Kim Mohiuddin, of Movin’ On Up Resumes, says it’s your storytelling that could land you the job.
I see that you call yourself Chief Career Storyteller of your company. What does that mean?
I help people translate who they are and what they’ve done into stories that engage decision-makers and demonstrate the value they bring to a company.
Ok, so what exactly do you do?
I’m a résumé writer. As someone whose background is in creative writing and marketing, I’ve gravitated towards a résumé creation style that is story-oriented. That means the creation of the résumé itself is an in-depth process of understanding a candidate’s current career goals are and reviewing skills, career history, and personality to figure out where and how they align with those goals. The answer can sound complex if you try to explain it, but is simply and effectively conveyed with the use of stories. Like the old adage “Show, don’t tell.”
But the career stories that come out of this process are not limited to résumés. They can be used in cover letters, communications with your network, “cold” communications with decision-makers, in interviews, at job fairs, on social media platforms, etc. Anywhere you have to express your value, you can use your career stories.
Can you give me some examples of how the storytelling differs from the more traditional
Let’s say at your last job you increased sales 10%. On most résumés, that would look like a bullet point. In a résumé that would be considered “pretty good,” that bullet might even have some relevant details and look something like this:
- Increased sales 10% in the Western region by developing communications and merchandising plans with retailers.
A person reading this won’t really know what to think of it. The candidate could be in an industry where sales doubled in that time frame and a 10% gain wouldn’t be very impressive. However if the market was difficult or there were internal factors with the company or the customers that were challenging, that 10% could be very impressive. Providing that context for the reader is very powerful. The easiest way to do that is to think of CAR. That stands for Challenge, Action, Result. Reworking the above bullet based on CAR could look something like this:
Challenge: Upon assuming the role, company was projecting a 15% loss in 2011 sales. Though the market was growing as a whole, the company’s largest customer (accounting for 30% of revenue) was closing its doors. At the same time, the owner of the company, who had been managing sales strategy, was tied up with a complex lawsuit that demanded most of his time. There was no budget for adding sales staff.
Action: Analyzed client list and discovered many clients were also buying from our competitors. Created plan to increase penetration into existing accounts by performing needs assessments with all of our retail partners and looking for ways to serve them better. Worked with Marketing to redesign point-of-sale displays for better in-store performance.
Results (these usually are bullets, but now they have context):
• Beat sales projections 25%, increasing revenue 10% overall.
• Increased penetration with top-three retailers 22% on average.
• Established needs assessment model that is still in use .
This can work for any profession at any level. Just think of a time in your job when you faced challenges, what action you took, and how your company benefited. For example, what kinds of stories could a waitress tell?
Challenge: Sales were terrible on rainy days because half of the restaurant’s seating was outdoors.
Action: Suggested a plan to raise the average total ticket on rain days by offering specials on appetizers, wine, and desserts. Also suggested free rainy day delivery within a two-mile radius.
• Brought rainy-day sales to near-normal levels.
• Honored with bonus and offer to work with owner on future marketing ideas.
Why does this work better than the traditional résumé where a person lists their duties or accomplishments?
- Stories engage people. There are studies showing that people’s brains are wired to receive information via story.
- Stories help the reader empathize with your employers. After all, haven’t they faced the same problems you describe? If you helped other companies in those situations, chances are you can do the same at a new company.
- Stories convey value better than any method. They allow you to include context and also give specific insight into what it would be like to work with you everyday.
How would you advise someone looking to rework her own career story? Where to begin?
Investing in a professional who can help you tell your story is ideal. However, there are some good self-service resources. Two of my favorites are successstories101.com and wintheview.com.
Keeping the CAR (challenge, action, results) format in mind, ask yourself these questions:
- How did you do the job differently and better than the person before you did?
- Did you introduce a new program or system?
- What did you do in this job that you feel most proud of?
- What would your supervisor and your co-workers say they would miss most about you when you leave?
- How did you make a difference in your job?
- How did you affect the company’s bottom line?
- Did you save money for the company? How much? What did you do to save money?
- Did you receive any awards or honors while in this position?
And for the do-it-yourself crowd, what are the signs that we’re on the right track?
When you put your stories together, share them in writing or verbally with people whose opinion you trust. Raised eyebrows, nodding heads, and smiles mean something good is happening. Knitted eyebrows mean your message is not getting through.
Any final advice for job seekers?
There is only one “you.” No matter how limited the job supply is, the supply of people with your exact outlook, skills, and history will always be more rare. If you can express your unique value you will always find meaningful work.