Today at Ft. Dix in southern New Jersey, the Ultimate Warrior Job Fair brought area employers together with returning soldiers who are transitioning back to civilian life. To prepare for the job fair, yesterday the soldiers were offered one-on-one resume and interview coaching with a small army of NJ-area Human Resources experts and career coaches, including me.
One of the soldiers I met with was having a difficult time expressing what he had accomplished in his years of service. He said, “I was just doing my job, sir.” His humility and sense of duty were hallmarks of his training as a soldier. But his capabilities and value to potential employers were still hidden. He needed to develop good descriptive stories that he could tell that would convey his tremendous experience.
The following five steps, illustrated with one of the soldier’s stories, will help job hunters think through and prepare your PAR (Problem-Action-Result) stories:
Situation: Where were you? When was this? What was your role?
The soldier talked about the time he was an embedded advisor with Iraqi soldiers in his most recent tour of duty.
Tasks: What did you have to do?
The soldier’s task was to train the Iraqi soldiers in the American way of soldiering, including its value system, processes, and practices.
Opportunity and Obstacles: What was the prize? What was in the way?
The opportunity was to create and sustain a new Iraqi army, different from the old one under the previous regime. The obstacle was to overcome the ingrained thinking and habits that the Iraqi’s had been taught.
Response and Result: What did you do? What was the result?
What the soldier did was to develop and deploy a team of advisors that worked very closely with the Iraqis, coaching and mentoring them patiently, working day in and day out to overcome their skepticism and build trust.
You: How did this experience shape you? How were you strengthened by it?
The soldier expressed it with a motto that he had thought of to describe himself: “Turning ordinary people into extraordinary leaders.”
What civilian employer would not want to hire such a person?
This important job search skill, telling stories that convey your skills and value, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. These stories not only convey your past accomplishments, they also tell the prospective employer about You and what you’re made of. Your ability to tell your PAR stories may be the differentiator that sets you apart from your competition.
Posted by Terrence Seamon, June 10, 2010. For more tips on job search, careers, and storytelling, contact Terry. Visit his website and invite him to speak to your organization.