To Energize Job Search, Ditch Those Outdated, Unfounded, and Easily Rewritten Stories You Tell Yourself

Guest post by Wendy Terwelp


“Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe?”

– Scott Turow, Ordinary Heroes.

storieswetellourselvesIn fact, we sell ourselves on these stories, even when they are not true, are outdated, unfounded, and easily rewritten. And these negative stories can be tremendously detrimental to our careers.

What Do These Stories Sound Like?

I’m too… busy, overqualified, under-qualified, old, young, fat, thin, angry, shy, depressed, ashamed I lost my job…

I can’t because… it’s not the right time, I’m not ready, I won’t know anyone, my childhood was terrible, I have health issues, I can’t afford it, I’m a CEO and I don’t want to ask for help…

They… won’t let me, won’t reimburse me, said I couldn’t, said so, said it’s not in the budget, said I’m too…

Do any of these phrases resonate with you?

Take a closer look at what’s impeding your progress. How real are these stories you’re selling yourself? Are they still relevant? What is the real truth? Break them down and kick these stories you’ve sold yourself to the curb.

Uncover the Truth About Your Story

One executive told me she couldn’t get advanced training because “they won’t let me.”

“What’s the real truth?” I asked her. “They won’t let me” was not the truth because I knew others at her company had earned advanced degrees.

“I don’t have the time, and they won’t reimburse me,” she said.

“How badly do you want it?” This particular training would benefit my client’s ultimate career goal and add leverage toward a promotion.

She thought about things for a while and said, “You’re right. I really do want it. I guess I can make the time, and I can write off the training on my taxes, so I’m really not out that much.”

Bottom-line, my client made the choice to earn the designation and, through our coaching, landed a promotion with a salary bump.

Our Stories, and How We Believe in Them, Can Hold Us Back or Drive us Forward

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

An engineer was downsized after 20+ years. It was devastating and he was angry about the situation. Additionally, relatives told him he was too old and shouldn’t have his expectations too high about getting another management job at his age.

Through our coaching work, he decided it was best to move forward, leaving anger and resentment behind. He was less concerned than his relatives about his age, and the action step he took was to see less of those relatives while in career-search mode. His new attitude and proactive approach enabled him to dive in and learn new ways to search for a new gig. He learned social media and made many connections on LinkedIn; he picked up the phone and revived his network; and he landed several interviews. As a result, he could choose which offer to accept. He chose a company and role that was not only a higher-level position and salary than before, but also with a global company that offered more opportunities.

Good News: We can Rewrite Our Stories

Despite what has happened to us in our past, we are still here.

In How to Rewire Your Brain for Success, author Geoffrey James wrote, “Rather than video playback, human memory is more like video editing. When you remember something, you are recreating, changing, and re-memorizing. The memory is subject to change every time you remember it.”

That means you can edit your bad memories and strengthen your good memories. You can rewrite your stories.

Two ways to start building your new stories: keep a success journal or Me File. Start tracking your hits – both personal and professional. Track what you are thankful and grateful for each day. Some days it might be as simple as, “I’m thankful I woke up today.” Other days it might be, “Wow! I am so grateful I got a standing ovation after my presentation today!” Identify and document at least one hit/success and one grateful/thankful-for item each day.

Final Thoughts on Creating Your (New) Story

Work on creating your new story, a story that reflects how you wish to be perceived. I’m working on my latest edition. I look forward to hearing about yours.

For more information, see also this section of Quintessential Careers: Job Action Day 2014

This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.



Executive Coach Wendy Terwelp

© 2014 Wendy Terwelp, author, speaker, executive coach. Wendy Terwelp is president of Opportunity Knocks, and author of
Rock Your Network®.  She was named one of Quintessential Careers’ Top 15 Career Masterminds and her Infoline, “Jumpstart Your Job Search and Get Hired Faster” was included in the Association for Talent Development’s  2014 ASTD Best on Career Development anthology. Follow her on Twitter @wendyterwelp.


Strengthen Your Job Search through Storytelling

Guest Post by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

StorytellingBubbleWant to push your job-search techniques to a higher level – even if only passively looking for a new job? Use the power of storytelling to frame your accomplishments, sharpen your career brand, enhance your LinkedIn profile, enrich your resume, refine your networking, and improve your job-interview responses.

Developing a powerful – and uniform – narrative that interweaves throughout all your job-search tools will help you produce a consistent and compelling message to prospective employers.

Why is story so powerful? Because people remember stories. We don’t remember a series of facts or accomplishments, but when they are included in a story, we remember the core of the story – the theme of the story.

Your main goal, then, is to decide on the theme of your story. Your theme should come from your accomplishments, so start your storytelling process there.

Develop a list of your major career accomplishments – and find the main theme, the main narrative of your story. Your theme will be unique to your
experiences, but here are some examples:

  • The revenue-enhancer
  • The cost-saver
  • The brilliant strategist
  • The inspiring leader
  • The team player
  • The consistent performer

How Story Can Enhance Your Job-Hunting



We have hammered this point in other articles on our site, but the KEY starting point for building a successful job-search starts with fully understanding and articulating your accomplishments. Accomplishments vary by job, of course, and can range from something as simple as having a 100 percent safety record to masterminding the turnaround of a floundering organization.

Your first step is identifying your accomplishments. Use our Accomplishments Worksheet.

Your second step is turning these accomplishments into compelling stories. Read: 3 Steps to Storytelling Success in Your Job Search. Then, see some examples in this article about accomplishment stories. For additional help with accomplishments, go to our Career-Job-Work Accomplishments Resources for Enhancing Next Job Search, Promotion.

Career Brand

What can you offer a prospective employer? That’s your career brand. Your career brand is a promise of quality/expertise that you deliver – and will deliver to a prospective employer. Your career brand should help set you apart from other job-seekers.

Your first step is to learn more about career branding. Use this article: Career Branding Basics: What, How, Why. A Primer for Job-Seekers.

Your second step is developing a story that encompasses your career brand. Learn more in this article: What’s Your Career Brand Story?

LinkedIn Profile

Not all job-seekers need a LinkedIn account, but certainly all professionals should have one. LinkedIn has become a powerful job-seeker tool for uncovering information, building a network of contacts, and for learning of job opportunities. Many recruiters use LinkedIn as a tool for scouting potential.

Your first step is learning more about why you should not only develop a LinkedIn profile, but why you should immerse yourself into your LinkedIn profile. Start with this article: 5 Tips for Using LinkedIn During Your Job Search.

Your second step is developing a compelling narrative for your LinkedIn profile. Learn more in this article: Seven Steps to Tell Your Personal Brand Story on LinkedIn.


As your most important job-search tool, your resume has to share a consistent narrative with your other job-hunting tools while telling a story compelling enough to convince a hiring manager to schedule an interview with you.

Your first step: If you need help starting or revising your resume, start here with our large collection of Resume Resources and Tools for Job-Seekers, including our article, How to Write a Great Resume: A Short Guide for Job-Seekers.

Your second step – once your resume includes all your key accomplishments – is to storify it. Read: Every Resume Tells a Story and Storytelling in Your Resume: Why and How.


Story plays several roles with networking – from having a memorable story that network contacts can use to recommend you for jobs to having an engaging Elevator Speech Story for when meeting new networking contacts.

Your first step, especially if new to networking, is to review the power of networking in job-search. Start with one or more of these career networking articles.

Your second step is incorporating story into your networking activities. Read: Tell Your Story: For Job, Promotion, Business Success.

Interview Responses

Job-interview responses need to engage the listener, relate to the question asked, make an emotional connection, and be memorable. Facts and statistics are quickly forgotten. Developing short accomplishment stories – and other stories in response to typical interview questions – will not only help you be better prepared for your next job interview, but also make it easier for the interviewer to know, understand, and remember your career brand and major accomplishments.

Your first step is maximizing your understanding of the interview process and developing a list of commonly asked interview questions. Find these interview questions – and much more – in our Guide to Job Interviewing Resources and Tools.

Your second step involves incorporating your brand narrative into the stories you develop for your interview responses. Remember, while you do not want to memorize your interview responses, you DO want to have a story you can pull from your memory to use when responding to interview  questions. Read: Creating Interview Stories.

Final Thoughts on How Storytelling Strengthens Your Job-Search

The human brain – since the beginning of time – has been hard-wired for stories and storytelling. Families pass important family history from one generation to another in the form of story. Story awakens something in our brains and emotions, and the job-seekers who use stories to showcase their career brand and accomplishments create strong connections with their listeners – and are the job-seekers who are remembered.

Finally, remember the basics of good career storytelling. Your stories should be short – a minute or two – and have a beginning, middle, and end. Each story must be engaging, with an emphasis on the result you achieved, the accomplishment you attained. Don’t get bogged down in details; if the interviewer has been hooked, s/he will ask follow-up questions that allow you to provide all the relevant information.

For more information, see also this section of Quintessential Careers: Job Action Day 2014

This article is part of Job Action Day 2014. Founder Dr. Randall Hansen

Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of He is also founder of and He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

Achieve Storytelling Success in Your Job Search through These 3 Steps

Guest Post by Laura Labovich

The best storytellers have one thing in common: they rarely wing it. And, once you have learned the formula for a great speed-networking pitch (in just three easy steps), you won’t have to wing it, either.

Let’s take a look at the three steps that can make your networking pitch stand out with stories of your most successful moments. 3_-_Canva

Step 1: Uncover Your “Greatest Hits”

Many people struggle to identify their accomplishments because they see those peaks as “just part of their job.” To get your ideas flowing, you have to banish those thoughts. All bets are off, and all answers are good ones. To sell yourself and (perhaps more importantly) encourage someone to continue speaking with you in the first place, you must first formulate a list of career “greatest hits” (think 80′s mixed tape!) and how you saved the day, solved the problem or served the client in your current or previous jobs.

The Five O’Clock Club generated the ridiculously effective The Seven Stories Exercise (pdf) to rev up your accomplishment engine and get you to pinpoint your successes with ease.

Start by writing down your top seven most satisfying experiences. (In this case, they should be mostly professional.) Each of these accomplishments should meet the following criteria:

  • You were happy when you did it;
  • You thought you did it well (so, it wasn’t a fluke);
  • You experienced a sense of accomplishment.

Here are some examples:

  • Digitized the entire patient history in my office
  • Redesigned the quarterly newsletter to include member interviews
  • Navigated through Italy without a translator

Step 2: Challenge -> Action -> Result (CAR)

After you’ve written down your accomplishments, it’s time to format them in a way that breathes some life into the story. What was the challenge? What action did you take? What was the result?

Here are some examples.

Challenge: Oversaw 70 upgrades across all departments after epic system shutdown shaved two weeks off allotted time

Action: Called for all hands on deck, delegated responsibilities and implemented planned course of action

Result: Accurately completed upgrade in a third of the time originally scheduled


Challenge: Raise test results by 10 percent to maintain school funding

Action: Developed school-wide initiative to incentivize tutoring for both teachers and students

Result: Reached average increases of 15 percent with 6th grade topping at 24 percent. Maintained funding and raised the standard for years to come.


Challenge: Remodel outdated communications system at traditional company with minimal budget

Action: Researched most efficient channels with free applications and best results

Result: Increased email subscription by 15 percent and social-media followers 150 percent in under three months

Step 3: Create your pitch

Now it’s time to craft a winning Speed Networking Pitch. Use this formula below to take the guess-work out of yours so you can begin using it quicker!

 “As a [job title], I work with [share target audience] to [share a problem you solve]. And here’s the proof [tell a specific story].”

Here are some guidelines to help you stay on track, intrigue your audience and nail your speed networking pitch.

    • Keep it simple. Don’t say in 20 words what you can say in one. You have about 30 seconds to get your point across. Each word you choose to say takes up valuable real estate in your listeners’ minds. (Don’t make them want to go freshen their drink!)
    • Drop the jargon. Everyone knows the corporate buzzwords – “holistic,” “facilitate,” “move forward!” This, however, is
      not the time to use them. People want to hear an authentic overview of your expertise, not a keyword-heavy speech that feels
      scripted and confusing.
    • It’s in the present. This story depicts what you continuously do, not what you’ve previously done!
  • Make it about the client. Rather than talking about your accomplishments, design your stories to highlight how you made things better FOR YOUR CLIENT. This last piece is the key. It’s not about you. This client focus (or employer focus) is what makes this pitch exercise different from the others you’ll find. The best way to distinguish yourself is to showcase proven results of your work and how the business benefited.

Here are some examples.

[As a Public-Relations Specialist] I work with [serious product developers who have been in business for five years or more] who are looking to [fine-tune and/or rev up their public-relations engine and start landing some media coverage on national scale]. [Recently, I helped my client land a 1/2 page feature in the Washingtonian Magazine and, as a result, he is now in discussions with X company to sell the app for $1.3M].

[As a project manager at a credit union] I work with [a team of financial and technical experts] to [develop and rigorously test new products and services]. [Last month, my team launched a hugely anticipated line of corporate banking, which has already led to a 23 percent increase in business and billable accounts.]

I work with [small to medium-sized non-profits who specialize in women and children] who need help [blending photography, graphics, and text to attract demographics and prompting consumers to use their service. [Recently, I collaborated with the Coalition for Women and Children to rebrand their marketing collateral, which doubled traffic at their table at the Taste of Bethesda last weekend – unique booth visitors grew from 350 to 700 in two days!]

And, just for fun, here’s my own:

As a [Job Search Coach], I work with [job seekers who are struggling in their search, sending out resumes and/or not getting interviews] and I [teach them a proven job search methodology that enables them to stop spinning their wheels, and shave months off their job  search]. Just last week, I helped a job-seeker [return to the workforce after a near fatal car accident and a 12-year hiatus. She's so empowered and excited to start her new life].

Final Thoughts on Storytelling Success and Networking

After you’ve decided which accomplishments you want to demonstrate, diversify your arsenal to create an unstoppable repertoire of stories. It’s important to have a few on hand so you can tailor them to suit your audience.

And last but not least, practice! If it makes you feel uncomfortable to say it, don’t! And if you wouldn’t use a word in real life, it sure as heck does not belong in your pitch. Natural, authentic storytelling is what we’re after here. Now, it’s your turn.

For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers: Job Action Day 2014

This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.



Laura Labovich

Laura M. Labovich is a former Disney recruiter, award-winning resume writer and Chief Executive Officer of The Career Strategy Group, an outplacement firm that provides a powerful methodology that empowers job seekers to LAND A JOB FASTER! Laura’s contagious enthusiasm and proven strategy have garnered attention such national news outlets such as The Washington Post, Fox News, NBC, USA Today, Sirius XM, and more. Laura is the co-author of 100 Conversations for Career Success (LearningExpress, 2012), a FORBES 2013 top career book selection. She is also the author of a robust online job search course called HIRED! (Pearson, 2014).


For Job, Promotion, and Business Success:
Tell Your Story

Guest Post by by David Couper

SuccessStoryAs we know from childhood, every story must have a beginning, middle, and end. There had to be set-up and a pay-off. We instinctively know when a story is not working, and yet many of us find problems with creating stories. Stories exemplify our uniqueness They help employers to hire us and customers to buy.

Auntie Regina’s Ribs – More Sauce

Here’s an example. We’re at a family barbecue – a mix of close family, cousins you only see once in a while, their significant others and various friends. A guy with ketchup on his shirt – in the friend-of-the-family category who you’ve never met before – is listening to your story.

Guy with ketchup: So tell me more about what you’ve been up to.

You: Last year I was working on a new system for a client, International Bank. I had met with the people at the bank and discussed our plan. The system was going to help bank tellers increase accuracy and save time per transaction. I asked if my team could talk to some tellers to get their input. The client said, ‘No, we didn’t need to,’ and that she knew all about the teller role and would answer any questions for us.

Let’s Start At the Very Beginning

Let’s stop here. That was the beginning of the story. We’ve given the set-up. We’ve explained what the current status was. We’ve talked about what we inherited and we’re ready to start talking about what we did — the middle of the story. Too often, that’s where people start so that the target doesn’t know the context or why the actions were important. Now, on to the middle of the story.

The Middle Comes Next

You: I wasn’t really happy with that answer. I knew from experience that if you didn’t get the end users’ input early you could have big problems. And I also knew that my client would be too busy to give me the time I needed and might well not have the hands-on information I needed. But she was the client.

Guy with ketchup: Tough call.

You: Yes, but I knew what to do. I pulled some examples, case studies that showed why having the end-users’ input was so important. When I showed them to her she understood and gave me the names of some of her top people.

So that’s the middle of the story. You might want to add more to your own story, but like any good joke it’s really the set up and the pay off that get the biggest laughs. And now the end of the story.

All Good Things Have to End

Guy with ketchup: Good work. I bet having some good examples helped your case.

You: Yes. And when the system went live we had no problems. The users really liked it and the upgrade from their old process was really smooth. The manager told me that she was really pleased I had pushed her to get feedback from the users, and that had made all the difference.

Guy with ketchup: Fantastic.

There you go. A story, or a longer pitch, which will get you an interview.

Here’s another fabulous real-life example from Ron Shimony that shows the importance of believing in yourself.

Here is his initial experience with pitching himself.

I walked up and down Lincoln Avenue in the north Suburbs of Chicago and started applying for sales jobs at various car dealerships: “Hi, my name is Ron Shimony, and I would like to work for you. I don’t have any car sales experience, but I can learn fast” was what I would tell the manager. And “No thank you, we don’t have any openings right now,” or “Sorry, we don’t hire people with no sales experience,” were the two most common answers I received.

And then he saw where he was going wrong.

I realized that I had been asking these sales managers for the right to apply for a job with their company, instead of expecting them to hire me. I had to show the value I would bring to the table, billing myself as the best potential car salesperson these managers ever met.

Along with this belief in himself, Ron also practiced his pitch and emphasized his positive qualities through his body language and delivery. This was his new pitch.

Hi, my name is Ron Shimony, and I would like to work for you. Although I do not have any car sales experience, I can assure you that no one can outwork me. I will become your number-one sales guy, if you just give me the opportunity! I know what I can do and achieve, and you will not be disappointed. I am a fast learner, and your company will benefit greatly from my selling abilities and enthusiasm.

Not surprisingly, he was hired by a Chicago dealer.

Quoted with permission from Ron for your life℠

Final Thoughts on Telling Your Story

Good stories work whether you are hunting for a job, trying to get a promotion, or even running your own business. Remember a beginning, middle, and an end, and you are on the way to something powerful.

For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers: Job Action Day 2014

This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.



David Couper is founder and CEO of David Couper Consulting, Inc., a strategic-effectiveness consulting firm focusing on business’s real bottom-line: PEOPLE. A seasoned global corporate consultant and coach, David is also an accomplished writer and has published seven books. David is regularly quoted talking about business success on television, radio, print, and online outlets such as NPR, Forbes, CBS News, and Newsweek Japan. David holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Wales and graduate degrees in Education and Psychology. He lives with his 8-year old son, in Los Angeles, CA.

Connect and Get Attention By Telling Your Career Story

Guest Post by Deborah Shane

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” – Muriel Rukeyser

On January 5, 2007, I was sitting out on my lanai looking out at the lake and golf course in Ft. Myers, FL. I was officially and unexpectedly in between careers and jobs, living in a town where I literally knew one person. I had made a voluntary career transition in August 2006 and decided to embark on yet another adventure in my life – one that did not turn out the way I had anticipated.

Connect_-_CanvaI was stunned, uncertain and yet strangely excited. The question came into my head, “What do you really want to do, not what do you have to do?”

I really wanted to start my own company using all of my gifts, talents, passion and expertise to help others and do what I do best: teach, guide, and train. On February 4, 2007, I launched Train with Shane, now, and in 2015, I will celebrate eight years in business.

That defining moment on the lanai led me on the most exciting, nerve-racking, and challenging ride of my life.

My storyline?

“Deborah Shane is a tenacious, curious, empowered person who has transitioned through several careers. She has transformed herself from a rockin’ singer, published songwriter, teacher and award-winning radio sales professional to a two-time award-winning author, entrepreneur, writer, trainer, speaker, radio host.”

We know that stories are the most powerful way for people to connect with each other. We all love stories because we all have them and can relate to them.

The plot, the characters, the setting, the conflict, the resolution, the moral is the oldest form of telling and sharing experience, wisdom, and history that we have. Today, storytelling is one of the most effective approaches to use in brand recognition and career advancement and development.

Telling a story to drive home a theme or point is so powerful and lasting that it can cut through all the noise and clutter to grab someone’s attention very quickly.



  • The courage and perseverance of Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind adventurer to summit all seven of the planet’s highest mountain peaks.
  • The innovation and vision of Ray Kroc of McDonald’s to revolutionize fast food.
  • Sara Blakely getting over her fear of sales to make Spanx the success it is today.

There are thousands of these stories that come out of the lives of real people that drive home the lesson, principle, and moment of clarity that comes when we take that leap of faith to do what we are driven to do and really want to do.

Build Your Story and Connect Your Brand: 3 Ways

  1. Identify your life shapers and turning points. We all have specific moments in our lives when things shifted and changed – moments that shaped our ideasand were turning points in our lives. Think about five of those moments in your life and what lesson came out of each that  makes you who you are today. Use that to craft a story.
  2. Think of random situations or occurrences you were involved in or witnessed that greatly moved you and why. Craft a story around what you saw, thought, felt, or learned.
  3. Talk about things, issues, causes that you are passionate about and why. We all have charities, causes, and things that we want to be a part of and align ourselves with. Craft a story around how these led you to do something.

When it comes to attracting and relating on a resume or in a face-to-face meeting on a job interview or networking event, use the power of your real-life story as a connector and point of relatability. Pretty much works every time.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is the place where you tell that career story, in first person. Skip the bullet points and instead make them into a compelling story. (See my LinkedIn profile by following the link in my bio, below.)

Final Thoughts on Your Career Story

Whatever your career story is, find it, tell it, share it, and celebrate it.

For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers: Job Action Day 2014

This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.

Deborah Shane


Deborah Shane, named a Top 100 Small Business Champion and Top 100 Small Business Podcast by, is the author of two books. Her new book is #trusthewhy: Fundamentals, Value and Humor Get You Through Anythinga blog-to-book collection of 56 articles about, careers, social media, branding, marketing, professional advancement. She also published the award-winning book, Career Career Transition – Make the Shift, in 2011. She is a branding strategist, social-media consultant, featured writer, and speaker. She hosts a weekly blog and award winning small business radio podcast with more than 525K downloads. Deborah delivers practical and tactical ideas in her articles featured on Small Business Trends, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Careerealism, Women For Hire, and she is a go-to resource for the media on NBC, Fox, CBS. Engage with her @DeborahShane, on LinkedIn, and visit her at




A Marriage of Marketing and Storytelling: Using Personas in Your Job Search

A Guest Post by Karen Siwak

Storytelling sells. Marketers know this. Sales executives know this. Journalists know this. And jobseekers are beginning to know this. Being able to tell a good career story gives a job-seeker a competitive edge – his/her resume is more likely to be read instead of just scanned, their interviews are more likely to be memorable and engaging.

However, knowing what story to tell is key. It isn’t enough to string together disconnected SMART statements [learn more] and hope the hiring  manager is wowed. It isn’t sufficient to tell an interesting career anecdote and hope the interviewer is impressed. Job-seekers need to tell a story that is relevant to the potential hiring manager, that speaks to the hiring company’s challenges, needs and goals.

But how do you do you know what story to tell? Take a page from the marketing experts.


Applying Profiling to the Job Search

Companies that don’t take the time to understand their target customers can end up wasting their marketing budget on ineffective advertising designed to reach a mass audience in the hopes that something, somewhere, sticks. In the job search, this approach is akin to sending out thousands of resumes to any and every company you can think of, hoping that somebody, somewhere, will like your resume enough to call you for an interview.

To get better bang for their advertising dollars, smart companies have abandoned mass marketing in favor of target marketing. They segment their customer base into distinct groups, and tailor their marketing campaign to “speak” to the needs of each group. To assist with this segmentation, a technique called Profiling is used. Fictional “personas” are created to represent each customer type, and stories are built around those personas – where they live, what they do for a living, marital and parental status, age, cultural background, interests, career aspirations, values – the more details that go into fleshing out the persona, the better able the company is to create a marketing strategy that speaks to and engages their customers. [Read more about personas.]

Profiling can be a very powerful tool in a job search. By creating personas of your ideal next employer, you can get very clear on how to tell your career story in a way that engages the interest of potential hiring managers.


Crafting Employer Personas for Your Job Search

1. Define the “product”: What kinds of problems are you good at solving? What challenges do you like to step up to? What kinds of results are you excellent at delivering? What knowledge, training and attributes do you have that make you good at solving those problems and tackling those challenges ? What proof do you have from your career to validate your claims?

2. Segment your target market: Armed with a well defined “product,” start to create employer profiles – what kinds of companies have the problems you are good at solving – well established or still growing? Large corporation or small-to-midsized enterprise? Business-to-business or business-to-consumer? For profit, not-for-profit, or public sector? What industry? Targeting what markets? What kind of workplace culture? Valuing teamwork or valuing individual excellence? Innovative or conservative? What kind of hiring manager? What kind of team? What are their priority needs and goals?

3. Conduct market research: Take your time to answer these questions with as much detail as possible. Draw on past experience, discussions with networking contacts, and online research to validate the assumptions you are making about who needs your problem-solving skills.

4. Develop employer profiles: Use your research and the answers to your segmentation questions to create employer profiles. Some job-seekers may have only one employer profile – their expertise is so specialized that only a small group of very similar companies have need for it. Other job-seekers will discover that there are two or more kinds of companies that could use their expertise, or that they have different kinds of expertise, each suited to a different kind of company.

5. Create a persona for each profile group: Create a mental image of a typical company in each profile group. The more detail you can add to this mental image, the easier it will be for you to target your job search. It can be a fictional persona based on general characteristics, or it can be an actual company (or companies) that most closely matches the profile.

6. Map out your career story: With the company persona clear in your mind, decide what the company needs to know about you for them to recognize you as the solution to their problem. Which accomplishments from each of your current and previous jobs are most relevant to the target employer? Which metrics will matter most to them? Which responsibilities are most important to showcase?

Final Thoughts on Using the Personas Marketing Approach to Boost a Storied Job-Search

Armed with clearly segmented employer profiles, well-defined employer personas and a properly mapped-out strategy for telling their career story, job-seekers can target their search and tailor their career marketing collateral to “speak” to those companies that need them most.

For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers:


This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.

Karen Siwak, founder of Resume Confidential, is a certified resume writer and job-search strategist who helps executives, senior managers and credentialed professionals market themselves for their next career move.


Career Gurus Share Job-Search Storytelling Tips

Compiled by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Ways job-seekers can use storytelling in their career/job-search…

TipsBe proactive in determining what your story will be. It’s very difficult to market yourself for opportunities before you really understand what you have to offer as it relates to the hiring managers’ needs. One tip: review job descriptions that interest you. Identify the problems the organizations are trying to solve and hone in on how YOU solve those problems. That is a great story to tell.

Once you determine what story interests your audience, use language and imagery best suited to reach them. Just as you wouldn’t order in French at a Chinese restaurant, don’t fill your resume and job-search materials with unfamiliar jargon or terms not explicitly related to your audience. When you know – and tell – your story clearly and succinctly, in a manner most accessible to them, you’ll be a head above the competition. – Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers

To tell your career story, use visual storytelling tools: presentations, infographics, portfolios, and social resumes. – Hannah Morgan, Career

Start with your “inside story” – the silent one inside your head! Emphasize gratitude over grumbling, opportunities over problems, and strengths over shortcomings. What we focus on grows! – Susan Britton Whitcomb,

Perhaps the most important storytelling issue for job-seekers and careerists alike is understanding, developing, enhancing, and communicating a consistent narrative that describes them as a worker/job-seeker/employee. Once you have your narrative – the theme of your career – you can use that narrative to help create your career brand and the stories that showcase that theme. –  Randall Hansen, Ph.D.,

Narratives should always be used during an interview. Job-seekers often hear that a great interview “should feel just like a good conversation.” That’s simply not true. A good interview should be a consistent but non-annoying sales pitch. Every question’s response should contain not just the answer but also the context – the narrative.

For example, very few people will answer the “what are your weaknesses?” question honestly. I’ve never heard a candidate say: “Well, actually, I have an explosive temper and clip my toenails in the office.” Most candidates will do that old turn-a-positive-into-a-negative strategy that they were teaching job-seekers in the 80s but that often backfires. I have heard candidates say things like “well, I am a perfectionist” or “I am a workaholic.” In the era prior to work-life balance, these responses might have been seen as a positive, but now they’re just not.

The best answer to a question like this one is a narrative. I usually give this formula when I’m coaching someone:

I used to have trouble with __________. I received feedback from my boss/my peers/my mentor that ____________ was affecting
my work. I listened to that feedback and worked hard on strategies to address it. I know that I’ve been successful in doing so because ____________.

Give me that narrative for an answer, and I know that you seek and respond to feedback, work well for bosses, or well with peers, or have a mentor. I also know that you can incorporate feedback and that you are motivated to self-assess progress. A narrative answer here is the A+ answer. – Maureen Crawford Hentz, recruiter and talent management guru

When it comes to attracting and relating on a resume or in a face-to-face meeting on a job interview or networking event, use the power of your story as a connector and point of relatability. Pretty much works every time. – Deborah Shane,

Good stories work whether you are hunting for a job, trying to get a promotion, or even running your own business. – David Couper, David Couper Consulting

Stories establish an emotional connection between storyteller and listener and inspire the listener’s investment in the storyteller’s success. When stories convey moving content and are told with feeling, the listener feels an emotional bond with the storyteller. Often the listener – for example, a hiring manager interviewing you for a job vacancy – can empathize or relate the story to an aspect of his or her own life. That bond instantly enables the listener to invest emotionally in your success.

The Information Age and the era of knowledge workers may seem cutting edge, but in his popular book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink asserts that society has moved beyond that mindset and into the Conceptual Age in which we are “creators and empathizers,” “pattern recognizers,” and “meaning makers.” Story is an important tool in this age because it enables us to “encapsulate, contextualize, and emotionalize.” Pink refers to story as “context enriched by emotion” and tells us that “story is high touch because stories almost always pack an emotional punch.” Gerry Lantz of Stories That Work, a firm that uses stories in branding, compares stories to information, noting that stories are accessible, involving, evocative, meaningful, and a product of the creative right brain, while information is processed through the rational left brain through analysis, interpretation, evaluation, and planning. Both information and stories are necessary.

Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.,

For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers: Job Action Day 2014

This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.

Storying Your Career Accomplishments

A Guest Post by Rick Gillis

I was once interviewing a recruiter on a radio show, and he told me, “Tell your listeners to tell a story.” He went on to say that when asked a question in the interview, yes/no answers don’t serve the purpose of allowing the recruiter to get a feel for who you are in that very short period.

accompsPersonally, my take on this advice is to tell you to plan on actively promoting yourself for your entire working life, which is Storytelling for Career Success!

As a society, we are taught from a very early age to be humble – not to brag on ourselves. But I’m here to tell you I don’t stand by this view and, at least on a personal level, I wish someone had at brought this fixation on humility to my attention when I was starting out.

Put another way, every celebrity you are fond of has a public-relations firm engaged for the sole purpose of keeping its client in the public eye. Who do you have?

You have you. You are the one who must communicate your accomplishments to prospective employers.

Career Accomplishments

Definition of an accomplishment: something done or achieved successfully.

To this definition of an accomplishment I would also add “something that you are proud of.”

To be clear, you do not have to invent the iPhone to do wonderful things in your career. Just doing your job well for an extended period of time is an accomplishment. If you weren’t accomplishing you would have been replaced!

To my job-search clients – those employed as well as unemployed – I promote creating an Accomplishments Inventory, a formal document that you will present at an interview and at any moment when your supervisor or your supervisor’s boss asks what you have been up to. Were you to engage me in your job-search, the creation of this document is not negotiable. It’s that important to your success in job search as well as on the job. (Here’s a sample Accomplishments document.)

I have a personal friend, a senior manager in a global construction firm, who for 11 years has provided a monthly list to his immediate supervisor of the five things of significance he accomplished this month as well as the five things he plans on getting done next month. His boss always knows exactly what my buddy is doing and more importantly he recognizes his value to the organization.

Keeping your supervisor informed of your on-the-job performance is not the same as an annual review. This technique is letting him/her know that you came in Saturday for an extra five hours on your own time to complete a project due next week. There is nothing wrong with pointing out this type of commitment. (A casual email to your supervisor to discuss a point dated and time-stamped from your office on an off-day can often be enough to make the point.)

Storytelling for Career Success

To bring all of these points together, let me provide you with a real-world example of the value of the accomplishments document. (And to those on the job, I hope you will consider creating an accomplishments journal.)

I worked with an engineer who, after 12 years raising a family, decided she was ready to get back into the workforce.

We worked the process, which is not just to review old resumes and performance reports, but also to make personal contact with previous co-workers, supervisors, vendors, clients, and any other professionals she could think of and ask them either of these questions: What impact did I have on the organization when I was there?/What difference did I make when we worked together?

As a result of her efforts, she provided me a list of 18 tangible accomplishments that still stood the test of time 12 years after the fact. This longevity was important because she knew she would not be entering the field at the (current) knowledge level that she had left with, but we were nevertheless attempting to get her placed as high up the ladder as we could.

She not only created a single-sentence statement for each accomplishment (see sample), but I also had her write out the story behind each accomplishment – the who, what, where, when, why, and how of each statement. My engineer then brought me 18 full pages with the story behind each accomplishment in great detail.

I glanced through the bunch and handed them back to her, whereupon she asked me, somewhat annoyed, if I was going to read them. I said no. We hadn’t done all that work for me. We did it for her. She now had all the ammunition necessary to go into any interview situation and defend her value proposition as the person the company should hire. Admittedly she took several interviews, but after a few months she landed an exceptionally well-paying position for a company who was really in need of her (previous) top-ranked skills and was willing to take the time and provide the training to bring her up to speed. Three years later, she is now responsible for two teams of engineers working very high-level projects.

Final Thoughts on storying your accomplishments

What I would like you to take away from article this is that you must be able to express to your employer how you are providing value today, how you provided value to the company yesterday, three days ago, three weeks ago, three months ago, and last year at this time – and then do it regularly. That value demonstration is tough to do, but not difficult if you have kept a weekly/monthly accounting of what has been keeping you busy. (By the way, this document will give you a heck of an advantage in your performance review.)

Your ability to tell the story of your value could be the difference between your being let go or retained during a next reduction in force.

I’ll end with a question: Were you required to re-apply for your job monthly, what would you tell your boss that would make him or her want to
keep you on board for another month? Consider Storytelling for Career Success.

For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers: Job Action Day 2014




This article is part of Job Action Day 2014 and is reprinted here.

Rick Gillis of The Really Useful Job Search Company

Rick Gillis is career coach and guru – a pioneer of 21st century job search – an author of several career books, and founder of The Really Useful Job Search Company LLC. Rick, who has been quoted numerous times, from NPR to The Wall Street Journal, regularly speaks at colleges and universities, job-search networking groups, non-profit organizations, and professional associations. His claim to fame is his creation of the Short-Form Resume and his ‘mandatory’ Accomplishments Worksheet. Visit his Website or reach him by email using his contact form. His fourth job-search book, JOB! Learn How To Find Your Next Job In 1 Day, reviewed by

Job-Search Storytelling Continues to Evolve: New Nuances

by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

When I began my doctoral dissertation on the subject of storytelling in the job search nearly 10 years ago, the concept was largely unheard of. Today, the storied approach is so deeply ingrained in the world of career communication that 18 career gurus had no trouble producing rich articles on aspects of career storytelling for Job Action Day 2014. This mainstreaming of stories in job search means that job-seekers can find a vast array of resources online and off about how to effectively integrate story into job-search communication. In this article, we’ve curated some of the best.

    • When it comes to telling stories in job interviews, probably the most popular story structure advised by career experts is STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Result. But, writing on the Careers – in Theory blog, David Winter suggests a different story structure, BARER.
      • Background – Winter suggests only the minimum the listener needs to know to understand your actions
      • Actions – what you did and how you did it
      • Reasons – why you did those things rather than something else
      • Explained result – what the outcome was and why it was the result of your actions
      • Reflection and re-application – what you learned from the experience and how it’s been useful

      Why this formula? “If you want to impress an experienced interviewer, just talking about your Actions and the Result will not be enough,” Winter asserts. “If you just describe what you did, I don’t know whether your actions have arisen from conscious decision making or as an automatic response to external conditions. I don’t know whether the result came about because of your actions or just the prevailing circumstances.” Winter’s isn’t the only formula that includes reflection and learning, but it’s certainly an approach worth considering.

    • Another popular interview-story formula is SOAR, in which O for Obstacles takes the place of T for Task in the STAR structure. Career expert Thea Kelley touts the importance of the obstacles portion of the story for demonstrating the ability to overcome challenges. Without the obstacles piece, she writes here, the accomplishment might seem too easy, and communication of the skills involved in the achievement would not be as dramatic.


    • A story formula known as The Pixar Pitch has made the rounds in recent years. Initially set forth by Emily Coats, the Pitch was featured in Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human. Here’s how it goes:

      Once upon a time _____. Every day_____. One day_____. Because of that_____. Because of that_____. Until finally_____.

      Conduct a Google search on The Pixar Pitch, and you’ll find several examples, but it’s harder to find an example applied to an individual and suitable for job-seeking. A sample published by Tom Cooper of the BrightHill Group perhaps comes the closest and can serve as a model for job-seekers:

      • Once upon a time, many years ago I was young geek who worked on software and IT projects.
      • Every day I watched too many good people and good projects fail to meet business goals. Have you ever seen failed projects at work? It hurts, doesn’t it?
      • One day I discovered the secret to successful projects. I learned that leadership is the key to effectively moving people and delivering business value.
      • Because of this I began to study what it means to be a leader and how to lead others effectively. I learned that leadership is a skill that can be learned,
        and over time I practiced those skills and became a better leader.
      • Because of this new awareness, I began to see that few tech leaders understood this secret. Few of them ever study these types of skills. I really wanted to help them learn what I learned.
      • Until finally I created a business with to help tech leaders get more from their teams. Would you like to know how I do it?
    • Of course, an interview story structure can be quite simple, such as the one recommended by Diane Windingland on her blog:
      Then -> Now -> How. You describe what the situation was then, what it is now (after you have taken action to improve the situation), and how you accomplished the Now. “By delaying ‘how’ until after the ‘now,’” Windingland says, “you get people leaning forward and wanting to hear the how.”
    • Are you an auditory learner? As a supplement to Walter Akana’s Job Action Day 2014 article, Five Keys to Developing Your Personal Brand Story, listen to Akana interviewed by Jeff Rock on Blog Talk Radio. In the 38-minute interview, titled Developing Your Brand Story with Walter Akana, the interviewee asserts that much of today’s personal-branding advice is image-building rather than the communication of who you really are. Akana followed up this interview with a blog post about framing your story as a quest. “Find your quest and your story will take care of itself,” he says.
    • Stories can help an employer visualize you in a role, says Thomas Crouser, Jr, in Tell a Great Story, Get a New Job! “If the interviewer(s) visualize YOU in the role, the probability that you will become their next employee (or advance to the next step of the process) increases significantly!,” Crouser writes. He cites storytelling guru Doug Stevenson, who notes, “If you want to make a positive impression at the same time you’re making a point, you’ve got to use stories.”
    • A pithy story that encapsulates one’s career is a must, and it goes by several names — elevator pitch, elevator story, career narrative, or response to the ubiquitous interview request to “tell me about yourself.” Heidi K. Gardner and Adam Zalisk believe that younger workers especially need this kind of story, particularly within the workplace so senior executives can grasp their appropriateness for assignments
      to projects and promotions. A powerful example, they say, of such a career narrative might be:

      “I worked in labs through college and entered the firm with a strong interest in health-care clients. I’ve had the opportunity to develop my quantitative financial skills in the comfortable context of health care. Now I’d like to test those skills with other commercial clients to determine what industry most interests me over the long term.”

      The authors note, of course, that the story must be dynamic and change as your situation and accomplishments change.

    • Another use/incarnation of a concise, overarching story of who you are is the About Me page on your blog or Web site or the
      100-word bio. A fantastic resource for learning to construct one of these stories is How to Make Your Story Shine, a lengthy,
      10-step tutorial that takes the user through a process for creating an effective story. The basics include:

      • Present who you are (answering the ever-important facts, up front)
      • Show where you’ve been (including your credentials, background, context, etc.)
      • Explain where you intend to go in your work/in your life (ie, this is what you’re driving at, and why you’re doing anything at all)
      • Invite the reader to join you, get on board, work with you, etc. (in other words, how to continue the relationship you’ve sparked)
  • The concept of storied resumes has caught fire in recent years, and many resume writers claim to tell their clients’ stories in these documents.
    One company, Storyresumes, focuses exclusively on graphically driven resumes that are story-based. While these graphic resumes cannot be read by employers’ Applicant Tracking software, they can be useful for networking, taking to an interviewer, or publishing on a personal Website of social-media venue. See a post about this company and what inspired its founder Andrea Martins to start it.

Final Thoughts on Career Storytelling Resources

These resources are just the tip of the iceberg of a vast variety of career-storytelling resources that have emerged in recent years. For much more on the subject, visit our Career Storytelling section. Job Action Day 2014




This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.

Telling Your Career Story: 4 New Approaches


This article is part of Job Action Day 2014 and is reprinted here.

by Hannah Morgan

Standing out in a job search has never been more challenging. Companies receive hundreds of applications for a single job. Some recruiters will look at your resume for only six seconds, according to a study by TheLadders. To capture the attention of potential employers, you need to be innovative and try new methods to garner attention.

Historically, the resume was the only tool available to tell your career story. Today, you have many more options to draw attention to your career achievements, if you are willing to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. You will still need a traditional text-based resume, but you can captivate your audience by supplementing your story by using these four new formats to tell your story.

Storytelling has been around forever. It was the earliest form of “edutainment,” the combination of educational and entertaining content. Good storytellers captivated an audience by using stories, which created mental images and formed an emotional connection. This combination resulted in memorable, sharable stories passed down through generations. Think about stories delivered by Steve Jobs, any TED Talk, or a Walt Disney 4movie. They all contain stories that have similar recipe for success. Garr Reynolds, founder of, one of the most popular Websites on presentation design and delivery, believes three basic elements contribute to every great story:

  • A problem is identified.
  • The causes of the problem are spelled out.
  • A resolution is envisioned and implemented.

1. Tell the Story of Your Career Through a Presentation

Your career has been dynamic. A resume is just words on a page and limits your ability to convey the true essence of your career. Why not use a dynamic format to show off what you’ve done? You will need to start by building a strong story. Think of it as your pitch. Create the storyline for your presentation as if you were answering the question, “why should I hire you?” And keep in mind the three-part formula; what is the problem you solve, what causes the problem, and how have you successfully resolved this problem in the past. The magic of storytelling happens when you incorporate powerful images and words to create a memorable story. Now you are ready to select the tool you will use to convey your message.

Tool choices include PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote, Haiku Deck, Google Presentations.

2. Deploy a Portfolio To Illustrate Your Story

Artists, designers and models have used portfolios forever to show their work. Portfolios provide tangible proof they have experience. You can have an online portfolio, too. Show your samples of work, photos from events you attended, awards you’ve won, even customer testimonials. Embed these documents and pictures in the Summary or Experience sections of your LinkedIn profile to enhance your message and provide evidence you can do the job. And if you are serious about managing your online visibility, why not create a simple Website that hosts your samples of work and resume and serves as a portfolio. Complicated coding skills or a large budget are no longer required to create a personal website.

Tool choices include: Behance, Carbonmade, eOlio, LinkedIn, SquareSpace, Weebly, WordPress.

[Editor’s Note: See also this section of Quintessential Careers: Career Portfolio Tools and Resources for Job-Seekers.]

3. Convert Text Into Visuals

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Infographics simplify complex ideas by using images. Convert your career story into an infographic resume as a supplement. Your LinkedIn profile can easily be converted into an infographic or you can create an infographic from scratch. But don’t stop there. You want to draw attention to your infographic. Add it to your portfolio, LinkedIn profile, and even within your presentation. Your infographic could be just the thing to capture the attention of 65 percent of the population who are visual learners, according to the Social Science Research Network. See this recent post for more about infographic resumes.

Tool choices include: Beyond, Kelly and’s infographic resume, Kinzaa, PictoCV, ResumUp,,

4. Tell Your Story through Social-Media Activity

Some career professionals and recruiters say that online search results for your name and social-media streams are the new resume. You are being googled, so why not highlight your activity in one spot for anyone to easily find. A social resume is another alternative for telling your story. Collect and show off your blog posts, tweets, Instagram photos, and other status updates to provide a real-time demonstration of your communication and social media savvy.

Tool choices include:, Career Cloud’s Social Resume,, Pixelhub, Strickingly.

Final Thoughts: Don’t Hide Your Story Away In a Folder

Instead of relying on resume-posting sites and hoping an employer will find you irresistible, take ownership of promoting your talent
by sharing your story through multiple media formats! You’ve accomplished great things, and it is up to you to make sure that your
successes are visible outside your current company and are known to people beyond your manager.

Begin sharing your memorable story today.

For more information, see also this section of Quintessential Careers:

Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author on job-search and social-media strategies. She delivers fresh advice to and serves as a guide to the treacherous terrain of today’s workplace landscape. Hannah’s experience in human resources, outplacement services, workforce development and career services equip her with a 360-degree perspective on job-search topics. Recognized by media and career professionals, Hannah is an advocate who encourages job-seekers to take control of their job search. Hannah is frequently quoted in local and national publications such as Money magazine, and she writes a weekly column for U.S. News & World Report. Hannah is the author of The Infographic Resume (McGraw Hill Education, 2014) and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success (Learning Express, 2013). You can learn more about Hannah on and by following her on Twitter at