Having a stockpile of stories about your successes is key to landing that next job. You can tell these stories of your workplace heroism during job interviews and at networking events. They ensure people get a sense of who you are and what you can do.
A story is a powerful tool that you can use to your advantage. Instead of giving someone a list of your skills, when you tell a story it both proves that you can do those skills and makes you more memorable. Perhaps most importantly, though, if the job hunt gets long, it’s easy to start questioning yourself — Should they hire me? Am I any good at anything?
In these moments, pulling out a few stories of success and telling them to yourself can go a long way towards affirming your skills and showing your hireable. They are sustenance during the long winter that is job search.
How do you build up that stockpile of heroic stories? Here are a few ideas:
1. Identify what you are proud of
Think back on the work, paid and unpaid, that you have done. Ask yourself, “What have you been a part of that you are proud of?” Then ask yourself, “What did I do the help and support that thing I am proud of?” You might find a few stories of your heroism there.
2. Decide what you want people to know about you
Sometimes it’s easier to do a little reverse engineering to get to heroic stories. Ask yourself, “What are the skills or characteristics that I want to highlight about myself? What do I want to be doing next?”
Make a list. Look at each skill and characteristic and ask yourself, “When have I used this before?” Let’s say you had “reliability” on your list. Try to think of a few times where your demonstration of reliability had a positive impact on a project, a company or a co-worker. Then run the same process for the rest of the skills and characteristics on your list. The story pile is growing!
3. Think small
Most of us have not parachuted in to save kidnapping victims. Most of us have seemingly smaller moments of heroism. That’s ok. How you understand and tell the story is often the most important thing. CRM administration or product design or making photocopies or running a meeting can all be very heroic if done effectively.
4. Tell the stories where you “just did your job”
It can be hard to think of “just doing your job” as heroic. If a boss asked you to do something and then you did it, that’s a success. If you worked on something and it did not fall apart because of you, that’s heroic. That’s the kind of person other people want to hire.
5. Get in the habit
Start thinking of your daily life in terms of heroic stories. Besides making your days better, forming the habit can help you recognize past success.
Here’s an example: “Today, though I had a screaming kid and a splitting headache, I did the dishes and took a shower and sent out a resume. My kitchen looks great, I didn’t let things get in the way of what I needed to do and I’m excited about that job.” Success!
6. Ask your friends and former colleagues
It can take the village to get the next job. It can also take the village to remember what has happened in the past. Reach out to those that know and respect you. Ask them if they have any memories of good and useful work you have done.
You might be pleasantly surprised at what people have to say. It can also be helpful to ask more specific questions to jar memories. Take a look at that list of characteristics and skills that you wish to highlight. Ask people if they remember a time you were creative or efficient or made use of social media platforms or whatever you want to show off. You might find that people remember things you have forgotten or really value work you didn’t think was that important.
Once you’ve got your stockpile of heroic stories, don’t be afraid to share them.
Kathryn Kruse is a writer and educator. As an employment coach, she has supported job seekers through all aspects of job hunting. She especially enjoys helping individuals understand and communicate their narratives. Visit her at kathrynkruse.com.