January 18, 2016

Your Career Depends on How You Tell Your Story

I have visited hundreds of companies and met tons of top managers in technical and business environments.  It is always easy to tell who is in charge.  The people in charge have excellent communication skills.  They are smooth, smart, and confident.  They speak well and they share a clear mission.

So often I am stunned by the humble attempts in resumes, cover letters or graduate school applications that do not begin to explain how much candidate has to offer.  A few questions asked and I discover that there are important things left out.

Writing is almost a forgotten art and yet being able to write is one of the most important skills that employers want in hiring talent and in promoting people to higher levels. Your resume and cover letter are the first clues to an employer that you can write well...or not.

Everyday I work with candidates to help them define who they are and create the documents that move them to the next level - showing them in the best possible light in resumes, cover letters and on applications.  And then I help them find the best places to apply  for jobs,  graduate programs, or  law school.  I also help people get promotions.

It really doesn’t matter what a person’s background is… If you cannot tell your story effectively you are not going to get hired, promoted, or selected for graduate school.   I have worked with new graduates and experienced candidates all up and down the ladder from entry level to CTO, CFO and CEO;  from engineers to MDs, lawyers and legal secretaries.  I have worked with people who have graduated from some of the best American universities. More often than not they have difficulty telling their story effectively and concisely.

When a person writes a resume or a graduate school application they are telling the story of their life - what they have done and who they are to that point.  Each and every person is unique.  Every person has a story to tell.    It needs to be told in a positive light and with as much strength as possible to achieve the desired result. A  job, a promotion, or admission to the next level of education rides not only on your qualifications but also on your ability to share the information about who you are in writing.

It is often the case that people underestimate or understate who they are.  They take their strengths for granted  believing they are not that remarkable.   The reality is that we all have a large number of amazing skills and experiences. 

Doing a thorough self assessment and working with someone who can help you tell your story, if you cannot, is essential to your career success and to your self-esteem.  It also helps to research and analyze the job description and requirements to zero in on keywords to include in your resume.  Some companies will not hire you unless they see your qualifications with the jobs critical keywords on your resume, in your cover letter, and on the application.

One candidate I worked with was going to leave off his lifeguarding experience and church media experience.  Both of those experiences when explained carefully were important elements that resulted in an engineering job with Disneyland.  Disney cares a whole lot about safety and nothing says safety like a head lifeguard job.  Disney also delivers a lot of shows that include sound, music, light shows – just like large churches do every weekend.

With each candidate I work with I start with the same recommendation: Do a Self-Assessment!

Here are the 3 tasks you need to complete - (To make this work, you need to do all of the skill assessment exercises!)

Skill Assessment Exercises- It is best to do them in order:

First: "Motivated Skills Inventory

and then: Tying Skills to Accomplishments

and then after that: Finding Skills in Your Accomplishments

Do your self assessment first and you will find it is much easier to create the perfect resume and tell your story in an interview.