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“A Tale from the Decameron,” by John William Waterhouse, 1916

One of the things that I’m always talking about is the need to be a story teller in your job search.  You always have to retell the stories of your past accomplishment, experiences, and adventures in the working world to people who weren’t there.  Otherwise, they would already know you and wouldn’t have to ask!

There are many ways to tell a story, and in the job search, it will come out in certain ways: in your resume, your cover letter, the interview, your tweets, your online portfolio, your Facebook wall, when I google your name, what someone else tells me about you, etc.  The thing is that you need to know your stories first before you know which format to put them in.  I find that a great number of my clients want me to help them with their resumes, but they don’t know what stories to tell.  As I see it, there are three levels of the story of you:

  1. You in Your Essence: On the highest possible level, who do you say you are, and what do you want people to think of you.  You can think of this in some way to be in line with your vision of yourself, but it could manifest itself in many ways.
  2. You in the Roles of Your Life: You as a college student is different from you in your current job.  You have the story of you in each of your jobs, in every volunteer leadership role, and you as the captain of your middle school basketball team. How do you want to be known in each of these?
  3. You in the Projects You’ve Accomplished: Within each of your roles, you done some projects.  Those projects might have been big (running a convention) or small (writing a press release) but they were all projects that had a beginning, middle, and an end.  These are the stories that are easy enough to tell and get your point across about how you can help others.

What I’ve found is that many people are trying to tell a story about them at their essence (I’m great! I have great skills!), but it’s so vague that it doesn’t come across as meaningful, interesting or compelling. It’s really only in the stories about the projects you’ve accomplished that you can really make an impression.  They build up to the areas of your essence and your roles. (For thoughts about how to tell your story, check out my post about Fairy Tales and telling your story.)

Granted, you will tell your stories differently depending on the audience, but that’s an entirely differently blog post.

So, do you know who you want to tell your stories to, and what stories you want to tell?

In our new world of social media, there are numerous new ways that we can be in contact with friends, business connections, high school classmates, and random people that we met at a party nine months ago. While two if the most prominent networks online are LinkedIn (for professional contacts or friends who you don’t mind vouching for) and Facebook (for friends, sort-of friends, random one-time contacts, etc.), there are numerous other social websites that look to connect people who share particular interests. Two that I currently and involved with are GTD Connect (for people working on productivity issues using the GTD philosophy) and Real Jock (a sports and fitness website for gay men).  These are places that you can find people who have the same interests as you and share ideas. There’s a site for just about every interest; many which I am sure would surprise you as to its narrowness of focus.

In just about each of these site, there’s an opportunity to make a connection to another person. Whether it’s called a friend, link, buddy, co-worker, or whatever, it’s your way of saying that this is someone that you have a mutual understanding that you share some experience.

I have found that there are two types of approaches to this: the “open networker” and the “I-take-the-phrase-friend-seriously connector”. The Open Networker is one who sees social networking as way to expand a network and figures they will get to know you when you get into your inner circle. The other is one where they aren’t going to admit you to their secret club until you’ve already got a relationship developed outside of the venue.

There are plusses and minuses to each, and it can vary for each person within the different settings. It also depends on how you want to be seen in the world. I don’t tend to be an open networker, as I want to be able to speak with some knowledge if someone asks me about someone I’m connected with. If I really don’t know them, then 1) I won’t have a lot to say if someone asks me about them, and 2) if I want to engage them in some way, they don’t know me and will be less likely to help.So, here’s how I manage my connections in the three largest social networking sites:

LinkedIn: I only connect with people who I have had personal or professional interactions (in person or on line) previous to our connecting. I also need to feel that I could speak highly about them if asked for a recommendation. Since everyone can see your connections, you are as credible as the company you keep. If I don’t know you, I can’t recommend you.

Twitter: I’m happy to have as many people connect with me on Twitter as possible! That’s where I try to put a public face on what I do, both personally and professional.  Feel free to follow me at https://twitter.com/kenmattsson.

Facebook: I have two places on Facebook to connect.

  • The Spirit-Work Connection: This is my group where I post about issues that I think are important to think about where you intersect with the work you to and the spirit you are.  I post meditations daily and links to resources that I think can help people.  I encourage everyone (that means you!) to join the Spirit-Work Connection.  It’s open to everyone, whether I have a strong personal connection or not.
  • My personal Facebook Account: This is where I write about all sorts of things that come to mind.  I limit this to people who I know personally outside of Facebook.

I’m more of the “get to know me first” type guy. Once I get to know you, I’ll can let you in (guess it’s the chilly New Englander in me!) Granted, you can also subscribe to this blog, and get to know me more here.  Even better, post a comment about something I’ve said.

If you ask to connect with me, and I don’t know you, I’ll probably ask you where we know each other from.  That will force you to say “oh, we don’t know each other.” Then I’ll probably refer you to this blog post. 🙂

I want to manage my reputation in the world, and part of my reputation is the people I surround myself with. If I don’t know you, then I can’t be sure.  I’m sure you’re great, but until I know that, I’ll play coy.

So, how are you managing who you’re connected with?

I have many people who come to me to ask me questions about their resumes and how to make them better.  From this, I’ve especially noticed that most people have a lot of ideas about resumes that I usually have to debunk before we can actually get to the real work of improving it.  Here, for your benefit, are the five main truths about resumes that I tell my clients. As with everything I (or anyone else) says, your mileage may vary.  It’s only right if it’s true for you.

  1. A Resume is More An Art Than a Science: There is no one right way to write a resume.  It’s the opportunity for a document to speak for you when you’re not there to talk for yourself.  If you have someone who says that a resume can only be a certain way (e.g. must have all bullets, must be in Times New Roman 12 point, etc.), don’t believe it. Take the information and see if it works for you.
  2. A Resume Is Not About You: A resume is about the person reading it and what they need to know about you in order to make a good decision about talking with you further.  There’s no one right way to word your resume, but think about who the audience is.  Write in the way they write.
  3. A Resume Is An Advertisement for You, Not a Short Story: No matter how well the resume is written, you will never be able to relate your entire life in a resume. Don’t try.  It’s job is to just get them interested enough in you to want to bring you in.  Tell me enough to get me interested (Note: most people’s resumes are boring and not interesting), but don’t overwhelm me with details.
  4. A Resume Shouldn’t Be Like a Buffet: Don’t throw everything you have at me and force me to figure out how you can help me.  Know what’s important to me and just give me that.  Think about it more like a plated dinner.  You’re being served just what you need, but let them know there’s more in the kitchen if needed.
  5. A Resume Is a Better Confirmation of Who You Are Than a Calling Card: Most people lead with their resumes (sending them into posted jobs and hoping they get called).  No matter how well your resume is written, you are more persuasive and can speak to your value.  It’s best if people hear about you and your resume confirms that you are all that.

These are just a few things that I say.  I’ve got a lot more! 😉  Keep coming back and reading my thoughts, or better yet, join the Spirit-Work Connection Fan Page on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.

So, How does your resume represent you?

Note: My career exploration workshop at Easton Mountain, Finding Your Calling: Making Connections Between Your Spirit and Your Work,  has been rescheduled to March 18-20, 2011.  Please let your friends know about it!

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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