How to Leverage Storytelling to Land that Job and Grow your Network
By: Arielle Shnaidman / June 7, 2019
Trying to land your dream job and grow your network can be overwhelming and exhausting. The competition is fierce, and there are a lot of other people out there with nearly the same experience and skill-sets as you, especially when you’re just starting out. So how do you stand out and build a name for yourself early on?
So many of us are focused on being “better” and appearing more competitive. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to showcase that. We create beautiful resumes, cover letters, business cards, and thoughtful follow-up emails. As someone who’s been around the block, having co-founded my own startup, joining various early-stage startups, and now running my own business, I want to let you in on a little secret.
It’s not so much about being “better”. Rather, it’s about being different. Yes, the quality of your work matters - the “what” - but it’s how you do your work - the “how” that differentiates you. How are you creating your own little niche in this increasingly digital world, one where you can show up exactly as you are, share what you know today, and connect with the audience you seek to influence? The answer: storytelling.
Here are some actionable steps you can take today to get your story wheels turning:
1) Get clear on your vision
What do you want to be known for? What industry are you trying to play in right now and how do you want to position yourself? It sounds fairly obvious, but if you’re going to start sharing stories on LinkedIn, Medium, your own blog or anywhere else on the internet about your experiences, insights and observations, and your point of view, you need to know where you’re trying to play and what message you’re trying to get across. This doesn’t need to be your forever vision, but for right now what are you trying to be known for and build credibility around? Knowing this will help you tell the right stories and position yourself in the market. Take some time to get clear on what you’re aiming for so that you’re not shooting random darts in the dark -- you need a visible target and a vision for yourself.
2) Share Stories About Your Work Experience
Our resumes and LinkedIn profiles have all our skills and relevant work experience. Even if you’ve had an impressive trajectory to date, that alone is not going to grow your influence, network, or help you stand out. You need to share stories that people can engage with.
Now that you know what area you’re trying to play in and who you’re trying to influence, what stories can you share about the work you’ve done to date, the experiences you’ve had?
Let’s say you’re 1-2 years out of college. If we continue with the startup marketing example, what stories can you share about any work or even internship experience? Think about a time where you worked on a campaign that performed better than expected - what did you learn? Why do you think it performed well? What things did you test?
Everyday stories like this go a long way. It let’s people know what type of work experience you’ve actually had and all the learnings you’ve accumulated. More importantly, it gives people a sense of who you are - your voice, how you approach problems, and that you have something to add to the conversation - even if you’re early on in your career. You don’t need to overthink it into some long blog post if that’s not your jam, sharing small stories on LinkedIn can really amplify your brand. To make it even better, pose a question at the end of what you share asking for other people’s experience or insights and invite engagement with your story. This can really help connect you with other people in the industry and get your content more visibility.
3) Use Storytelling to Highlight Your Skill-sets
Another thing many of us overcompensate for early on in our careers are hard-skills. We often feel like we need to know how to do X or have done Y to land a good job, but most people aren’t expecting you to have all the answers yet. What they are expecting you to do though if you’re to be a good hire is to be able to figure it out. And much of that has to do with soft-skills.
Soft-skills can be anything from interpersonal skills, collaborative tendencies, curiosity, or communication skills. What stories are you sharing about that time you really messed up a campaign and how you communicated it with your team? Something like that shows leadership and responsibility - very valuable skill-sets in a candidate. It also humanizes you - showing you’re not perfect and that you learn from mistakes. People will feel like they know your character and you’ll stand out from all the perfectly groomed resumes and profiles flooding their application portals.
What about that time you found something interesting in the data and helped craft a campaign to increase retention? A story like that shows your attention to detail and ability to look between the lines. These are all things that don’t come across in your resume or LinkedIn profile, but sharing them on different platforms enables you to build credibility -- because you’re showcasing what you’ve done and learned, in your own unique voice.
3) Put Yourself Out There and be Visible
Many people further along in their career never leverage storytelling. If you’re early on in your career and start putting yourself out there, you’ll stand out from the crowd. You’ll start to build a name and brand for yourself which will enable you to grow your network and get even better opportunities down the line.
The big takeaway? Quit trying to fit into a mold. Show up online consistently, exactly as you are right now. You might feel like you don’t have anything novel to say, but storytelling isn’t about sharing knowledge bombs. It’s about communicating your unique experience and point of view, and opening yourself up to engage with others playing where you want to play.
If you want help clarifying your storytelling technique, go check out my personal branding workbook! It’s free :)
Arielle took her messaging, positioning, and storytelling expertise from the startup world and built a brand coaching business to serve women. Now she helps visionary women clarify their message and connect with their tribe so they can grow their business and scale their impact.
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