Your true-life success stories prove what you can do for an employer. They’re vital in job interviews and resumes, and they liven up networking conversations.
To tell stories effectively, follow the SOAR format: Situation, Obstacles, Actions and Results. Here’s an example of a “SOAR story.”
Denise realized that she and her co-workers were wasting time on tedious processes that could be better handled by software. But the company was small and had no IT department, so the tasks hadn’t been automated. Denise wanted to change that.
The budget was tight and management was resistant to spending money on something new. Also, nobody had time to figure out what was needed.
Denise did some research on her own time and recommended a software called WhateverWare. She also worked up an estimate of the staff time that would be saved, and the dollar value of that time to the company. She used these data in presenting the idea to management. They were convinced, and they found some resources to make it happen, asking Denise to coordinate the project.
The new software saved 10-15 staff hours per week. The company is still using it, with increased productivity to the tune of over $15K per year. Denise received a raise at her next review, and her supervisor wrote in the evaluation that “This achievement is further proof that Denise’s initiative and dedication are exemplary.”
Without using SOAR, how might Denise’s story be less effective? If she’s like most of us, she might have skipped over the obstacles, inadvertently letting the accomplishment sound easy and thus understating the skill that was required. Also, she might have been too vague about the results – the “evidence” of success – missing a chance to vividly depict the value she can bring to an organization. Or she may have rambled, telling the story in a confused way and not knowing when to stop.
The great stories of literature and film include these four elements, and it works. If the Lord of the Rings had skipped over the obstacles of Frodo’s quest, would we be awed by his courage? If the story had ended the moment the One Ring falls into the Cracks of Doom, would we really understand the results of that action – the difference it made? (In my humble opinion, the book shows the results better than the movie did, but don’t get me started.)
A well-told success story may not portray you as a save-the-world hero, but it can show that you have what it takes to overcome tough challenges and make a difference.
For more about how to use these stories, read my post, “Job Search Tool #1: SOAR Stories.”