How to Tell a Story with Your Resume

 A great resume should read like a story, not a rap sheet.

A great resume should read like a story, not a rap sheet.

Not long ago I had lunch with a former TV reporter who was ready for a career change and wanted me to review his resume. I agreed. But when the resume arrived in my inbox a few days later, I was taken aback. What he sent looked more like a rap sheet than a resume and certainly wasn’t an argument for his success in a new role.

How could someone who had spent a career poetically telling the stories of others come up so short in telling his own? Happens all the time.

All journalists know their job involves more than just cataloging the facts. They must weave them into a relevant, compelling and accurate narrative. Yet, when it comes to telling their own tale, they---like all of us---often revert to a data dump. Every location, title, date and award is recorded. What’s missing is good information about how those previous jobs have prepared them for the next.

Journalists and all resume writers should ask themselves  “What’s the storyline that shows my future employer I’m a great candidate for this job?”

Here are a few ways to use storytelling to improve your resume:

Summarize your storyline. Briefly stating an objective is an excellent way to connect what you’ve done and what you want to do next, particularly if you’re changing careers and it’s not obvious. For example: “Veteran salesman seeks to apply competitive spirit, passion for science, and 25 years success in automotive to new role in pharmaceutical sales.” Just keep it short and steer clear of meaningless clichés like “proven track record,” “results-driven” and “demonstrated success” that typically signal the opposite of what they intend.

Paint a picture. Take the hiring manager’s view and think, “In what way does this person fit our company, our culture and our challenges?” Then accentuate experiences and skills that align with what your new employer needs and let go of some of the others. If you focus too much on the details that don’t apply to the next job, you’ll look like that’s all you can do or want to do.

Use slow mo and fast forward: Movie directors do it all the time: They draw out every detail of a key scene, then compress years or even decades that are less important. When writing your resume, the “real estate” you allot your experiences need not be proportional to the years you spent toiling at them. So long as you don’t distort the truth, it’s OK to elaborate on the few projects that most pertain to your next job while glossing over the time consuming tasks–or entire jobs–that don’t.

Bottom line: Apply a few simple storytelling techniques to your resume and interview process and your job search just might have a happy ending.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

Next Time, Try Skipping the Agenda

If you begin every presentation with an agenda, here is a quick and helpful hint to make your next presentation instantly better:

Stop doing that!

Sure, your high school speech teacher hammered home that foolproof formula: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em; Tell ‘em; Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” But today’s audiences expect something different----or at the very least a modern riff on that familiar refrain.

When an executive stands to deliver a presentation, then pauses to “review the agenda,” he or she risks slamming on the brakes before things even get rolling. In many cases, the executive senses the audience’s boredom and starts adlibbing details about each agenda point, dragging out the painful opening and stealing the thunder of the actual presentation.

Yes, your audience wants and deserves some assurance that you’re going to cover the points they want to hear. But perhaps a better plan is to craft a great open that leaves no doubt your presentation will be both interesting and relevant. Consider scrapping the agenda altogether and diverting the extra time and effort to a compelling open, persuasive key points and a provocative close.

Of course, if you’re part of an organization that requires presentations begin with an agenda (and don’t assume that because everyone else does it, it’s a requirement), you may have to go along with the program. Still, there are a few ways to comply with company policy without sabotaging your show.

1. Let a paper agenda suffice: Distribute a printed agenda ahead of time so audience members can peruse it before you take the stage. They’ll know what to expect, but you won’t waste precious moments (or their attention span) going over rote details.

2. Give a quick verbal agenda, rather than a visual one. Skip the agenda slide and instead quickly run through your game plan verbally, before launching into your carefully planned open.

3. Outboard the agenda. If your organization absolutely insists that you begin with an agenda slide, treat it as its own entity. Keep it as short as possible. Then stop. Give your audience a signal that the REAL presentation is about to begin by taking a long pause, changing your floor position, flashing a blank slide, telling an interesting story --- or all of the above.

The best way to captivate audiences is to convince them early on they’re about to hear something they’ve never heard before. Do that, and they won’t be wondering about what you’re going to cover. They’ll just be looking forward to it.

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog posts at “Let’s Be Clear," visit us at bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec. 

Media Won't Cover You? Cover Yourself.

Years ago when I was the lead spokesperson for Boston Edison, the company went through a brutal six-month stretch during which it was pounded in the press for an unusually high number of power outages and accidents---and THEN suffered an ugly labor strike.

So when I heard that, in the wake of a series of Florida hurricanes, our crews were heading south to help restore power, we made a serious round of media calls. I wanted to be sure every local TV station and newspaper got the word that, in this case, we were the good guys, stepping up to help those in need.

Sure enough, on the day our crews were leaving, a bank of TV cameras and print photographers showed up in the parking lot to capture pictures of the caravan rolling off company property toward the freeway.

But that was it! Not a single Boston media member conducted even one on-camera interview about why we were pitching in. And none of them bit on our offer to arrange phone interviews with the crews once they arrived in Florida.

I knew we needed to get a bigger bounce out of this event to offset the negative press we'd been taking on all year. So, I decided we would make our own news.

At the last minute, my colleague and I flew to Florida to meet our line workers, hired a video crew and followed our employees around for two days as they chain sawed fallen trees, installed new power poles and strung the electrical wire that would help Florida get back to normal. We interviewed our workers as well as locals, and captured tender moments of storm-weary Floridians hugging and thanking our crews.

Then we rented satellite time from the local public TV station and offered free feeds of the video to every news outlet in Boston.

That night and all the next day, on every Boston newscast, our guys were the heroes. Why? Not because they did any extra work (they were going to do it anyway.) But because we had video of it and we made it easy, free and irresistible for the media to use it.

If you have a great story that the media won't tell, try making it easier for them. Hire a crew to shoot video, then send it to media outlets in edited and unedited form. Include suggested news copy in the form of a short broadcast script or print story. (Sure, most journalists prefer to write their own, but they'll still appreciate the head start.) 

But don't stop there. Leverage your own platforms for coverage with the audiences that matter most to you. Put a version on your website, play it at employee events and post it to social media so supporters can easily pass it along to their own followers.

After all, if you've got a great story to tell, the media and your other audiences will want to hear it, see it and share it. And if you make it easy for them, they'll do just that.   

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog "Let's Be Clear,visit bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.   

Really, No Questions?

 If you open your talk up to Q and A but get no takers, try asking yourself a question to get things rolling.

If you open your talk up to Q and A but get no takers, try asking yourself a question to get things rolling.

You had them on the edge of their seats the whole talk. They nodded at your insights and laughed at your jokes. But suddenly, when you announce you’ll take questions...crickets.


What seemed to be a soaring success suddenly feels more like a flop. Though it’s hard not to feel the audience is using its silence to give you the hook, don’t dash off just yet. The final moments of your talk are a big part of the impression you’ll leave. Here are some tips for avoiding an awkward silence when no one asks a question:

Give them time to prepare. Often the switch from speech to Q and A is a bit abrupt. You may be such an engaging speaker that no one is even thinking about questions yet. Just before your conclusion, consider offering a remark such as “I’m going to take some questions in a moment, but first I want to tell you one more quick story.”

Have a plant in the audience who can kick things off.  Before you get started, ask a friend or even your host to jump in if no one else volunteers a question at the end of your talk. Often audience members just need someone else to break the ice and they’ll come around with their own questions.

Ask yourself a question. This tactic is especially useful for CEOs or other leaders speaking at town hall meetings where employees may be reluctant to stick their necks out. Simply fill the awkward silence with something like “One question some of you might be asking is ‘Will the company continue to match our 401k contributions?’” or “Something I usually get asked is ‘What kind of feedback have you had from customers?’” It might give someone else the courage to jump in. At the very least it helps you fill the emptiness.

Offer one final comment, then concede the stage. If you’ve tried the above and the audience STILL doesn't jump in, offer one final insight. This should be a brief comment you’ve saved just for the end to tie up your talk, show you’re not rattled, and leave on a positive note. Then do leave the stage. But later follow up with audience members or your host about the lack of questions. Perhaps an overheated room or the alluring scent of lunch arriving next door made the audience impatient. Or perhaps you weren’t as engaging as you thought. Regardless, that’s one question worth asking---and having answered.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

Facing Your Own PR Crisis? Better Get Your Story Straight

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.54.13 PM.png

Good public relations practices are scalable. The same strategies that can help a global company navigate an epic crisis can hold true for individuals fighting to manage their own bad news---like an untimely departure.

None of us likes to think about losing a job. But if the day comes when you find yourself packing that cardboard box, here are three PR moves to help keep your image in tact while you regroup.

Get your story straight. Sure, you’ll want to vent to your personal inner circle. But before you share the bad news much further, come up with a narrative about what happened and what you want to see happen next.

Regardless of the reason for the separation, you should be able to frame it in terms that highlight your professionalism. Most importantly, you want to draw a picture in which the listener can see you moving on to even better things.

No matter the circumstances, resist the urge to paint yourself as a victim, even if you are one. People feel sorry for victims, but they don’t hire them. Instead summarize the situation and emphasize what YOU are doing to take control of your future.

Get Some Good Buzz Going. Once you have your story straight, start spreading it. Reach out to as many people in your network and their networks as you can---and not just people in positions of power. In fact, while people high up the food chain can be very valuable at helping to close a deal, they are not as useful at the front end of a job search when you need to dig up leads. Make the rounds electronically or better yet in person. Ask for informational interviews to learn about new companies and get the momentum going. All along the way, let folks know you’re interested in new opportunities and would appreciate them keeping their ear to the ground for you. You’ll be surprised by who in your circle turns out to be helpful.

Malign No One. Talking ill of someone else only calls into question your character, not theirs. So take the high road when it comes to speaking about your former company, supervisor and colleagues. If you can’t say something nice about them, focus instead on the opportunities you were given to grow and do good work. You’ll win points for graciousness and professionalism---and you’ll be that much closer to your next great thing.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, visit bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.


How to Be a Rock Star Panelist

redchairs-and-mic.jpg

If you’ve been asked to sit on a panel at an industry forum or some other professional event, congratulations! The mere invitation is testament to your expertise and others’ confidence in your ability to share it. You’re doing something right already.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that expertise alone will carry you through. Many a panelist has bored an audience into oblivion with information overload. Often they’re so focused on providing technically correct answers that an hour later, no one remembers a word they said.

Yet others seem to have the crowd listening, laughing and hanging on every anecdote. Afterward audience members line up like teenagers at a rock concert to ask questions and keep the conversation going. Best of all, the panelist’s performance casts a favorable glow over his or her organization and own career.

If you want to elevate your panel appearance to rock star status, take some time to prepare. Here are a few tips to get you ready:

1.) Do some homework: Of course you’ll need to find out whether each panelist is expected to give opening remarks or just field questions. But also learn a bit about your fellow panelists and what distinguishes you from them. Ask if there is anything specific you should cover. Learn what, in the eyes of the host, would make the panel a success.

2.) As always, have key messages. Think ahead of time about what three or four messages (or even adjectives) you want your audience to come away associating with you. Write those in large print on a sheet of paper as you practice answering questions. If you want to be regarded as “industry leader,” “innovative,” “hip,” and “forward thinking,” be sure your remarks include---or at least echo---those terms.

3.) Know that you have three jobs: To ensure you, your organization and the panel all come off well. It’s not as tricky as it seems since in most cases the three will be aligned---or at least not in direct opposition. But remember, if you spend all your time bragging about your company but the panel overall flops, in the end neither you nor your company will look good.

4.) Bring stories. No matter the industry, people want to hear people talk about people. Think of at least three stories you can tell to drive home your messages. Then practice telling them to be sure they’re on the mark, can be told in short order and land the way you want. More than anything else, audiences remember stories. Be sure to bring them.

5.) Prepare to be spontaneous. That sounds like a contradiction but it’s not. Once you’re clear on your role, your messages, and your stories, practice answering as many different questions as you can---always coming back to your key messages and working in your stories along the way. The more you practice, the more natural the process will become. Soon you’ll be able to confidently handle anything that comes your way during the actual panel discussion.

If you follow these tips, your audience, your host, and YOU will all be thrilled with your performance. But more importantly, days and weeks after the program, your audience will still be recalling - and with any luck, repeating - your words of wisdom and the stories that brought them to life.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, visit bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.