We want to be the candidate that gets the job, or the contract, or the client. We’re always wondering “what kind of person will get this.” Is it the one with this talent or that, the one that is the most forward, the one that is the most reserved, or just the weirdest one? Whatever it is we want to be that person, or at least think we do.
In my long experience working, coaching, and researching I’ve found there is one kind of candidate you want to be – and you, my fellow geek/otaku/fan can be it, and may have some advantages in that area.
That candidate? That’s the memorable candidate. Well, the well-remembered candidate, really – since you can be memorable for breaking into panicked screaming and running out of the interview. You want to be memorable in a good way, but for the sake of theory, I’ll just refer to you as being “the memorable” candidate.
You know, memorable. You stand out. You stick in people’s minds. They recall you. If you’re the first to jump to mind for a job, that means an increased chance you’ll get it. A memorable candidate is often the “obvious” candidate.
Now how do you be memorable? You tell a good story in your interview, on your resume, and in any support materials like your website or your portfolio. (Actually I did a whole book on telling a story with your resume, but that’s part of an even bigger picture). A good story stands out and makes you memorable, so let’s explore that . . .
The Story Is The Memory
A good story is a coherent tale, one that can both be summed up easily yet has deep details that explain what’s what and who’s who. We can sum “The Seven Samurai” up as “Villagers hire a band of differing mercenaries to fight bandits” or we can exposit for hours on the characters, the history, the direction, and the film. Either way a tale like “The Seven Samurai” is both memorable and understandable and detailed – as the many remakes have shown.
On the job search, in interviews, in cover letters, you need to tell a story that is memorable, even if it doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of Kurosawa’s work.
In my case, I have my own tale – which I often call “The Professional Geek,” focusing on how my love of technology led to programming and then project management and then program management. Each step of the way I can explain my choices, what got me where I am, and what makes me me. I tie it into my blogging and my writing, and even give away copes of my books in interviews – all showing how now I share my experiences with others, completing the cycle.
You can find your own tale, and one that can be as deep and memorable as anything else. Why does this work? Several reasons:
Coherence: A good story about yourself and your history is a coherent, organized tale that makes sense and explains things. People remember good explanations, definitions, and why-things-are stories easily because that’s how we make sense of things. When you tell a good story people remember you because, simply, you make sense.
Relatable: People remember those they understand, relate to, and connect with. When you tell a good story as a job seeker, people in turn can relate to you and remember you. They connect with you – perhaps deeply – because of how you tell your story and what’s in it, and thus you’re memorable.
Human: A good story, because it is relatable and makes sense also makes you human. It contains your hopes, and fears, successes and failures, and embodies who you are. Be it a witty thriller or a story of simple stability, it’s about you as a person. People will remember you as a human being not an easily forgettable pile of bullet points.
Answers Questions: Telling a good story answers questions people might have about you – far more than just answering inquiries or filling out a form may. Because you offer this organized tale, you are often answering questions before they’re asked – or even if they’re not asked. Your tale may also let people extrapolate about you, answering questions even when you’re not there. When people understand you, they can remember you.
No Mystery: The last thing anyone wants to do is hire an unknown factor. When you tell a good story, what stands out is the fact that they have answers as noted. When you tell a good story, you are remembered as a real person. You’re not some void to them – an easily forgotten void – you’re the person with the story that explains things. Even if that explanation is not always the best one or the one that puts you in the best light, it’s there and they know what they’re getting.
Tell a good story and you’re memorable. When you’re memorable, you get hired.
Your Geek Edge In Memorable Storytelling
Now where we geeks, fans, otaku, makers, and the like have an advantage is that we’ve already got edges in telling a good story. Yes, you may wonder where things like your cosplay, your Greatful Dead memorabilia, or your obsession with Cobol come in to this. Trust me, they do.
This is why:
A Pre-Existing Tale: Most of we geeks already have our own creative and interesting stories because we followed our interests and obsessions into some pretty fascinating realms. It doesn’t take much work to focus on parts of these tales or repurpose them for the job search. Several of my friends owe their IT careers to video games, which alone gives some great stories of computer setup, networking, obsession, and discoveries.
An Interesting Tale: Our tales and experiences and pre-existing stories are also pretty interesting and unusual – and that makes us memorable (and may show unique skills and abilities). Told properly, our geeky experiences and fannish activities are going to have people recall us – and show what we can do.
Creativity: Most of us are also creative types, be we artists, writers, coders, or cooks. That creativity is something we can tap into to create a compelling story in our job search. If you can write fanfic or create cosplay, you’ve got some pretty amazing imaginative abilities going – use that to make your story reach people.
Examples: We geeks make stuff. That means we probably have something to back up our stories about ourselves and our careers, from websites to conventions we run. We can show some pretty memorable example that we mean business even from our hobbies (or show diversity, or the ability to take on a new profession). That makes an impression – and even moreso combined with examples from on the job (when you love something so much you do it at home and at work, it says something).
You can tell a coherent, wonderful, memorable tale about yourself. You’ve got the resources, the creativity, and some edges a lot people don’t know exist or didn’t think of – because you’re a geek.
You’re Already Memorable
So be memorable in your job search by telling a good story – and that means plumbing your geek edges, experiences to get some really memorable material. You’ve got real advantages if you use them.
Go on and give it a try.
Here’s a few suggestions to help out
- Try and find a single-sentence way to sum up your job history in a compelling way – just like you can sum up a good movie in a one sentence if you work at it.
- What are your experiences that most show off your abilities, and how can you tell them in your “job search story?”
- What are your life/career experiences people relate to most, and how can you describe them?
- What common factors does your past, current, and future careers have in common with your hobbies and obsessions? Does this give you a useful personal narrative?
- What do people remember the most about you in a good way and how can you use that in interviews and in telling your tale.
– Steven “Professional Geek” Savage