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We’ve finally gotten to the time when we cannot deny that summer is coming to a close (although the warm, humid weather in New England is doing its best to fool us). The Swedish ancestry in me is lamenting the sun’s slow decent into the sky and the earlier sunsets. I’m trying to hold on to one more day of wearing shorts, and planning my yearly winter retreat southward.
This is starting the time to go inward and reflect, and that’s something that most of us are reticent to do. We keep thinking that the answer is “out there” somewhere: the perfect job, perfect mate, perfect house, etc. The truth is: the perfect whatever is out there, but you can’t recognize it unless you look inside yourself to be able to know what it is that your insides are craving.
In a job search, I see too many of my clients take a “Fire, Ready, Aim” approach to job search. They panic without knowing what they exactly want to do, and just start taking action without a lot of direction. What comes out of this more often than not is frustration or a job that feels soul-crushing after 6 months.
Whether it’s your future career, apartment, partner, or vacation, it’s good to know what you really want and need before taking action. The darker time of the year is a great time to slow down and start thinking of that.
So, have you really thought about what you want?
As I stated in my last post, most people don’t think about telling the stories of their lives in a compelling way that shows how what you’ve done makes a difference in the world. In this post, I’d like to give some help in how you can make your stories of your background more engaging to your target audience (You do have a target audience, right? It should be the hiring manager.)
Knowing my audience (namely you), I like to tell my stories in ways that you can relate to. As most people have had the experience of going to a movie, that’s the metaphor that I’m going to use. The job of the screenwriter is to write the story in a way that brings you in and keeps you engaged. That’s done in two ways:
First, when the movie starts, you (the viewer) are trying to figure out who the characters are, how they are related, where they are, what time period they are living in, etc. A good screenwriter supplies the CONTEXT in this first scene. It allows the viewer to relate the experiences of the characters to the viewer’s life.
- You need to supply context of your background to the reader of your resume or the person you meet at a networking event (and especially in an interview). If you did something in a different city or in an obscure organization, you will need to supply the context so that the hiring manager will understand how what you did there relates to their needs. Easy ways to do that are with names they understand (such as “I worked in the Obama administration”. If you worked with Joe Bagadonuts and they don’t know Joe, it doesn’t help) and numbers (How many of those press releases did you write? How many people attended that event you organized?)
Second, imagine you’ve finished the movie and are walking home, and you can see the movie playing in your mind. You meet up with a friend and you tell the story again. If the screenplay was written well, you can do this.
- You need your story to be VISUAL and REPEATABLE. Most people make their stories so boring and vague that people can’t see it. Imagine I were following you around with a video camera while you were doing your work. Would I see you “assisting the manager?”. That can mean just about anything. If you instead said that you “Compiled a report on the top 100 companies in the social media marketing field for inclusion in annual report”, that might get me to see a bit more of what you were doing.
When you start your job search, you are in charge of how you develop your character in the mind of the target audience. If you tell the story poorly, the audience will make up their own minds about who you are, and that might not be what you want them to think.
So, what story are you telling and are you the star of your own story?
I like to say that a major part of the job search process is storytelling. The exchange of ideas that happen in any search to find the right fit is going to involve stories from the point of view of the employer (e.g. Job descriptions, describing company culture, etc.) and the job searcher. You need to know what stories you want and need to tell (Hint: 5th grade science project is not a story you need to tell). You have many stories from you can tell, but you need to figure out which one are the important ones and then how to tell them in a compelling way.
I’ve found that although most of us have been listening to (and maybe telling) stories most of our lives, many people don’t know how to structure stories in a way that really is effective. I like to say that you should organize them in ways that people are familiar so that they don’t have to figure out the structure, but just focus on the content.
So, what form are people most familiar with across cultures?
Most fairy takes have a very basic structure that works well for job search purposes:
- Our Hero Enters the Scene: Usually there is a little back story to the story. What does the Hero see when entering? This is the Situation.
- Our Hero Has A Quest: Upon understanding the Situation, the Hero does something to change the situation. It can be a duel, a test, or something, but the Hero takes some Action to change the situation.
- Our Hero Leaves the Scene: Once done with the Action, the Situation has now changed. Hopefully it’s Happily ever after, but there is a Result.
When you are telling the story of any experience in your life, it’s as real as a fairy tale to the listener. You have to let them know the Situation you walked into, what Action you took to change the situation, and what Result came from your action. This is to show that you actually made a difference in your being there.
Hiring managers want to know how bringing you on can help them out, so you need to show that you’ve done this in the past. If you can’t relate it to them, they won’t believe it. (Note: these stories will have to come across not only in your resume, but any online presence, your networking, your interviewing, etc.)
So, what stories do you have to tell, and is it something that will make a difference in my life?
Today is the first day after Labor Day, and in the Boston area, that’s traditionally the Back to School Day for most children, and also the first day of college classes (which anyone trying to get around all the moving vans this past weekend can attest to). As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s also a time when many other organizations start their seasons.
For me, I’ve been finding that it’s a different type of starting. This past Sunday, September 4th, was the second anniversary of my Mother’s death. As everyone has said, it has gotten easier as time moves forward, and what has been most surprising to me is when I get to that special day each year, I feel like I’ve completed a journey. It’s not like I set out a goal the year before and I’ve finally completed the task, but more like a stopping point where you turn around on a long hike and see how much ground you’ve already covered. I feel like I’ve done my grieving even more so and I’m ready to move forward with any areas of my life that I’ve been holding back.
In my own spiritual practice, I’ve been working on bring less goal oriented and more ‘in the moment’. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to spend it at Easton Mountain for their Labor Day Weekend program. As I’ve done a lot of other developmental workshops lately, I was just looking to chill out for the weekend. I think I did that successfully, although in my mind I would have liked to have done another workshop or had a conversation with another man. I’m feeling like I needed that non-striving time so that I could actually hear the message that I’ve gotten a lot accomplished in my personal improvement.
Like your favorite performing arts organization, I’ve now done enough of my preparation to start my new season. Only thing is, I don’t know what the performances will be, but at least I’m ready for my entrance.
So, what are you ready to start? What thresholds have you just crossed?
Here in the US, we are just about to celebrate the Labor Day Weekend. Regardless of what it is astrologically, this is effectively the end of the summer. The academic year for colleges (and the deluge of students that move in the Boston area this weekend) and schools really starts in earnest on Tuesday, and the whole spirit and pace of the land changes.
Just like squirrels scurrying around to gather enough food for the too-soon-coming winter, the pace quickens here with professional meetings starting and theater and musical organizations seasons opening (Do you have your season tickets?). The days are getting shorter at an increasing rate, and we’re having cooler mornings greet us as we get up and start our days.
I feel like I still need about another month of summer to really unwind. We had a sort of abbreviated summer with a cool June, and there are many things that I’d still like to do.
I’m going away to Easton Mountain for their Labor Day weekend program, and my goal is to read, take pictures, lie in a hammock, and just be. I’m going to extend this summer as much as I can, and squeeze every drop out of it.
I’ve been doing a lot of self-development work on trying to be present in each moment. I’m too easily distracted by the great drama that continually plays in my mind. I’ve found that if I pay attention to that instead of what’s in front of me, I feel like I’ve missed out on summer and any other event that I’ve enjoyed. I’m hoping that by being present even when it’s not summer, I can live in that retreat/non-rushed feeling a little while longer. It’s an experiment, but one that has very promising outcomes.
I hope you have a great, relaxing weekend.
So, what are you doing to have a retreat in your mind this weekend?