Archive for December, 2011

To get the job (or the promotion), be the Yoda!

A job seeker is the teacher, not the hero

What do Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, and a successful job seeker have in common?

Effective communication.

As chief career storyteller here at Movin’ On Up Resumes, I was captivated recently when I watched a talk from presentation guru Nancy Duarte. She compares the presentation styles of Jobs and King, and I couldn’t help but notice that there were rich lessons there for the job seeker who is committed to advancing his or her career by sharing their ideas.

Duarte spent two years deeply studying the elements of story and presentation, delving into Joseph Campbell, George Lucas, Aristotle, and others.

In the TedxEast talk, she starts by telling us that we can change the world by sharing our ideas. “Maybe you’ve had an idea, but it was rejected” she says, “and maybe some other mediocre idea was adopted, and the only difference between those two was in the way it was communicated.”

What is the job seeker or careerist’s “idea” in this context?

–          THE SUB-IDEA: Any idea that can make money, save money, improve quality, or strengthen company culture

–          THE BIG IDEA: That hiring or promoting the candidate will change the company for the better, presumably because of his or her knack for coming up with great ideas and winning support for them.


The presenter isn’t the hero. The audience is.

When Nancy examined the concept of the hero, especially as put forth in Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey she realized that the presenter is not the hero.

The hero is the audience (in the job seeker’s case, the people making the hiring decision) and the presenter (job seeker) is the mentor or Yoda.

The company has a desire, i.e. to enter a new market, improve profitability, or become a better corporate citizen. Your job is to help the company overcome roadblocks and emerge transformed.

To be hired, you must demonstrate how you can transport a potential employer from an ordinary world to an extraordinary world.

Nancy has actually discovered a shape that represents how Jobs and King—along with Martha Graham, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Leonard Bernstein, and Richard Feynman—connected with their audiences, evoking emotion and action.

In the beginning, the presenter shows the world as it is.

My note: this is similar to a sales presentation in which you start with the “pain,” the urgent problem that must be solved, the one that keeps the audience up at night.

The lows and highs of this shape represent reiterations of “the world as it is,” and “the world as it could be.” It’s worth watching the video to get a sense of the nuances, but that’s the idea.

Leave your audience with a call to action and an inspirational vision.

Finally, these great presenters give a call to action (what is the next step that the audience can take now that they have adopted this idea). In King’s I Have a Dream speech, the call to action is:

“With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

But taking action is hard. The last thing a presentation must do is deliver a visceral image of the ideal, one that the audience can hold onto, one that will push, pull, and inspire them to action. King’s utopic ending:

“And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

It gives you chills, doesn’t it?

So, how do I actually do this in a resume or at a job interview?

Take a look at this resume.

Right off the bat, it creates a picture of the world as it is versus the world that could be with the intro/tag line:

This fragmented marketplace presents producers with unchartered challenges in reaching their consumers.

I see solutions, and am able to connect the dots to form consumer-driven ideas that evoke emotion and build loyalty.

The opening profile goes on to ask some pointed questions:

Does your brand strategy consider the consumer’s path to purchase?

Does your brand strategist deliver best-in-class concept and design?

Are your brand deliverables aspirational and actionable?

The answer, “what could be,” is demonstrated by a visual image of a brand strategy with consumers at its heart.

Just like Duarte’s graph, the resume continues comparing what is to what could be for the reader by giving concrete examples of problems faced by her employer and how the solution (having Elizabeth London as an employee) helped the “hero” (read “company”) overcome roadblocks and emerge transformed.

In the slide show below, we see a similar pattern. “What is,” and “what could be” are contrasted on the first page.

The case studies that follow go back-and-forth, contrasting the situation before and after implementation of Saul’s ideas.

In the interview: Research the company so you know their pain points. Match those pain points to stories that demonstrate how you are uniquely prepared to overcome them. Write them down in CAR format (challenge, action, result) and practice them.

Always remembering that the company is the hero of the story. Find a way to connect the dots, explaining how each story is relevant for the company you’re interviewing with.

But what about leaving the hiring team with a call to action and a final, inspirational vision?

This is a bit of a puzzle on a resume, isn’t it? I’ve always used the cover letter for that, but after thinking about Duarte’s ideas (and considering that only about two thirds of cover letters are read), I believe I should work on doing this in the actual resume document. I’ll have to play with it. If you have any ideas, feel free to share them below in the comments.

Who are you to compare your job search to the ideas of Martin Luther King or Steve Jobs?

When I started writing my post, I felt a bit humbled. After all, I’m “just” talking about resumes and job search here, not about social or technological revolution.

I quoted Dr. King on a resume I once wrote for a maintenance supervisor, and that quote came back to me and prompted me to share these thoughts with you. The quote is:

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

Whatever your calling, it is worthy of attention. It is worthy of the best possible presentation, so that your ideas, whether about social justice or effective building maintenance, can be heard… can change the world!

December 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment