More Support for Storied Resumes -- But No Easy Answers

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As if in response to yesterday’s entry in which Nick Corcodilos asked, “So, does your resume tell a story?” Certified Resume Strategist Karen Siwak writes about Career Storytelling: How Sharing Fascinating Experiences Gets YOU Hired!. “Ask any recruiter about a memorable candidate,” Siwak writes, “and chances are that it will be some element of [his or her] story that stands out.”

Siwak compares career storytelling to the third day of canoe tripping when “all pretenses are gone, and each of us has been revealed for who we are, in all our glorious colour and complexity” and everyone becomes comfortable relating storied experiences. I’ll take her word for it given that I’ve never been canoe tripping.

canoetrip.jpg These stories, Siwak says, “are character building. They cause us to confront our foibles and take ownership of our strengths.”

They create the emotional space for self examination and questioning. Why am I here? Where am I going? Who do I want to be with? What do I want next?

Siwak doesn’t tell how to create a storied resume but asserts that she knows how to do it:

My goal as a Resume Strategist is to fast-track this process of self discovery, and I love it. I love getting people to open up about themselves and reach a place of personal authenticity from which truly unique and distinctive career stories can emerge. I love asking the probing questions that create “aha” moments. I love working with my clients to find exactly the right words to tell their stories. Any good marketing professional will tell you that stories sell. … Resume strategy isn’t just laying out a reverse chronology of your career path. It’s about telling a clear, succinct story about who you are and why you are the perfect solution to some company’s problem. It stirs interest and invites connection. It creates the opening for an interview, and lays the groundwork for you to be able to expand on your talents, strengths and insights.

I’ve encountered many resume writers who say they write resumes that tell a story, but I’ve never yet seen a resume that made me say, “YES! That’s a storied resume!” And that includes my own attempts. I still don’t know what the storied resume is, but I feel as though I will know it when I see it.

In the meantime, it’s great to hear another voice join the chorus for storytelling in resumes.

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Thank you Katherine for your review of my article, and you are right, I didn’t offer any easier answers. Perhaps by describing the process I use, I can giving an inkling of what a storied resume might look like.

Before I even begin asking my clients about their specific job and accomplishments, I ask about the company and the industry. What was going on when they came on board? What challenges was the company facing, and why? How was the industry changing, and what was driving these changes? This information is critical to setting the context - a key element of a storied resume.

Next, I focus on the client’s mandate when they came on board. What were they tasked to do? What was the hardest part of that mandate? What alternatives did they consider, and why did they ultimately choose their course of action? From there, it is fairly easy to follow a line of questioning that is essentially “and then what happened?” This forms the plot line of their career story.

I also like to bring up the “plot twists”. What did you end up doing that you didn’t expect, and why? How did your role change over time, and why? Who impacted your ability to do your job, and how did this require you to adapt? All of these questions help to add depth and character to the story.

Does it all end up in the resume? By no means. Out of ten or twelve pages of densely packed notes, I will pull out the key bits that make up a great story. What those key bits are depends on who the target reader is going to be. The exact same client could end up with two or three different versions of their storied resume, depending on the various kinds of jobs they target.

The process I use works better for some kinds of clients and career paths than others. But I have yet to work with a client who did reach that “eyes light up” moment while working with me, when they realize they have a great story to tell. And to the best of my ability, I make sure that the great story shapes what I put in their resume.

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