Personal Stories are Professional Stories

Everything is up for grabs this year, nothing is certain, and a lot of us are in transitions we never expected. People have lost jobs or realize they don’t want to keep working the way they used to. 

That means there are a lot of people out there looking for a new direction that probably won’t, be reflected in their CV or resume. So, how do you tell anyone you’re qualified to do something you’ve never trained for?

The trick here is that qualifications aren’t always in our work history. Work is something we do a few hours a day, most of the year. If you’re under 30, the chances are you still spent more time getting an education than working.

And yet, we expect our resumes or CVs to cover everything and be a fair representation of what we have done and can do.

Bah.

A resume or CV covers part, maybe only a fraction, of what you can do.

In reality, we all have skills and experiences hiding in our personal lives that don’t fit the sections on our resumes. Think about organizing events, from a birthday party to a destination wedding. Think about writing and sending out a good family holiday letter – on time! Think about hobbies, from scrapbooking or knitting to clockmaking or stamp collecting. Think about volunteer work or travel or moving across the country or overseas.

Does anyone have to be more diplomatic than parent volunteers at school sending out messages to frustrated parents who all want the best for their kids?

And what about all the personal or non-work things that happen at work. You know, the bowling team you pulled together or the weeks-long cheesecake bake-off I organized. One client learned Bahasa Indonesian in order to better communicate with her colleagues. Do we put these things on our resumes? Nah – they’re extra, not countable, right?

All these things we do outside of our work require skills, sometimes high-level skills, and yet we leave them out of the conversation. Sharing these stories, even making them the backbone of your professional story, can be an incredible way to show your future employer who you are and how much you can do, how much you’ve already done.

The icing on the cake, my friends, is this: most of the valuable skills you can put on your resume are soft skills. They are the skills that employers have a hard time helping their employees to develop but that you’ve probably been working on all along because that’s how we learn to get along better in life, not just in the office. We’re talking about things like active listening, communication, problem-solving, and management. 

The key is to pick the personal stories that show how you use your skills. In my last job interview, they asked me about how I manage priorities. My answer was a recounting of my weekend, which included a husband admitted to hospital for a massive infection, young children who wanted to attend a family birthday party 45 minutes away, and me completing an assignment for my application. In order to get it all done, I prioritized tasks, called on outside help, stayed in contact with all kinds of people, and focused on creating when it had to be done.

My husband recovered, the kids got to go to the birthday party thanks to an uncle chauffeuring them, and I got the job.

You’ve got a story like mine. It’s personal, yes, but it also includes a wide range of skills that are useful in a professional setting.

Start looking for stories that you can use in a professional setting and use them to build your story library. Go grab yourself a free Story Library Cheat Sheet and it will help you sort through all those great experiences you’ve had to pick out the ones that you should be telling!

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