Don’t prepare to give answers about your skills and experience at your next job interview. Instead, be ready to tell your career stories.
Well-crafted career stories can be a powerful tool for helping a prospective employer see what kind of worker you are. And, when you craft your stories ahead of time, you’re less likely to stray off topic, talk too much or give information that you’d rather not.
General guidelines for career stories:
- Be sure they are true
- Make them succinct
- Show professional growth
Here are 5 career stories you should be able to tell at your next interview (this list is by no means exhaustive!):
1. The mistake/failure –This is your chance to show that you recognize your own fallibility; that you can take responsibility and be accountable; and that you can fix your errors and learn from them. When telling your story, don’t come off as sheepish or overly embarrassed – everyone makes mistakes, it’s how we handle them that matters.
2. The difficult situation – Your difficult situation story should illustrate how you faced a challenge, prevailed and became a better employee for it. Note: You might want to come up with a few stories in this vein dealing with different situations, such as meeting a challenging goal, dealing with a difficult coworker, dealing with a difficult client and so on. Also, while a mistake or failure can certainly lead to a difficult situation, with this story we’re looking for a challenge presented to you, rather than one you created for yourself.
3. The disagreement with your boss – This story should show that you are assertive and stand up for what you think is right. If you were able to sway your boss to your point of view, all the better. If not, though, the story should demonstrate that know when to set aside your idea and get with the program (unless, of course, it’s an issue of ethics). It may also be handy to have a story about disagreeing with a colleague or client ready to go.
4. The success – Hopefully you have plenty of material for this one. When choosing a story, stay away from anecdotes about easy successes. A hard-won achievement will be more impressive. Mistake/failure and difficult situation stories often can double as success stories.
5. The collaboration – This story should recount a time that you worked successfully with a group to complete a project or reach some other goal. Key elements: your role in the group and how you influenced the outcome in a good way. This story may have elements related to your difficult situation and success stories. And, it can also be a good story for illustrating your leadership skills, or your powers of persuasion.