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

For Job-Search Success, Banish the Negative Story in Your Head

Note: This article appeared as part of Job Action Day 2014 and is reprinted here.

by Susan Britton Whitcomb

JobActionDay2014LogoWe all have an ongoing story that runs on autopilot through our minds. It’s the silent chatter – often negative – that self-criticizes, anticipates what will go wrong, second-guesses, assumes what other people are thinking, interprets or misinterprets events, and more. It might go some something like this:

I’m never going to get a job. Employers just aren’t hiring. If I’d only kept up my exercise routine – it’s going to be harder to get a job with these extra pounds around my middle. What a slug I am… I got let go because I make too much. It’s going to be hard to compete against the younger kids who are willing to make a lot less than I’ve been making… That human-resources guy never called me back. Probably never will. I know I blew it in the telephone screen. Stupid, stupid, stupid – I can’t believe I didn’t remember to talk about my accomplishments when he asked me that surprise question. I hate looking for a job. It sucks.

Neuroscientists have a name for this silent chatter. It’s called the Default Network (also known as the Narrative Network). Unless we are very SZtoryinheadintentional about our thinking, we do, indeed, default to the Default Network. We spend 60-70 percent of our time in this zone, and, in doing so, allow ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) to subtly sabotage our success.

Why should job-seekers pay attention to the inside story? Because left unchecked, negative thoughts can distract and derail us. They send us into a self-induced fight-flight response that shuts down our creativity and hijacks our critical thinking skills. We get off-agenda, off-course, off-kilter, and off of our best self.

It’s difficult to convince networking contacts, interviewers, and colleagues of our value if we don’t believe it ourselves.

These Tips can help you manage Your Inside Story

Notice the narrative without judging yourself. It’s important that we not deride ourselves further for the narrative thoughts, because that only exacerbates the situation. Just notice the thoughts, such as, “I hear those ANTs again. Interesting. I hadn’t realized what I was thinking.”

Transcend the Narrative Network. Get into a different network – the Experiential Network – a state where we are very aware of ourselves and our surroundings, taking in information through our five senses. For example, “I notice that I’m hungry; I can hear the fan of my computer kicking on; the sky is an interesting shade of blue right now.”

Choose gratitude. Gratitude can change the chemistry inside our bodies, releasing serotonin, dopamine, and other neurochemicals that make us feel good. Speak your gratitude aloud, even if just to yourself. Extend gratitude not just for the people in your life, but to yourself, as well. For example, I am grateful for the strengths I have that are helping me manage this transition.

Construct a new happy-ending story. Rehearse it. Positive visualizations create new neural wiring in our brains, which makes it easier for us to repeat the same success in the future. For example, “I can see myself meeting with my networking contact this afternoon. I walk in with shoulders back, head held high, smile on my face. I am using my strengths as a researcher to connect with him and understand his background and his needs. I listen and respond in ways that create trust so he’s more comfortable referring me to others.”

Final Thoughts

Writing a strong “inside story” allows us to confidently deliver the messages we need to convey to friends, colleagues, and hiring managers throughout a career transition. Here’s to a happy ending!

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

Brain-based Coach Susan Britton Whitcomb

Susan Britton Whitcomb, PCC, is the author of sevencareers books, including Resume Magic, Interview Magic, and Job Search Magic. A Certified Brain-Based Success Coach, she brings practical application to neuroscience research to help people create careers that are meaningful and financially rewarding. Founder and President of, her coach training organization has trained more than 1,000 coaches worldwide in career, leadership, and job search coaching.


Founder of StoryResumes Touts: Marketing Savvy + Story = Get Noticed Faster in Your Job Search

Storytelling continues to emerge as a mainstream technique in job-search communication, a technique we celebrate and explore during this year’s JobActionDay2014LogoJob Action Day.

To get noticed in your job hunt, you don’t have to create and mail out 400 action figures of yourself as Jens Lennartsson did, create imitation medicine boxes as pharmaceutical copywriter Jon Ryder did, or lose a fake passport at ad agencies like design student Miruna Macri did – although admittedly, those creative resume tactics are ingenious.

You do have to stop, reassess what you’ve achieved in your career and what you’d now most like to achieve, and then weave your value into a compelling story that is custom-made for your dream role/company.

Thus, you need to invest time in articulating your value, instead of rush typing your resume in your lunch break. It also means that you need to invest time in researching your dream role/company and then presenting yourself (usually via your cover letter and resume) in an impactful and memorable way that matches that specific role/company.

To create impact, more and more marketing-savvy candidates are turning to creative resumes that help grab a recruiter’s attention faster. Creative resumes can be problematic if they cannot be read by the Applicant Tracking Software that most employers use to harness the constant inundation of resumes. Creative resumes, however, can be worth considering to complement (not replace) your traditional resume.

storyresumeslogoOne new company that can help you with a creative resume is Story Resumes. The company creates customized, eye-catching resumes via infographics, illustrations, and animated videos (which cannot be read by employer software). Founder Andrea Martins reached out to me when her service launched earlier this year.

Andrea created Story Resumes after her frustrating experience as a job-seeker. When she was not being noticed in her job hunt, she used her initiative and turned her resume into a story, then commissioned illustrations to match. Soon after, Andrea was receiving phone calls from recruiters, interviews and job offers.

This success in itself demonstrates both the power of story, and what candidates can achieve if they are proactive in their job search. But perhaps what I love most about the service is that it practices exactly what I have advocated for so many years:

Marketing Savvy + Story = Get Noticed Faster in Your Job Search.

Whether you demonstrate marketing savvy via an infographic resume, an action figure or just a brilliantly articulated cover letter and resume, this formula is one of the best-hidden weapons in your job search arsenal. Use it.



Storytelling: Underused in Online Teaching

Using stories and storytelling in online teaching is an underused method of increasing student engagement and interest.  Here are just five of many Modern_Instructor__Success_Strategies_for_the_Online_Professor_-_Kindle_edition_by_Dani_Babb__Tara_Ross__Christopher_Kline__Deborah_Gilbert__Kathy_Hansen__Mark_Lawler__Josephine_Lipuma__Dawn_O_Day__Diane_Pawar__Tomeka_Prescott__Carissa_Pelltakeaways from recent writings about story in teaching:

Present and encourage narrative in case studies. Case studies are inherently stories. In his book, How to Do Your Case Study, author Gary Thomas emphasizes the narrative aspects of case studies, especially in the sciences. “Assume that whatever you want to study,” Thomas writes, “has, not causes, but a history, a story, a narrative, a ‘first this happened, then that happened, and then the other happened, and it ended up like this.’ With this view we understand the occurrence of events by learning the steps in the process by which they came to happen, rather than by learning the conditions that made their existence necessary.”

Introduce new material in story form. Presenting material in story form improves comprehension and memory. Again looking at the sciences, Arya and Maul tested the presentation of content in “typical expository fashion or in terms of a personal story of the scientist,” relates Daniel Willingham in The Washington Post. The advantage of story over expository was significant.

Engage student learning by evoking anticipation through stories. Ray Jimenez, a significant guru of story-based eLearning design, whom I cite in my chapter of Modern Instructor: Success Strategies for the Online Professor, espouses the idea that “Story-based eLearning design is effective because it creates an environment where learners are compelled to anticipate. The vagueness of ‘what’s next’ keeps the mind engrossed until the story finds a resolution. Very few people can resist the power of a good story.”

Let students construct endings to unconcluded stories. Consider learning activities in which students speculate on a story with no ending – or one with an enigmatic ending. Jimenez cites the famed blackout ending to the “Sopranos” TV series, in which any number of outcomes have been speculated. “After hooking the learners with a well-written and engaging story, the open-ended ending allow[ed] the viewers [to] decide how to end their story,” Jimenez notes. Instructors can apply that approach to online learning: “As the learners attempt to put an ending to an unconcluded story,” he says, “different insights contribute to the development of the lesson.” In his post about unconcluded stories, Jimenez offers guidelines on how to create a story-based elearning lesson with an impactful open ending.

Use short bursts of learning, counter-intuitive story principles, and social-media tools. That’s the advice of organizational consultant, trainer, and author Terrence Gargiulo, who offers an information-packed how-to on LinkedIn. Gargiulo refers to “conversationally driven web-based live online learning programs” containing what he calls the ‘Triple Threat of Storytelling:’ telling stories, listening to stories and triggering stories.” The capacity for learning to trigger stories in participants, he says is key.

The permutations of possibility for using story are nearly endless. You can learn more in Modern Instructor: Success Strategies for the Online Professor.

A Story of the Story-Gathering Informational-Interview Technique

I’m republishing this post in conjunction with publication today of my second in a series of short books on highly focused career and job-search topics. The book is Quick and Quintessential Guide: The Best-Kept Networking Secret; it’s just 99 cents till Jan. 18.

I am a huge believer in the not-well-known practice of informational 1-NetworkingMediuminterviewing. While informational interviewing has a setup similar to a job interview, getting a job is not its purpose, at least not directly. As David Rothacker explains in a blog post about his daughter’s experience with informational interviewing, a person driving the info-interview process might be “in search of knowledge specific to marketing in her town, its players of influence and career advice.”

Essentially, informational interviewing, invented by hallowed career guru/author Richard Bolles of What Color Is Your Parachute fame, is research into jobs, careers, and employers. But it’s also a subset of networking because the process enables the job-seeker to make new contacts and ask for referrals, as Rothacker’s daughter Victoria did:

When the conversation was over, Victoria asked, “Can you please refer me to someone who would be willing to have a similar conversation with me?” Mr. Jones recommended the CEO of a medium-sized companay and made an introductory call for Victoria the next day.

Rothacker describes the professional package of leave-behinds Victoria gave to her interviewees and the fact that she always wrote them thank-you notes. Significantly, she made a informational interviewing into a very deliberate and concerted program that was the centerpiece of her job-search efforts for a period:

This process continued for six months with Victoria meeting on average, one person per week. Due to the referrals, she stayed consistently at the CEO, owner and marketing director levels. As conducting informational interviews was a primary focus throughout this period, she scored several appointments with individuals outside of this direct line of referrals as well.

Here’s where good planning comes in. Job-seekers who are in a position to mount a slow, deliberate approach — such a college students approaching graduation or prospective career-changers already employed — can gain much ground through informational interviewing without the pressure of a frantic job search and actual job interviews. The process also provides invaluable practice in interview and interpersonal-communication skills that will boost the job-seeker down the line. Rothacker explains that Victoria got a job outside the circle of the informational interviews she conducted, but that the sessions had still been invaluable to her search:

Victoria’s adventure taught her how to talk with owners and executives. It taught her how to interview and how to be interviewed. It taught her how to talk about herself and it sharpened her listening and communication skills. It also provided a broad, invaluable glimpse into the real world of business – one that most young people do not have the advantage of before starting their career. Finally, and in Victoria’s case, it provided one very powerful caveat: many of the people who Victoria interviewed with, turned out to people in authority of companies whom she needed to conduct business with in her new position.

Rothacker titles the blog post “The Story Seeker,” and indeed, one of the most valuable aspects of informational interviewing is that it enables the job-seeker not only to collect the stories of her interviewees but to share her own. Through this story exchange, an emotional connection is established, and both interviewer and interviewee become memorable to each other. Victoria maintained contact with her informational-interviewees long after she got a job.

I became an evangelist for informational interviewing after my students experienced remarkable results with them. One semester I gathered metrics that showed 21 percent of my roughly 100 students had received job or internship offers through informational interviewing. Not a high number, but impressive when you consider that getting offers isn’t even the purpose of the process

Based on that experience, I wanted to write a book about informational interviewing. My publisher found the topic too narrow, so I ended up writing a book about networking (A Foot in the Door), with about a third of it dedicated to the story-gathering process that is informational interviewing. I cannot recommend informational interviewing highly enough. Those who’d like to try it can check out my tutorial, one of the links I most often share with job-seekers.

For his part, Rothacker has created a Facebook page, Standing out in a Sea of Sameness, which he describes this way:

Standing out in a Sea of Sameness is where students come to learn about storytelling, to learn how to solve problems, make new stuff and make stuff better and more pleasing by developing a mindset and following a process. It’s about how to stand out from their peers.