skills 101, and Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute, of the importance of the number seven—the magical number of stories a person needs to succeed at any interview.

Really, how many stories are enough? Katharine pushes the envelope, saying that 10-20 would be a better range of stories to tell, but then recants and says that the number seven is more realistic. I agree that the goal of 10-15 stories is a bit demanding. I encourage my customers to identify in a job ad the most important competencies for the position and write a story for each one. If there are eight competencies, develop eight stories. But this, I believe, is also pushing the envelope.

Stories tell more than one story. One wonderful thing about stories is that often they reveal more skills in the candidate than the interviewer originally asks for. For example, the interviewer asks you a question based on leading global teams. You tell a story that reveals not only leadership skills, but also problem solving, time management, and communication skills…with positive quantified results. The story is told with such conviction and confidence that it covers potentially four questions.

How to prepare your stories. There are many acronyms you can use to organize your stories. One I present to my customers is (STAR) situation/task (their task in the situation), actions, result/s. There are also (PAR) problem, actions, result/s;  (CAR), challenge, actions, result/s (OAR) opportunity, action, results, etc.

Regardless of which structure you use to tell your story, try to structure it the following way: 20% for the situation/task; 60% for the actions, and 20% for the results. Employers will be most interested in the actions you took to arrive at the result/s, so make sure you describe your role in the situation.

What if….It’s also important that you not only prepare success stories; you also prepare stories that address failures. These types of stories contain the same elements: the situation/task, the action you took to meet the situation, and the result; which in this case is mildly negative. You’ll also keep the “failure” questions short and sweet; don’t elaborate as you would with the success stories. It’s advisable to prepare a failure story for each competency. When you do the math, you may double the number of stories from seven or eight to fourteen or sixteen.

What you’ve read is a lot to stomach. The important thing to keep in mind is that stories when told well are powerful and memorable. Once you have written your stories based on the competencies required by the employer, most of the hard work is accomplished. The next step is telling your stories at the interview.