Turn #2 – Storytelling

Psst, do NOT miss the most important piece of advice at the end of this post….

Gary Vaynerchuk is a little crass, maybe a little blunt but he is definitely amazing at getting his message across. He’s great at story telling!

When I began writing the framework for this series I originally thought of calling this section “Preparation” but after some reflection (see what I did there…) I’ve decided to change the heading to Storytelling. The fact is you need to become a great story teller if you are going to land your dream job.

Top Tip: Pick up the book “Pitch Perfect” by Bill McGowan. It’s a great read for people who will be doing public speaking (think interviews/networking meetings) and who need to develop their ability to read, connect and inspire people.

So what stories are you going to be telling? When you begin networking and ultimately meeting with potential recruiters you will be asked some basic questions like:

Tell me about yourself.

Tell me why you left ABC Company?

So what are the 3 things you’ll bring to our company?

If I asked your last boss or one of your reps to describe you what would they say?

Learn from my mistakes! During one of my first networking meetings I was asked the “tell me about yourself” question and it was a disaster. I spent 5 minutes going in circles and saying lots of words but at the end I didn’t tell a story or even paint a clear picture of who I am. I blew it. After that meeting I promised myself I would have a clear, well constructed story to tell.

Let’s begin with your “Leaving Story”. This is where you tell a story (the truth) about why you left or were asked to leave your last role.

Note: I am assuming you were not fired for cause. As I write this Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for inappropriate behaviour. He will have a very difficult time crafting a story and if he asked me I would advise him to seek professional help for the story and the behaviour (not in that order).

Ok, so you were downsized or you decided to leave on your own. You’ll need to give a reason why you made the decision or the decision was made for you. First things first, don’t speak negatively about the company you left, just as a sales professional shouldn’t slag the competition. You want to take a positive approach, this will show your potential new boss/recruiter that you are in a good mental place and you have moved on. Tearing up your last boss or company will raise a red flag and will have you playing the victim role, not a position of power.

You can get someone to help with this part, perhaps someone you trust who was close to the situation that led to you being let go.

In my case I was packaged out due to a shift in strategic focus. Our new president was moving us away from a “we will service all companies” to a very focused company in two areas: Retail and Financial Services.

Here is my “Leaving Story”:

“I was hired by the SVP of Sales at DCM 2 years ago as the Sales VP of Eastern Canada. About 1 year after I was hired we added a President who’s job it was to help re-focus the company to ensure our long-term viability. As a result of his analysis DCM was going to focus on 2 key verticals, Retail and Financial Services. I agree that this is the right focus and DCM will do very well as a result. We already had two amazing leaders heading up those teams, Jim and Shelly, and as the head of our eastern Mid-Market team I knew something had to give. I sat down with Greg, the president, and we had a candid conversation about my future with DCM. We tried to find a different role for me but in the end we both agreed I should take the opportunity to move on and find something new. I really enjoyed my time at DCM as I had the opportunity to learn about a new industry and I know I left things better than when I arrived.”

All of this is true, when they check my references this will all be confirmed. I couldn’t control the shift in strategy and I was one of the people impacted. I followed my own advice when changes are fast and furious at work; “work hard, do the best job you can and if things don’t work out you can go out with your head held high!”.

“Tell me about yourself” Winston Churchill once said “a good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject but short enough to create interest.”. Your “about me” story should be no different, this isn’t a 30min “summary” of your 20 year career, you should assume they have read your resume or reviewed your LinkedIn page so what they are looking for now is the story behind your resume. Don’t be afraid to open with a riveting headline, give them a glimpse into where you’re going to take them and pique the interest right off the bat. You’ll want to have a 3-5min story about how you’ve become the person you are today. I focus on the people I worked for, the cultures I thrived in and the accomplishments I’m most proud of. I also weave a bit of my upbringing into my story as my father had a significant influence on my career from a young age.

Your “about me” story should be easy to expand and contract given different situations. If you’re doing a networking meeting you may want to expand on certain elements that are relevant to the person you are connecting with. Conversely, if you are short on time you’ll want to be able to deliver a punch in 30 seconds.

“So what are the 3 things you will bring to our company?”. This is really a two part question, you’ll give your three things and then they will ask you to share a story about a time you demonstrated them.

You’ll recall from my last post on reflection (see it here) there is a section about your “core competencies” and “PAR” stories. Use these competencies and stories to answer this question. Pick your 3 strongest and most impactful PAR stories and the core competencies they reflect. Pick stories you feel good about telling and are passionate about, it will ensure a great delivery!

“What do people say about you?”. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming what people will say about you or what you’d like them to say, instead you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone here. What’s the first thing people are going to review when you ask to meet with them….your LinkedIn profile. Ask people you have great relationships with to write a recommendation for you. Now when people go to your page they will see all the great things people are saying about you and you have a database of comments you can pull from.

So, remember when I said don’t miss the critical piece of advice, this is it….Practice!! Give me a mediocre strategy executed flawlessly ahead of a perfect strategy executed poorly every day. This is the same for your stories, they need to be great but the delivery must be brilliant!

I drive my wife nuts because I pace when I practice my story delivery. In our house I can do a loop from the kitchen to the dinning room, to the front hall, to the family room and back to the kitchen. I can hear her now, “Would you stop and sit down!”.

Like Allen Iverson said, “Are we really talkin’ ‘bout practice!?”…YES! Rehearse your stories and the answers to your questions, record your delivery, tweak, adjust and refine your delivery. Practice will translate into confidence and professionalism. You’ll also be able to focus on your audience and how they are reacting/receiving your message instead of focusing on “winging it”.

Top Tip: Practice your stories and delivery with a friend who will give you honest feedback. It’s the best way to replicate a real-life interview.

Take your time and build great stories and brilliant delivery, you’re about to enter the best (in my opinion) phase of your transition…Networking!

Be well, stay positive and come back next week for Turn #3, Networking. Please share and like this post if you find it helpful.


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