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Job Search Tool #1: SOAR Stories

Old wooden treasure chest with strong glow from insideEveryone knows a job seeker needs a resume. But there’s another job search tool – a tool kit, actually – that’s just as important.

Even before you prepare your resume, start developing a list of accomplishments or “success stories” that illustrate your experience, skills and strengths.

You won’t show this to employers, but you’ll use it as source material for interviews, networking conversations, your resume and other materials.

And yes, I know this picture is actually a treasure chest! That’s how valuable these stories can be.

In my March 12 post, I wrote about the SOAR format that helps you tell your success stories well, and I promised some additional tips on how to use those stories.

Keep a List – Forever!

  • Come up with as many stories as possible – see my article “How to Identify Your Accomplishments”  for tips.
  • Keep a written list in your computer, not just in your head or on paper. You’ll need to be able to add to it, edit it, and find it easily, maybe even after this job search. Keep it forever!
  • Give each story a title, e.g., “PeopleSoft Implementation” or “Team-Building after Merger.” This helps you remember them.
  • Do NOT write the stories word-for-word. (This makes the list long and unwieldy, and may cause you to recite the stories as if they were a formal speech.) Just note the key points.

Add Skills and Strengths.

For each story on your list, list the Skills and Strengths you demonstrated in achieving the result.

For example, if you identified the need for a new software in your office, then selected and installed it, you may have used skills and strengths including: initiative, research skills, presentation and persuasion skills (to convince management), technical skills, training people, team leadership, change management and cross-functional collaboration.

Later, when an interviewer asks you to “tell about a time when you collaborated cross-functionally to achieve a goal,” you’ll know you have a story to illustrate that.

Study and Practice with the List.

Practice talking through the stories – by yourself, with friends, and maybe with an interview coach.

Study and prepare as you would for an oral exam where a high grade could make you thousands of dollars. Because that’s exactly the case!

Be Ready for Behavioral Interviews.

A behavioral interview question is one like those in the previous paragraph, where you are required to tell a story from your experience. Many interviewers focus heavily on behavioral questions. If the interview is long, or if there are several interviews, you may need many stories!

Use a Story Even When Not Required.

Maybe your interviewer has never heard of behavioral interviewing and just asks general questions like “What’s your management style?” Instead of just saying you’re very accessible and your door is always open, tell a story that illustrates that style – and how it has led to great results.

Prove your Key Points.

What are your key selling points, the most crucial reasons why you’re the best person for the job?

Let’s say your top three are your people skills, your analytical abilities and your 10 years of experience. It’s easier to prove the 10 years of experience, but how do you prove the other two? Largely through giving examples, also known as stories!

Claiming you have a certain talent isn’t enough. A story is worth a thousand claims.

Make networking conversations memorable.

Interviews aren’t the only time for telling a story. You need everyone you meet in your job search to be left with a strong impression of your abilities. To avoid sounding “full of yourself,” be concise – which takes practice! – and listen more than you talk. Your networking partner probably has stories of their own.

Create compelling written materials.

As you develop your list of stories, you’ll probably discover great new material to improve your LinkedIn profile, resume, cover letters and other marketing tools. You may need to boil the stories down to one-liners for these purposes, and you may not have room for the full S-O-A-R format (Situation, Obstacles, Actions, Results). But do specify the results!

Your resume may seem more visible because it’s tangible; but your success stories list is there behind the scenes, the unsung hero of your job search. It is a crucial, must-have tool, so give it a high priority.

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