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Written by: Catherine Brownlee
We are strong advocates of Success Stories, or “PAR Stories” as they are sometimes called. Success stories are short stories that capture results you have achieved in the past. Stories need to be specific enough that they can be told with a Problem (Opportunity)/Action/Result format.
Successes include those times when you feel proud of your accomplishments. They are times when you feel you’ve made a difference or contributed something of value. We suggest that before connecting with employers, you spend time writing out as many stories as you can to refresh your memory and make recall easier.
Your stories can be dramatic or ordinary. What’s important is that you feel proud of these experiences and feel good about your involvement. For each story, start by describing a particular problem or situation you encountered. Then describe the action you took. Then describe the result. Give each story a title so that you will remember it easily.
This may seem an onerous task, but it’s time well spent. Once you have your stories documented, you will begin to see patterns of skill sets emerge. Beyond your training, education or work history, these stories provide concrete evidence of your unique value to an employer.
Why Document Success Stories?
There are several good reasons. Success stories can:
· Energize us and boost our confidence, particularly when making a career change
· Help us to see our skills and values more clearly
· Point us in the right direction when searching for new opportunities
· Provide employers with evidence of our skills and abilities
· Set us apart from other candidates with similar qualifications
· Help solidify connections
· Help us excel in interview situations
You will use these stories repeatedly when you begin to network. They will help guide you to companies where you can add value. You will include them (in condensed versions) within your cover letters and resumes. And you will not succeed in a behavioral descriptive interview without a story lineup that proves you have the skills you say you have.
Remember, your stories need to be specific enough so they can be told in just a few minutes with a PAR format.
“Working in Engineering,” for example, is not a story in and of itself. Instead, it involves hundreds of specific stories where you project manage, trouble shoot, coach, mentor, assist, solve problems, etc. We recommend you scale down your story to a more specific incident or series of incidents.
Don’t know where to start? Look for your stories in:
• Situations when you turned a negative into a positive
• Things that you built, fixed or improved
• Projects that you implemented, participated in, or completed
• Procedures that you developed or used to save time or headaches
• Risks that you took in order to undertake new challenges
• Your travel, volunteer work, community work, course work, hobbies
• New skills or key learnings you initiated through work or leisure pursuits
• Times when you resolved conflict between colleagues, peers or clients
• Times when you helped someone else with a problem or challenge
• Ideas you had for improving the way things were done
You may surprise yourself at how many you have.
Success Story Example
Story Title: Training Track e-Newsletter
When my last company went through a major reorganization, the mandate of our corporate sales division changed drastically. Within the new structure, sales personnel were required to concentrate their sales efforts on end-to-end training solutions for major energy clients. This caused dissention among the ranks and a number of sales consultants chose to resign. Our clients felt abandoned and confused during the flux. They were unclear what we could offer going forward and didn’t know who to turn to with their training requests.
My business development support team implemented a campaign to connect with value clients and raise awareness of our energy training products and services. Working with a third-party software company, we created a subscription-based monthly
e- newsletter complete with articles, tips and tools related to training needs. In the early days, I was responsible for writing and sourcing all content. Over time, the content team grew to four internal writers and two external columnists.
The e-newsletter met and exceeded our goals, reaching over 1000 subscribers in 16 months. This resulted in numerous new leads and direct sales totaling over $350,000. Our e-newsletter client satisfaction surveys were overwhelmingly positive – over 95% of respondents found the content of high quality, timely and relevant. In 2014, our team received the Alberta e-Business Leadership Award, e-Learning category, for our innovative approach to customer service.
Leadership & Team Skills
Results-oriented, team player, deadline driven, client-focused, relationship building, trouble shooting, multi-tasking
Researching, writing, editing, proofing, technology usage, data management
Summarized version of story:
(this can be used in cover letters and resumes)
Designed concept and produced monthly content for award-winning client e-newsletter, resulting in a strong subscriber base, lead generation and direct sales totaling over $350,000.
Catherine Brownlee is President and CEO of CBI, where she brings over 30 years’ experience in executive search, marketing and networking strategies globally. Catherine is a recognized expert and speaker on the subject of “How to get the job of your dreams.” She co-authored the best-selling book Want to Work in Oil and Gas? and is currently writing her next best seller, which will provide strategies for getting the job of your dreams – anywhere in the world. In these tough economic times, Catherine’s “Power Networking” course has also become very much in demand. The course teaches successful networking tools and how to perfect your pitch each and every time.
Catherine willl be speaking at the CPHR Alberta 2017 Conference this April 26 & 27 in Edmonton. For more information on the conference and to register, click here.