Memorable, relevant, hired: Harness the power of your personal story
The novel coronavirus has caused a tidal wave of uncertainty over the job market in the last several months. Whether a student just graduated or has been in the workforce for years, the effects are being felt across the board. Sharon Irwin-Foulon, executive director of Career Management and Employer Engagement (CMEE) at the W. P. Carey School of Business, gave the community actionable tips during the last Alumni Relations Back to Class event.
The novel coronavirus has caused a tidal wave of uncertainty over the job market in the last several months. Whether a student just graduated or has been in the workforce for years, the effects are being felt across the board. Yet there are strategies W. P. Carey students and alumni can employ for standing out in a flooded pool of candidates. Sharon Irwin-Foulon, executive director of Career Management and Employer Engagement (CMEE), gave the community actionable tips during the last Alumni Relations Back to Class event.
Irwin-Foulon explained that one common mistake on the job market is to highlight your credentials. You got your MBA from an awesome school — why wouldn’t you sell that? “What we see is that employers want to hear why you are relevant, first. What problems can you solve and how do those relate to the company? Now your credentials might be a part of underlining that story, but they should not be what you lead with,” she instructed attendees.
While we as individuals are trying to manage the uncertainty in our lives, companies are also trying to control for uncertainty. This includes hiring practices. One of the best ways to make yourself seem like a sure bet is to tell a compelling story. Perhaps share what workplace challenges you are passionate about, how you have worked on those problems, and what your outcomes have been in the past. “The goal,” Irwin-Foulon shared, “is to inspire confidence in the employer. Let them know you will fill a gap for them in a way that is unique to you. It’s not that they need anyone with a finance degree, for example, it’s that they need you.”
There are several ways to practice telling your story. First, Irwin-Foulon suggests brainstorming key decision points, junctures, and accomplishments in your career. She cautions against rushing this step, as often we can overlook some of our biggest wins or defining moments because they feel so familiar to us. Perhaps take several days to map these moments into a compelling arrangement that helps explain who you are and what you can do. Next, she suggests practicing your story with someone you trust. “I always ask my sister to help me practice these kinds of things. I trust her to give me honest feedback and know she has my best interests at heart,” Irwin-Foulon said. Finally, she suggested having a couple of different versions of this story, depending on how much time you have or who you are talking with.
“Remember, this story is not just for formal job interviews. Any time you are talking with someone who works in the field you are interested in, that’s a great time to tell your story and show where you fit in,” Irwin-Foulon reiterates. “If you are doing an informational interview, perhaps with someone in the W. P. Carey alumni network, that is a prime opportunity for you to do your research and tell your story in a way that differentiates you.”
Finally, Irwin-Foulon reminded attendees to be empathetic—both with themselves and with others. “There is a ton of uncertainty right now, and we are all human. That humanity is a strength, not a weakness. Be authentic, kind, and thoughtful first. That is the real differentiator.”Want to learn more? You can watch the full video here.
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