I was talking with a client the other day who was entering the job market after spending an extended period of time doing a mix of freelance work and raising children.
He was concerned about holes in his experience, and the impact they would have on securing a good job.
He felt scared, uncomfortable and insecure.
Another client had gone through a really tough period in her life which had caused her to drop some balls at work. Coworkers weren’t happy, and she was concerned about how it would impact her opportunities moving forward.
She felt awkward, ashamed and stuck.
In both these cases, there are two very important stories to tell.
The story you tell yourself
Going after new goals is challenging. The job market is competitive. It isn’t easy to create art, or get customers or write a book. It is hard to bounce back from failure or adversity. Before you start to worry about what someone else thinks about you, you have to make sure that you are thinking great things about yourself.
Consider the difference between these two stories:
“I have been out of the job market for five years and have not kept up on all the latest trends in technology. I am scared that prospective employers might see me as lacking. I must do whatever it takes to prove that I am worthy. I am desperate for a job. I will take any opportunity that comes my way, and heave a sigh of relief, because it will mean that they accept me, despite my flaws.”
How are you feeling after reading something like this? Kind of yucky and in need of a hug or a shower, right?
Consider this alternative:
“I am proud of the wide variety of experiences that I have had in my life. I can think of many times when I was put into new and challenging situations, and learned quickly. Being out of the job market for awhile has given me a new and refreshing perspective that makes me extremely focused and excited for new opportunities. I have enjoyed working for myself, but now I am ready to be back in a team environment where I have support and resources to get my work done. I want to work in a place that appreciates my experience. I will do a great job, and they will be lucky to have me.”
When crafting your personal story, consider:
- What skills and strengths am I really proud of?
- What are the threads and themes of my life experience?
- What big gifts have I received from challenges I have faced?
- What is my hero’s journey?
- What is the soundtrack of my life? Is it one of the most depressing country songs of all time, or a cheesy favorite from the 25 most inspirational songs of all time?
The story you tell others
Once you get a clear and empowering story to tell yourself, you need to work on the story that will resonate and influence others. In addition to the questions you have answered for your own story above, add these:
- What challenges are these (potential employers) (prospective clients) (resistant team members) facing?
- How can I prepare to give the best interview of my life?
- How might my background and experience help them to overcome their challenges?
- How can I clearly and powerfully respond to legitimate concerns about holes, gaps or weaknesses in my background or skills?
- How does my total life experience give me a unique competitive advantage over fellow job applicants or business owners?
- How can I deliver tremendous, measurable value to the people I want to work with?
“You will have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
-Zig Zigler, may he rest in peace
Every day, I see people with similar backgrounds and equivalent skills accomplish radically different results.
One big reason for this is the story they tell themselves and others on a daily basis.
The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of your stories.
Craft them well.