Finding your story

By Kim Buckley

Storytellers wield a lot of power and college students should focus on becoming one, regardless of your major. Finding your story is important because if you know your story, you know who you are. This not only boosts your confidence, but can also help you find a job and get hired. You will get a leg up on the competition if you know your story and can tell it in a compelling way.

There are many ways to find your story. Think back on your life and find multiple moments that helped define you, which can go as far back as your childhood. A great place to start is by thinking of a vivid memory, or something that makes you happy or sad. Think about the people who have influenced you and how they have inspired you or supported you. If you’re in a field where employers would place an emphasis on your skills and abilities, make your stories more work-oriented. If you have any internships or work experience, remember the lessons that you’ve learned during that time and think about the challenges and obstacles you have had to overcome or how you turned one of your weaknesses into a strong skillset. This can show that you’ve improved your skillset or that you’re willing to learn new things. One of my favorite stories to tell is one that demonstrates my persistence. During college, I was on a committee that planned an annual networking reception. I had to call many local people in the news industry to inquire whether they would be interested in attending. All of them said no. I kept trying and finally got an acceptance from an editor at one of the local radio stations. He attended the event and enjoyed it so much he attended the following year. That story showed that I was willing to call a lot of people and go beyond what was required of me, but also that I could help plan an event that vendors would want to attend and promote their services.

Finding out what your story is can help you search for potential jobs, as you might find yourself looking at companies or nonprofits based on your life experience. For instance, if you or a family member has dealt with a medical condition or a particular social issue, look at organizations that raise awareness of that specific issue. I have had a surgery to repair a small hole in my heart, so when I started looking for internships, I began investigating nonprofits that promoted heart health. I inquired to several local branches of well-known organizations, even though they weren’t actively searching for an intern. I heard back from one of them, and managed to land a summer internship. Find ways to connect the career you want with any hobbies that you love. You might find yourself looking at organizations that you’ve volunteered at during high school or companies that speak to student groups on college campuses.

You want to emphasize your story in your cover letter when applying for potential jobs. Don’t be afraid to tailor your story specifically to that particular company or organization. Knowing what story you want to tell can help your cover letter stand out and can even help you design your resume to reflect what you want your work experience to say. If you’re having trouble incorporating it in an application, seek advice from Career Services. Most campuses have programs that help students with the job search process and any questions about writing a cover letter or resume. Make sure that your story is intriguing, and that you can go more in-depth later if you get the interview.

I’ve found that during the interview process, most employers respond to personal stories that show why you’re passionate about your potential job field and why you are interested in working for that particular company or organization. When I interviewed with companies and organizations that focused on travel, I spoke about how traveling to Korea changed my life because I was able to meet my foster mother and to thank her for watching over me during the first few months of my life. You should have several talking points that emphasize your strengths and you should make your story one of them. In fact, people in human resources expect you to talk about your previous experience and what they are looking for is a story. Having a story is a great way to make a strong impression and demonstrate qualities that are important to future employers. Make sure that you practice your answers to interview questions so you can tell your story effectively. Don’t be afraid to keep refining your story.

Knowing what story you want to tell potential employers can make a big difference in all steps during the job search process. Our stories can empower us and make us wiser. They can help us connect with others, which is an important skill in the workforce and in life. Find your story and tell it in the way that reflects who you are as a person.

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