Hot to get a job by making the right stories come up naturally is all about reversing the following situation: leaving the interview and mentally smacking yourself for not having mentioned a couple of interesting and relevant facts that you wanted to mention because an opportunity didn’t come up (I have been there and this is why every day I carry with me a pen that looks like a walking stick-you will find out more about that life changing trick, just keep reading).
Did you ever have that experience? It doesn’t even have to be during an interview. Sometimes you go to a place like a job fair, or a conference with a lot of potential employers and after talking with them for a while, the conversation ends and you split ways. While you walk away, once again, you mentally smack yourself for not managing to bring up and show either your personality or your relevant experiences that would make the potential employer interested. Ouch!
As usual, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to bring the topics you want up during a conversation and you do not have to be a conversation ninja to do that. You just need to do a small preparation and after that, getting your dream job will be a big step closer. Let’s dive into one of the simplest and most effective techniques I have found to work miracles.
People are curious in nature. Give them something they don’t understand or they don’t see often and they will look; most importantly for us, they will ask. This is the art of the physical conversation starters.
When was the last time you saw a person you were talking to carrying a very, very unusual pen and you didn’t ask about its story? Or when was the last time you visited a friend and you saw a very unusual mirror or table and did not comment on that? 95% percent of the time that never happens. You get curious, you notice, you comment and then… they answer happily with the story behind the object. It comes naturally and most importantly YOU asked and YOU are willing to pay attention to the answer. Then you leave the house and that weird mirror or pen comes to your mind. Right away the story comes to your mind as well. Does everything sound natural so far? It’s because they are. Now let’s see how you can use it for your own advantage.
In my case I love to read to improve myself and to open my mind (Check my list of favorite books to help you get a job here). You are reading right now so I believe we are similar in that sense. Now, I am reading on average one book every two weeks. I know that people who read and try to improve themselves are highly appreciated especially for leadership positions. But how many times can I “brag” about that fact without looking bad because of the bragging itself? A wonderful book about highlighting your admirable characteristics without it seeming awkward or pretentious is named “Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It”. I highly, highly recommend buying it and spending a couple of afternoons reading it. It will show you how to never again lose opportunities to get hired or promoted or just how to get a good raise for the valuable work you have done.
Following the advises of that book, I created a few stories about some of my experiences that showcase my positive characteristics in a natural way. One of them goes like that:
“I love to read and I usually read about a book every two weeks. It is fun to see how some books that are really well known do not really provide value while others that are quite unknown can be life changing. One book that was both known and incredibly valuable for me was the biography of Winston Churchill (Winston Churchill: A Life of Inspiration). Churchill did something, that once I read I wanted to include in my daily life. He was old and he was always carrying a cane (a walking stick). That used to be a symbol of weakness. But what Churchill did was genius. He didn’t try to hide it, he didn’t try to stop using it. Instead, he transformed it to his most characteristic gesture. He put his hat on top of it and used the stick to lift it in the air when he was greeting a crowd. Even today people can recognize this move as his favorite way to greet people. So I am using this pen, to always remind me to read more in order to find ways to transform even my weak points to strong ones. Life has so many distractions that it is easy to forget what matters.”
Now, at the end you noticed I said “I am using this pen”. This pen is my conversation starter. As I mentioned in the beginning, whenever I am going to meet people that I want them to know about the fact that I read a lot, I carry with me a pen that is shaped as a walking stick, exactly as the one Churchill had. People notice, people ask and naturally, I respond. It is as simple as that: I dress a positive characteristic with a story and I make sure I have a physical hook that acts as conversation starter.
Call to action – how to get a job that you love
Now your time has come. If you want to make your positive characteristics shine more often during interviews, job fairs, conferences or casual conversations follow these steps:
- Write down all the positive characteristics you have.
- Find the three strongest ones (extra points if they are rare).
- Now select the most important one that you would like people to know you for. (Don’t put too much thought if you find that step difficult, once you have done the process once you will find it easy to do it again)
- Find a story from your past that showed how that characteristic of yours made you act in a certain way (extra points if that “certain way” is something admirable or positive).
- Make sure that the characteristic you want to point out is not the center of the story, but an important detail that makes everything else make sense.
- Now think of what physical hook can help you start that story. It can be an object that you use as a reminder of a principle (e.g. I believe in order and transparency so I carry with me a beautifully crafted glass key organizer). It can be a weird object that you have bought from another country because you are a person who loves to travel and has traveled to more than 15 countries. Travelling might be important to you because you value mobility and international experiences. Get creative.
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- Sometimes it is easier to first think of an object you can easily buy and then build a story around it.
- Some other times the only thing you need to do is to appear to the interview with a book on your hand on a topic that is relevant to the job position. That will start the conversation since people are curious to see, especially if you keep the title hidden.
- Take that object with you anywhere. This way you will be able to practice your storytelling skills again and again. When it is time for the important conversation it will feel and sound as natural as it gets.
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