Sometimes being stuck in your job search can be traced back to what you are hiding—sometimes from others; sometimes from yourself. Sometimes from fear of not knowing how you will be perceived or fit in. If any of this is familiar ground, you might find this post helpful.
Annie’s hidden story
I got a call from a woman on behalf of her daughter, Annie, a woman in her early 30s. Annie had been an over-the-road truck driver and dispatcher for more than 10 years. Diagnosed with cancer two years earlier, she had undergone several rounds of chemo and radiation. When we began our work together, she was finishing up her treatments and in remission. But she could no longer do the same work. Her mother called me after one employer upon receiving Annie’s resume for office work said, “This is the worst resume we’ve ever seen. She will never get a job.”
The thing is, Annie had no desire to do office work. And she was scared that word of her cancer would squash any potential opportunities. All advice given to her—although perhaps well intentioned—was wrong. “Don’t discuss your cancer. Don’t mention it. Employers will never hire you. It’s none of their business.” And so on. It’s no wonder Annie’s marketing was helter-skelter. And when she did land a few interviews due to friends’ help, she concealed her past few years. In the interviews, when asked the “what have you been doing since your last job?” and “why did you leave your last job” questions, she came up with every half-baked inane answer she could think of, none of which held water.
Out of hiding
“What do you really want to do?” “What are you afraid of?” I asked Annie. Through exploration coaching, one day it hit her. She wanted to apply her empathy and connection as a cancer patient to helping others. It was a passion. It was enabled by something she had been hiding. She found a local Phlebotomy course with both classroom and clinical training, which she could complete in two months. Better yet, she found financial aid that paid for 75% of the training. Annie graduated first in her class out of 30!
Within 3 weeks, Annie landed her first gig as a union employee with great pay and benefits. Now, she had direction and new background that could bring to the surface one of her best stories—and how it would bring ROI value to her next employer. Not only did we develop a great resume for Annie in her revitalized search; Annie was now armed with a great value proposition that capitalized on what she had previously hidden in shame. When her husband’s job relocation to another state called for her to find another position, she was ready!
Hidden might = value pitch
Annie discovered how to position part of what she’d hidden into key selling points. She hit the 5 key components of a value pitch:
- What will you do? What’s irresistible?
- Who are you? (Just a few compelling words or phrases)
- What’s cool about you? Be unique.
- Why you? Name a big win. Bold = gold.
- Why should they care? What will you do?
“(1) Would you like ABC to stand out as the preferred cancer treatment center? (2) I’m Annie, a cancer warrior / survivor and first-in-class Phlebotomist. (3) I transform scary unknowns into welcoming visits with family-like support. (4) At St. Luke’s Cancer Center, I drove patient survey satisfaction ratings from 11% to 57% my first 5 months on the job. (5) I did this in tiny and visionary ways—day-to-day personal care; and through a patient advocacy program that cost zero dollars to implement or run. I can do the same for you!
Annie came up with a Twitter message that ultimately led to her next job:
Cancer warrior/survivor & #1 in-class Phlebotomist. Turn scary into welcoming. Key driver in 11%-57% satisfaction survey #s in 5 months.
Keep it real
Obviously Annie’s story is not everybody’s story. Don’t shy away from this post’s lesson because your stories may not be so dramatic. Think back to the beginning. Hiding? Or shining? Here’s the deal: If you treat everything like it’s your business; if you do everything to the best of your ability; if you connect with others, play fair, and live the lessons we learned as youngsters, it will feel good. It will feel right. It will feel authentically you. It will be marketable. Not everything you do will be praised or welcomed. But if your intentions are true, do it. It’s about integrity. Think about your challenges in the past. How did you handle them? How did you learn? How did you move forward?
Keep it real. Keep it you. And don’t hide those things that have made you who you are today. I promise you. People will love your stories. Doors often open when you’re happy to be whoever you are. Don’t you think there are companies that are avid supporters of people who overcame obstacles ranging from an incorrigible customer to Annie’s opponent, cancer? Yes, yes and Amen.
Photo: andrea rose