Career Story Development
“Can this week get any worse?” Ryan yelled at no one in particular as his voice echoed in the empty kitchen. Earlier this week he got an email from the dean telling the graduating class of 2020 that they would have a ‘virtual’ graduation, but to not worry, because at ‘some point later’ they will be able to walk the stage if they choose. And now his offer of employment with Omega has been “rescinded due to dramatic company restructuring”. With exasperation in his voice, he once again posed questions to an empty room, “Now what am I going to do?” I have done everything right! Everything was going according to plan, now this. Ryan thought. When is life going to get back to normal?
Christine, his mom, was listening from the other room while working from her makeshift home office that doubles as a craft room. Ryan affectionately calls it her ‘She-Shed’. She herself has asked that same question every day for the last month. Her big project was set to kick off two weeks ago and now everything is on hold. On top of that, her boss just told her that she would have to lay off 50% of her staff and ask the others if they would be willing to work a 50% reduced schedule until things get back to normal. That is 12 people’s lives that she is about to change at just about the worst possible time in her memory.
Christine’s 22-year-old son, Ryan, was about to graduate and enter the job market. He is already jumping into a specialized field, but now, with unemployment numbers hitting record highs Christine knows Ryan is going to have to be well-prepared to get noticed by hiring managers. On top of that, her husband was just asked to leave his company of 15 years. What will the new normal look like? How are we going to make that happen? She thought. That might be the better question she mumbled to her own empty room as she went to check on Ryan.
Christine enters the room and sees Ryan working on his resume at the Kitchen table
Ryan, you’ve got great skills.
You’re just saying that because you’re my mom.
Not true young man. Have you ever sat back and reflected on what you have done up to this point in your life and summarized what it was you were actually doing?
I’m not sure I follow you Mom.
Look, it’s a simple exercise to get you thinking about your next step. You’ll need to do this each time you add more transferable skills to your toolbox throughout your career.
I’m going to make this exercise simple by providing you a list of transferable skills I KNOW you have already acquired.
Christine hands Ryan the list
Here you go!
Ryan reaches for the list as his mom continues to coach him
I want you to think about everything you have accomplished, everything you have worked on, anything you have participated in as a volunteer, at school, church, in sports, music, during your part-time job, everything! Don’t put too much thought into it; just put a check next to everything you’ve done.
Got it, thanks Mom!
Ryan starts checking items off the list. After missing a few items he goes back as he recollects ALL of his experiences. He soon realizes he’s checked off nearly every item on the list.
✓ Analytical Skills
✓ Business Acumen
✓ Critical Thinking
✓ Customer Service
✓ Digital Literacy
✓ Managing Priorities
✓ Problem Solving
✓ Public Speaking
Ryan rests his pen on the table next to the list and Christine starts to examine the list over his shoulder
That’s a good start Ryan, now let’s read one of those jobs you are interested in.
You mean from Simply Hired?
What does that have to do with this, Mom?
Landing a job you want is all about alignment Ryan. Not only does the Applicant Tracking System need to see that you have the skills to get the job done, it will also screen for HOW you are capable of getting the job done. Just humor me for a minute.
Ryan somewhat frustrated rolls his eyes
Okay. Here is that job I was telling you about the other day.
Christine stares at the screen next to Ryan
Let’s read through it together. As we are reading, which skills do you see in the job description match the items you have checked from the grocery list of skills?
There are four, wait five that are a perfect match.
Good. Now before you are ready to talk to someone about why you’re a good candidate for the job, you need to have a good story to tell. In this case, I want you to develop at least five stories, one story for each of the items you checked on your list that matches the job description you have in front of you.
Before you are ready to talk to someone about why you’re a good candidate for the job, you need to have a good story to tell.
Why not just tell them during the interview?
That’s my point. The problem with the interview process is that not all employers have qualified people conducting the interview. In order to give you a leg up on the competition, you need to be prepared to share your story and structured in a way that the interviewer sees you as someone that is qualified for the job.
Ryan looking puzzled
A structured way?
Yes, through storytelling. We want your stories to help uniquely position you among other job candidates so you stand out. Storytelling....Good stories answer questions like Why? What? When? Where? and How? I want you to follow an acronym when creating each of your stories, it’s called SCORE.
Scope – What was I faced with? What was the problem I had to solve? What would happen if the problem wasn’t addressed?
Chore – What was assigned to me? What was I responsible for managing or completing?
Obstacles – What challenges was I faced with, and how did I overcome them and solve the problem?
Results – How did I achieve the desired results? What were the measurable results? What were the short and long-term impacts on efficiency, effectiveness, cost savings and cost avoidance?
Evaluate – What did I learn during the process?
Thanks Mom, I think I get it now. This is going to take me some time. Would you mind having a look at what I came up with after putting pen to paper?
Of course Ryan, I’m here to help.
What about my resume? Shouldn’t I make sure my stories are reflected there too?
Absolutely! But for your resume, you want to highlight the measurable accomplishments that align with your stories. The pitfall most people fall into when writing their resumes is listing the tasks they have performed, but failing to write the results.
Your resume is an advertisement to get the person reading it to want more. Finish your stories first; then we can circle back and make sure every one of your stories has a measurable result. Then, we can add the measurable results to your resume to help grab the reader’s attention.
NOTE: Please visit the Appendix section Turning Contributions into Numbers for inspiration and ideas on measurable results you can add to your resume.
So Ryan, how did you decide this job is right for you?
Ryan thumbs through his notebook
Well, I did a simple analysis using a four-box model one of my teachers used to share with us at school to help analyze problems and make decisions. I modified it to determine my current skills on one axis and my level of interest on the other axis. The model is based on my interest and current skill level:
1. High Interest / High Skill = I have a story to build immediately using SCORE
2. High Interest / Low Skill = I express my enthusiasm to learn and share what I have done to be self-taught
3. Low Interest / High Skill = Avoid jobs like this, I'll just be bored
4. Low Interest / Low Skill = Avoid jobs like this, but if only 20% of the job falls in this quadrant, it's okay as long as the other 80% are areas of interest for me.
Ryan continues explaining his analysis and logic behind choosing the job he's reviewing with his mom
I have figured out that this job opportunity will allow me to hit the ground running with a handful of my existing skills that they are looking for, while at the same time provide me with ample opportunity for learning and growth in my career.
What if the job is asking for a skill I don’t have yet?
With a smirk on her face, Christine coaches Ryan
I can’t believe I’m answering this question in this way, but ‘Google’ it, ‘YouTube’ it. Just because you don’t have experience doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself on what they need. There are countless links to resources to help teach you what you need to know.
Ryan, still confused
But what about experience?
Depending on what you need to learn for a role in your career, you may have all the experience you need by being self-taught. When you’re asked by the interviewer how you learned this skill. They will be silly not to hire you after showing so much initiative. But you don’t want to pretend to be an expert. Be honest and let them know what you’ve learned and how you are looking forward to learning more while applying your skills in a professional environment.
Transferable Skills: Be honest and let them know what you’ve learned and how you are looking forward to applying your skills in a professional environment.
Ryan letting out a sigh of relief
I get it now, thanks Mom.
I guess you have more of a handle on this than I had expected. Let me know when you’re ready for me to review those stories.