Retail Observer

April 2021

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Page 47 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM APRIL 2021 48 A while back, I received a text from my nephew Stephen in Ohio, who asked me to review a cover letter template for his job hunt. He was wrapping up a master's degree and seeking a role as a nurse practitioner. Stephen's graduate studies had prepared him well to handle the demands of a pediatric ER, but he was clueless when it came to job hunting. He'd only wanted my help as a copy editor, but I decided to take up his challenge not as a wordsmith but as a storyteller. Storytelling is the ultimate influence model. It connects people at a primal level and builds powerful bonds of trust and common purpose. Understanding and applying the fundamentals is a great way to approach a job search. Early in my work with Stephen, I repeatedly had to remind him of a hard truth, as he sought the attention of recruiters and hiring managers: This is not about you. The focus of a job hunt should always be on the company or team that is trying to fill a need. You, the candidate, are relevant only insofar as you're in a position to help. This goes to the heart of effective storytelling, which is never entirely self-concerned. A good story makes a connection that adds a bit of value to another person's life. It might only seem like entertainment, but there's always some hard-earned wisdom or learning delivered along the way. Forging that connection requires empathy – enough understanding of the audience to know what will resonate. And it demands honesty – you must be fully in touch with yourself and vulnerable enough to admit flaws. Stephen's early cover letters and emails were all about him – where he'd been educated, what he wanted to do, and what his "passions" were. "Bad news, Stephen," I said. "Nobody cares about your passions. But the good news is that everybody is interested in what happened to you that made you so passionate." That led Stephen to a process of self-examination, and a review of the "defining experiences" that sparked his love of pediatric nursing. He recalled a night in an Atlanta ER early in his training. A desperate young couple had arrived with a baby who was only minutes from crashing. Sensing the parents' panic, Stephen recognized that they were as much a part of the equation as the baby. "It's not just about taking care of children," he said. "The job is really about taking care of whole families. That's why it matters." The point of recognizing these kinds of defining experiences is not just to give you a set of powerful stories, but to put you in touch with what makes you special to yourself. This not only helps you stand out from the crowd, it also keeps you focused on what you love to do, not just what you can do. Next, you need to build a bridge to the person you need to reach, be it a grizzled HR rep or an overworked hiring manager. This can only be done through the hard work of empathy. Stephen had conducted his job search as most people do, by scanning postings, finding openings, and sending cover letters. It was a carpet-bomb approach: fill in a few blanks and hit as many faceless targets as possible. Not a promising strategy. I advised that he focus instead on a handful of his most coveted prospects, and do deep research on the people, places and challenges involved. There was one role in particular that he was interested in, though it felt out of his reach. We looked past the job description to research websites, patient reviews, leadership profiles, and news reports about the hospital. In his cover letter, Stephen cited one video he'd seen – a testimonial from a grateful parent – and he explained how it resonated with his values. Almost immediately he was invited to interview, which in turn sparked a new round of investigation, this time focused on the senior manager interviewing him. Stephen arrived with a clear sense of the manager, almost as though he knew her, and he was well-armed with stories, questions, and ideas. Six weeks later, Stephen was offered the job of his dreams. To be clear, it was Stephen's training, skill, and character that earned him the role. But it was his storytelling that helped differentiate him from others and offered him a moment to shine. FIND YOUR INNER STORYTELLER LOOKING FOR A JOB? Mario Juarez Business Mindset RO Mario Juarez is an organizational consultant, coach, and motivational speaker. He focuses on helping organizations and individuals achieve better business results through strategic storytelling. An award-winning former journalist, Mario led a series of innovative communications initiatives at Microsoft before founding his company, StoryCo, which serves clients across a range of industries.

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