Humans are a social species, and language is at the crux of all human interaction. We use language to tell stories, which, in turn, share knowledge. Stories tell audiences about events in a way that the audience has an emotional reaction to them—sadness, anger, joy, inspiration, indignation, confusion. A story creates an exchange between the teller and the listener. We use stories to make sense of the world around us and to share that understanding with others.
What does this have to do with the job seeker? Everything. When you’re branding yourself, you’re creating a mythology, a narrative, and a story. The most common interview question is “So, tell me about yourself.” Your resume and your LinkedIn profile are also a story about who you are and what twists and turns you’ve taken to arrive where you are. This is why it’s critical that you tell a compelling story. A compelling story is one in which the reader (or listener) is engaged and wants more. A compelling story says something unique. It’s different from all the others out there. It has a human voice.
The best way to tell a compelling story is to compose one that answers the question, “What makes you tick?” Why do you do what you do? How did that happen? These are stories that people want to hear. Which of the following works better at telling you what kind of person the candidate is:
Focus on product and new feature development, data-driven tools, and a broad range of analytical practices. Maintain a high focus on client-facing and internal data representation and accessibility. Experience working as a member of agile development teams as product owner and primary business analyst. Problem solver with a global, generic perspective while breaking down layer by layer. Identify issues and devise strategic and tactical code changes, remedy for execution and future enhancements. Skilled in business process, gap analysis mappings from source to targets, data analytics, integrations.
Sounds impressive. But I’m not really sure what, or more importantly, why, this person does what he does. Here’s another version of the same:
Some kids played sports. Others were avid readers. I was fascinated by my guitar and by equations. When I was learning long division, I was taking guitar lessons. When it came time for fractions, I learned to read music. When my mom came home with an Andrea Segovia video, I put down my geometry homework and began taking classical Spanish guitar lessons. Calculus coincided with my entrée into jazz.
I embarked upon my career in data and analytics and, over time, I began to realize that both music and math were equally relevant to my field. As I grew professionally and moved into data product management, the connection between data and music became even clearer: both are means of telling stories. Music is merely a collection of notes and words until both are arranged in a coherent way. Then it becomes a powerful expression of the human condition. Data is little more than a collection of numbers until you turn it into a story.
This one does a much better job of telling you who the applicant is and what drives him. It’s also much more interesting to read than the other, which is sterile and devoid of personality. Embrace your humanity and tell the engaging story of YOU. You are your own best advertisement.