Narrative: Use It to Answer“Tell Me About Yourself”

Whether you’ve been working for years or this is your first or second job out of college, this one’s enough to keep us up at night. But never fear: we’re going to take the work you did last month on the nuts and bolts of your professional narrative to help you answer this question clearly and confidently.

And in case you’re stumbling across this blog and want to do the work from last month first (recommended) here is the info!

Keep in mind before we get started that there is no ONE way to actually answer this interview, and maybe you’ve seen another perspective elsewhere. That’s great! The main thing to keep in mind is that you check the boxes on the checklist I’ve provided in this post.

 

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narrative

Some of the items on the checklist are self explanatory (like make sure you tell a chronological story), so I’m going to focus on the three items you will find on page 2 of the resource guide: 1) how your past experience supports the position you’re applying for 2) how do you connect with the company’s mission and 3) your story arc. Let’s take one at a time. Also, note that we’re not putting the story together yet, but instead working on the composite parts. You’ll weave this together at the end once you’ve nailed these.

Let’s take a sample job description. I’m working with a client now on an application for a culinary instruction position. We’ll work from this job description for the three above areas so you can see how it’s done for your narrative.

JOB DESCRIPTION We’ll Use for This Narrative Exercise:

As Base Coach, you will be responsible for the implementation of Culinary Instruction in the Drive Change kitchen-classroom. Our “prep-time” is not just “work-time” €“ it is an opportunity for the culinary curriculum to be implemented to our Fellows. The kitchen experience should be an educational experience geared toward preparing Fellows for their next opportunity; in addition to imparting culinary skills and food-specific education; you are responsible for setting the tone in the kitchen as it reflects the desired assessments of the Drive Change Fellowship. For example, Fellows should be able to work in groups and independently; Fellows should be able to follow instructions/recipes; manage their time and work efficiently; kitchen protocol should be used as a tool to instill specific culinary requirements as well as generate workplace expectations that translate beyond the kitchen and into any future work environment. It is the responsibility of the Base Coach to communicate with Fellows on their progress and output; both verbal and written feedback is required. Base Coach must have a deep understanding of the kitchen (operations, inventory, ingredients, protocol) and must use that knowledge to teach the Fellows. The Base Coach must be able to address issues as they arise holding to the value of Fellowship first and maintaining our commitment to be a high performing operation.

About You:
Your commitment to the understanding that every moment within the Drive Change Fellowship experience is an opportunity for learning/coaching is the most important feature of this role and your success as Base Coach. The kitchen is not merely a time for production; it is a time for active observation, feedback, and teachable moments. You must be acutely aware of surroundings and balance the task of empowering Fellows to deliver outlined objectives in preparation for weekly service. As a chef/instructor, you recognize that the diligence you bring to the Drive Change kitchen will be infused into the minds/hearts of Fellows. You will be directly involved in the hard and essential skill development of Fellows. You must be able to read the environment and propose solutions for improvement; your input on curriculum will be valued greatly by the Culinary Arts Director and Fellowship Experience Designer.
• 3-5 years professional culinary experience
• Passionate about food and food systems
• 3+ years MGMT experience
• Positive energy and enthusiasm €“ your ability to empower Fellows is essential
• You are a hands on person; desk-job seekers need not apply
• You must be observant and able to confront Fellows on areas to work on as well as areas that they are excelling in
• Ability to work well with others €“ you will be working directly with the Fellowship team and your feedback to them is crucial for Fellow’s success
• Organized and outcomes driven

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Narrative Takeaways of Job Description

 

Right off the bat, you can tell there’s a nurturing aspect to this job in addition to the nuts and bolts of cooking instruction. It’s more than just teaching- it’s about instilling confidence, empowering people and making the world a better place. How do we infuse both into our narrative to answer the interview question then?

 

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1. How Your Past Experience Supports the Position. Take a look at the job description. Pull out the core essence of the job. This is usually pretty simple, since the most important parts of a job description are listed first.
For this position, we want to highlight the following:
• Any and all volunteer work surrounding youth outreach and mentoring
• Results surrounding empowering employees and team members. What did you do and how did it turn out? Any metrics in terms of employee retention when it comes to company-based experiences and youth progression when it comes to the community outreach experiences will be useful, but are not always readily available, so be as specific you can regarding the BENEFITS your job duties in these areas – not just what you did, but how it impacted the intended recipients!
• Actual culinary experience- developing recipes, teaching others, etc

2. Tying Company Values to Your Own – Showing complete alignment with the stated company mission and values also has another benefit for your narrative- it is a test to illuminate whether you should even be interviewing with the company to begin with. If you don’t align with the company’s mission in a clear and direct way, then maybe it’s not the right company for you. But I digress. Let’s say you do align – how do you convey that to the company? List out the company’s values by reading the mission statement. (Sometimes companies will show both, but sometimes you have to suss it out from the mission statement or from watching clips from speeches from company representatives, or reading articles about the company. Then, clearly show how you have demonstrated that value in a professional capacity over and over again in your narrative.

Back to the Drive Change description, it’s clear they’re looking for someone who believes in teaching, equal opportunities, mentoring/fostering an environment by which people can grow, etc. When you talk about your experience to date in the ‘tell me about yourself’ question, make sure you’re infusing the company’s mission and values in your answer. You can even say things like, “Throughout my career, teaching others to help them grow has always been an important value to me- and I’ve seen from what I’ve read and seen about Drive Change that you’re all about that too. So from an early point on in my career, I’ve sought out opportunities to teach, so I’m going to take you through my resume with that lens in mind.” So you can almost have a “theme” to your answer to this question to really drive home the value/mission bit without adding it in clunkily at the end. AND because companies are looking for culture fits sometimes above all else, you want to make sure your infusing the values stuff throughout your answer, not as a bolted on, clunky answer at the end.
3. Story Arc: Prospective employers not only want to see how you’ve grown, but they want any perceived changes in direction to be explained clearly to them. Why did you make the change? If something you did doesn’t fit your narrative for this job, but it’s not possible to take it out altogether, talk about what you learned and how you grew from that experience. “It made me realize that,” “Once I learned XYZ, I knew it would have major ramifications for my future career direction- specifically….” Are two good openers you can use to make it super clear to your listener. Try out your arc in the notes portion of the worksheet.

Ok, so the last phase of doing this work is to put it all together in a ‘script’ you can use in the interview. Script is in quotes because we don’t really want you rehearsing this to death so you sound like a robot in the interview. Keep it loose. If this means you just have a series of bullet points, great! Do that. Follow the checklist (page 1) and your notes from the three key components of your story on page 2 and create your story. This process isn’t the same for everyone so we’ve included some space on page 3 of the tool for you to play with it.

When you’re done, send me what you’ve come up with and one specific question you have about your work and I’ll help a sister (or brother, or person) out!

Networking Emails: How to Get a Response

Ok, so you’ve gotten on board with the fact that networking is part of the game plan when it comes to career changes or job jumps. But now when it comes down to it, you actually have to…go out there and network.

If you’re like many of my clients (or me before, say, 2014), this is not exciting news. I get it- when you first get started, it can be pit-in-the-stomach-dreadful, but it DOES get better with time, I swear!

So, for those emails where you’re reaching out to someone in your network, or someone you know has made an introduction for you – what the heck do you say to get the result you want?!

networking

Here are the 4 Key Components to writing a networking email that will get you the response you want:

Outcome: Know what action you want the recipient to take- be super specific. Then include that in your “Ask” in the body of the email. Are you interested in a specific job and want to talk it over? Do you want to meet for a coffee or phone chat? Say that. (And while you’re at it, specify a few times so they can quickly check their calendar, but also say you have availability to be flexible since they’re doing YOU the favor. Make sure you have varying times (pre-work, lunch, post-work for example), keeping their schedule and what might be best for them in mind.

Length: Use the KISS Method, (Keep it Simple, Stupid!). These really shouldn’t be much longer than a paragraph or two. If it’s someone you don’t know and you aren’t being introduced, a brief 4-5 sentence bio, tailored for your ask/outcome is a good idea. Don’t just copy your bio from LinkedIn- relate it to your specific ask. It will probably be similar but you don’t want to sound static.

Do Your Homework: Know something about the person, what they do, and/or their company to immediately connect with the recipient in the first sentence or two. Maybe they recently published an article. Maybe you saw them speak or heard a good thing about their work. Include that! It shows you’re paying attention and are looking for more than a quick do-me-a-favor fix. Make sure the language you use in the networking email indicates that you want to build a relationship, rather than take-take-take!

Do Their Homework: If you’re emailing about a specific position, make sure you quickly connect how your experience is a fit for the specific role in the networking email. Do the work so they don’t have to! If you just can’t quite seem to stick to the KISS method, the other option is to bold/underline a couple of headings within the email, so people can skim and jump around. So “A little about me:” or “How I can help in this role”….but I always opt for KISS when possible :)

This is just a little down and dirty in terms of a fool-proof method to get responses from people you really want to hear from. If you want more of this, sign up directly below to get tips and tools direct to your inbox that can help you jumpstart a new career!

 

How Can I Tell If My Prospective Boss Is a Jerk?

We’ve all been there: You’re sitting in an interview with your would-be boss and you can’t quiiiiiite tell if he or she would be a big ol’ jerk. The words coming out of his mouth sound good but there’s something you can’t quite put your finger on that makes you want to run out of the building like your hair’s on fire.

So how do you turn your hunch into more than a feeling?

how do I tell if my prospective boss is a jerk?

Don’t want this to be you? Keep reading for tips on how to avoid it below.

Presentation: 

A lot of times you can suss a lot out by reading between the lines in terms of environment and general presentation. And don’t let ‘gut feelings’ fall by the wayside! Take note of them in your notebook, if you can do so discreetly, so you can weigh this later.

  • Is the would-be boss prepared for the interview? Does it look like their read your resume?
  • Is their desk a mess?
  • Do they allow themselves to be constantly interrupted by their manager or peers?
  • Do they seem not ‘in the moment’ or present? Do they seem distracted?

Those things could be an indication that the environment is chaotic and lacks clear priorities and boundaries and they are prone to the insanity as much as the next person, meaning they wouldn’t be an effective shield from any potential sh*tstorms. (Not that you want those kinds of storms, but they can happen at even the good companies, so you want a boss who can have your back)

Interaction

You want to suss out whether they’re going to be the right manager for you.  You want to think of ways to be able to figure this out without asking, “So what’s the culture like here?” Questions like, “What is the on boarding process like and how do you handle beginner mistakes?” can give you insight into how they value their training and how they handle new employees making errors. (Hint: You don’t want them to say, “Well, we certainly hope people don’t make mistakes!”). Ask how they are involved with career progression and how they personally gauge development and progress. What are some of their personal metrics for success for their direct reports? What about the company’s metrics?

If anything sounds fishy or off to you, it probably is. Trust your gut and/or seek the advice of a trusted advisor or colleague (hopefully someone with experience interviewing). There’s a difference between ‘fast paced environment’ (which everyone says they are now- have you ever seen a job posting that said, “we take things slow”? No.) and “CRAZY TOWN!”

Honesty

When I was a young newly minted manager/boss, I took the tell-it-like-it-is approach. Not at the beginning. At the beginning, I was more how I described the boss above in the “presentation section”. But once I found my footing, I explained exactly the type of environment it was and the expectations the position had and left it up to the candidate to self-select in or out. That could actually be a green flag (I’m making that a thing) regarding a company. If you know what you’re getting yourself into, then you can make the best decision for yourself based on your values and priorities.

If the company has craptastic Glassdoor review, ask! Don’t be afraid of ‘offending’ someone. Imagine if you found yourself in a terrible work situation because you were afraid to ask about the elephant in the room!?

What other red flags can you think of? Leave comments in the comments below!

It’s All About the Pitch, Baby

<This Article originally appeared on dreamerdoers.me>

What do a platform connecting Brazilian jui jitsu fighters, genital icepacks, a roommate matchmaking service and an interior design firm have in common?

A lot, actually. Their drive, passion and willingness to help their fellow entrepreneur aside, the owners of these businesses, and over 100 more business owners, side hustlers and dreamers convened at the Dreamers//Doers “Making it Happen Soiree with Kelly Hoey” last week at General Assembly.

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Part of the impressive crowd; image courtesy of Kelly Hoey

And what a soiree it was.

We got an intimate peek into Kelly’s views on everything from saying “no” to pitching investors and the media. I typed, court stenographer style, while taking it all in and thinking of real life applications for my and my friends’ and DDers’ businesses. I looked down at one point and had four pages of single spaced notes of juicy goodness to share with ya’ll- and we were only halfway into the talk. So, fellow Dreamers and Doers, without further ado, the key takeaways:

Self-Awareness: Kelly talked about how self-awareness is a key component of success as a startup. She said- and this is pretty verbatim, because I really could have a third career as the aforementioned court stenographer,- “Understand yourself and when you work at your best. Where do you perform at your highest and best and remember those moments…[It’s about] knowing what you’re good at and want to do, and then putting yourself in the position to go get it.”

Aptly put, I’d say, wouldn’t you? A lot of times we slog through something that isn’t our true calling because we feel like we ‘have to’ or we’ve already started it and put a lot of time into it, so stopping now would be failure. It’s actually the opposite, according to Kelly and the guys and gals at 37 Signals behind the book Rework. Get out there, and scream from the rooftops what you can do and how you can help and get in there. Kelly’s version of this was quitting her job as a corporate lawyer to help launch the global women’s professional network started by the woman of Goldman Sachs (85 Broads) and now helmed by Sally Krawcheck, Ellevate Network.

Personal Brand is Queen: Your LinkedIn profile is your pitch. Your Facebook page is your pitch. Your headshot is your pitch. Your handshake is your pitch. Basically, if you don’t have a presence online (and offline), it’s being defined for you – and probably by your competitors. There can be no disconnect between all of those things- and they have to be moving in the same direction to make sense to the big, bad world out there.

Dreamers//Doers Co-Founder Gesche Wai-Yi Haas then pulled out her interviewing hat and asked a series of important and impactful questions on pitching the media and investors. I’m including a redacted version here so you can find what you need easily:

Q: What Makes A Really Good Pitch?

A: A pitch deck is a really good idea because it allows you to distill your thoughts down and get specific in terms of what you’re doing and what your value proposition is. It’s also a good exercise in terms of ‘why you want it’ and the ever-important, “What’s the problem and how do you solve it?” question-duo.
But the best pitches- and Kelly has seen tons of pitches- are for the startups that have researched the audiences they are in front of. There’s a difference between pitches for, say, Y-combinator and actually sitting across from Gene Sullivan or Kathy Utecht. It’s knowing that audience and prepping for that context. In addition to solving the great problems of the world, why do you want to solve itwith them?

 

Q: How can you actually prep for a specific meeting?

A: Answer the question, “Who is this individual that will be sitting in front of me?” Check out the websites or LinkedIn profiles of the people you want to pitch. Joanne Wilson, for example, is transparent on how to reach her and what to give her in advance of the pitch. Kelly said this was essentially a low-hanging fruit kind of approach- you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t pay attention to that or research it in the first place to know this vital information.

Q: What are some common pitch mistakes?

A: Rehearsing your pitch so much that you feel you HAVE to stick to it is a mistake. You need to be able to pitch through tech snafus and distractions like babies crying or phones ringing. If you are the founder of your startup, you need to know EVERYTHING. Kelly said that female founders get “universally crucified” for not knowing their numbers and projections. Even if you have someone doing this on the daily for you, you gotta know it too. Anyone who is a non-technical founder needs to speak the language. Your company’s technology is the underlying business. Kelly likened it to being the CEO of Ford and not knowing how cars are made.

Q: What are the differences between VC and Angel Investors?

A: It’s simple- angel investors are using their own money, so you need to treat it as if you’re spending your own money. VCs are raising money through limited partners (e.g pension plans, endowments), but it’s not their own money, which is also why they take huge risks because they have huge funds through which to spread the risk. They have a specific lifetime on the fund and have to return results to investors in that time period. So, you need to understand the differing underlying motivations and ask yourself, “Does this align with what I need?”

Q: What’s a good way to pitch your story to the media?

A: Well, according to Kelly, a bad way is to confuse the fact you exist with being a story.

This is the formula she laid out: 1) Is this news? 2) Tell me why this is a story/ what’s the angle/why are you the expert? 3) Why is this new news? It could be that you have a credible second day story, and that story is NOT “We do X too, cover us!” It has to be a new take on another story. Why are you the credible expert that I would use to be the source for a story? Oh, and remember that personal brand stuff from earlier? The media will look at your LinkedIn, so it all comes full circle- everything has to be rolling in the right direction on the personal brand front.

Q: How do you contact the media?

A: It depends on the journalist but consider the 24/7 news cycle- the “I want the news now” mentality. Journalists’ jobs are really hard now, so make it easier on them. Don’t make them ask you questions- tell THEM why this is news. Find the journalist’s twitter handle and follow them and engage them and retweet them. See what interests them and what they’re writing about so you can tailor your pitch appropriately. Keep track of this!

 And of course, my favorite part? Right before we moved into introductions to the group, Kelly pointed out that one of the best places to pitch yourself and raise awareness is in just these types of situations like the soiree. Stand up, say who you are, what you do and what you need help with. With a captive audience and a clear, concise spiel, it’s way more than likely that someone will come find you during open networking with help, a resource, an introduction or an idea.

 Jill Ozovek (CPC, ACC, ELI-MP)  is a Certified Professional Coach who works with millennial women on finding their dream job when all signs point to the impossible. Through highly tailored group work and one-on-one coaching sessions, Jill focuses on helping clients keep their career change and job hunt top of mind even when their busy lives try to dictate otherwise and she also helps clients uncover what it is they want to do with the rest of their career, even when they walk into their first session with no earthly idea. As a former hiring manager at a large event production company, she has extensive experience with crafting resumes that will get you noticed, writing targeted cover letters to potential employers that clearly show why you’re the best fit for the position, using LinkedIn to your advantage, and navigating networking events. She also has extensive experience  helping clients in their transition to their new role that keeps them sane and doesn’t burn any bridges. She has a private coaching practice and recently launched her Career Chat N Chew Supper Club & the 30 Day Swift Kick in the Pants Career Change Program- info here. To sign up for a complimentary consult, clickhere. 

 

‎EVENT RECAP: The top 3 tips from “Interviewing Dos and Don’ts: Recruiters Lift the Veil”

Interviewing is about to take a little bit of a dip during the holidays, (but don’t stop applying! “ABA” – Always Be Applying), so it’s a good time to take stock of your interview techniques thus far and mesh it with some conventional wisdom out there to hone and be ready for the New Year.

I was lucky enough to moderate a panel of recruiters earlier this week for my alumni association where they ‘lifted the veil’ on recruiting practices and techniques as well as interview dos and don’ts.

It was real, candid, personal (and at times, funny!) and legit one of the most valuable networking events I’ve been to in awhile- and I’m not even looking for a job!

So, since not all of you went to Villanova University (hence not at this event), I’m going to share my top three takeaways from my turn as moderator at this event.

Without further ado:

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS: I can’t overstate this enough – get out there and build a relationship or 12. It might take time for something to come to fruition, but remember that your network is a living, breathing thing that needs to be nurtured. Also make sure you keep the give:ask ratio high. If you keep that in mind above all else- that you offer as much if not more than you ask, it WILL come back to you.

THINK OUT OF THE BOX: Have you been beating your head against a wall, sending millions of apps into the ether with no response? Maybe you’re trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. Interrogate the reality of the situation. Does your skill set remotely fit the job descriptions? Do a gut check here. Maybe it requires a different approach.

The other thing that came out here, and it’s something I advocate for with all my clients, is to take a multi-pronged approach. It is NOT about just applying via job boards and posts. As the recruiters corroborated, they have to post sometimes for legal reasons but are going with an internal person. So you need to go on coffee chats, info interviews, events, LinkedIN, networking groups, alumni associations. There are a plethora of resources out there- go and snag ‘em.

NUMBERS GAME VERSUS CURATED APPROACH: It depends on the industry and the position you are going for, but make sure you pay attention to this. Sometimes, it’s a sheer numbers game. An alum in the audience wanted to transition from accounting to sales for a vendor in financial services, so he made it a full time job- literally. He quit he job. He made a list of 200 companies. He called them all, followed up and got 100 responses, which turned into 50 interviews. He got 2 offers. Wham-o: CAREER CHANGE COMPLETE!

Other types of positions do not require such rigor in terms of numbers, but instead require a deep dive into the company’s mission/values/building relationships ahead of time./courting them department. You may just need to make a list of 10 companies and do a deep dive on them. This is also especially true for more senior positions (maybe less so for junior ones).

We talked about a ton. As moderator, I was having a ball listening to these deep perspectives. Point is- definitely make it a point to go to these kinds of events when you see them advertised through your school or another organization. To actually hear from recruiters and talk to them afterward when they have so much going on? Priceless.