I’ve been sharing ways to sell oneself in a job search, which I believe to be a non-negotiable. There’s a powerful three-step process to help you sell your benefits to those who can help and hire you. In my last post, I shared Step #1: Give them reasons to want you.
Step #2 is really more than a step. Storytelling is an amazing talent and art. The world loves a good story. It can be what differentiates you from the sea of candidates when at first glance, you’re all the same. Like many skills, it is practiced and perfected. But everyone has great stories, including you!
Job Search Sales Step #2:
Tell Them Stories About Yourself
Of course I’m not referring to the campfire or slumber party variety, nor am I suggesting that you tell creative fibs or hype things up. The stories I want you to tell are those about you. Giving them reasons to want you is critical to grabbing your audience’s attention. It’s a good beginning, but don’t stop there. Now you need to give a richer, “can-almost-see-it” depiction of what you’re capable of. I believe the best way to do this is to tell stories from your past.
I’m your listener. And I’m saying, “Prove it to me. Make me care.” Sure; you tell me you’re good at this or that. Okay. I’m waiting to hear more. How did you get good at it? Where did you do it? What was the impact? Why did it matter? If you can’t back up your claims with anecdotes, I may not believe you. So, tell me a story.
My client John shared how he believed one of his stories landed him an offer as Membership Coordinator with a public radio station. It went something like this:
“While you no doubt have some qualified candidates for this role, I think you should hire me. While earning my degree, I worked my way up to Member Services Coordinator at the ABC Athletic Club. I knew how to keep members happy. I organized tournaments, coordinated clinics for injury prevention, kept a constant stream of customer socialization and recognition events flowing, and even came up with good equipment deals for members.
One rainy day, several members were hanging at the juice bar complaining about lack of cross-fit training. I stepped up to the bar, asked questions, took notes, and got that programming in motion. When they griped about feeling tired in that program, I introduced a pre-class warm-up that received raves. When they were unhappy with inflation and rising costs, I established a referral program offering discounts. I took care of them. I will take care of your people too.”
John’s interviewer told him later that his story was mesmerizing and in a nutshell, convincing! It didn’t try to “explain” in analytical terms why John was a good hire for this job. What if John had said “While you no doubt have some qualified candidates for this role, I think you should hire me. I’m good at it. It’s a match with my business degree and administrative background.”? Well, I think (and so does John) that he would have fizzled. John told a story that explained without having to explain. He showed himself to be a problem solver tuned into the membership’s pain. He divulged what he had done and led the interviewer to believe he could do it again.
What if you don’t believe you have a story to tell?
Before you throw in the towel because you don’t have a story to back up the skill or quality that you profess (I’ve never worked with that type of customer or situation), perhaps you can relate it to the open job.
Sam’s story for retail corporate buyer job: “As youth director, I’ve purchased supplies and equipment for our church for over a decade. It’s run the gamut from pencils to a youth van. Funds are tight for a small church like ours. I have done a lot of negotiating with vendors for best terms and pricing. I know what it’s like to source and make a deal, and how important it is to develop relationships. No, I’ve not been a corporate buyer of cheese; but I have no doubt I would get ABC the best product, service and value possible.”
Sometimes reaching back for a story to show a positive trait will get their attention. Even when you are not qualified.
Meg’s story for the unqualified university director: “I know that on paper I may not be the most qualified person for director at ABC University’s Women’s Center. But I noted that many of your staff and those served are in their late twenties to mid-thirties. As a daycare provider for 12 years, I became quite an expert on this age group. I advised them on going back to school or career moves as their kids grew a bit older. They shared their fears and dreams with me. I was both their cheerleader and accountability partner. I know what their issues are and how to address them.”
Yes, other candidates had more experience on paper, but Meg landed the job.
As your listener, I want some evidence that you can back up what you have said about yourself. A story convinces me, because it is believable and provides concrete examples of skills you have used and problems you have solved. Go out into that great night armed with stories!
Next time, I’ll share Selling Step #3: Cultivate your social skills!