Everyone is unique. We go about living our lives and most of the time we follow rules which force us to appear like everyone else. We pride ourselves on being individuals and then conform to norms that make us all the same. A job search is no different. In order to be accepted as a serious candidate there must be a certain amount of adoption of the standards set by those who are hiring. A resume is probably one of the least effective elements of a job search but it is an essential evil. One of the most boring books I have ever read was a bound book of resumes from a university career placement center (unnamed because it is one of the biggies). Every page said virtually the same thing except that the name at the top changed with each page turn. I could say that the plot was weak too, but it is such a tragedy it is not a joking matter.
What sets people apart from everybody else’s resume, cover letter and elevator speech is a personal story. We are coached, prodded and cajoled to conform to a cookie cutter job search without starting with the creation of an underlying story that glues it all together. The rules for storytelling are not absolute, but an interesting compilation of unlikely suggestions has come out of Pixar, the CGI animation studio that has produced blockbuster stories for over 25 years. The applicability of adapting movie scripting rules to tell our stories is not an off the wall concept. The title character “Me” is someone who has a past, present and future that must be made believable to our audience.
There are a total of 22 Pixar Story Rules in one list which deserves to be read in its entirety, but there are a few which stand out more than others in telling a job seeker’s story.
- #2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different. – Throughout your job search, remember it is never about what you want but about what the person that needs you wants. These should match up at the end of the script, but may be very different while it is in progress.
- #5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free. – Too much detail ends up being overkill. Editing the small stuff out of your story may seem like cutting out a piece of your heart, but emphasis on the important selling points will offset that.
- #6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal? – Your story has to explain how you are different from those other candidates that are interviewing. There is a positive side of your being there so make it a major theme of your story.
- #7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front. – If you don’t know the outcome of your job search it will be difficult to convince others that you belong there. Think it through, see yourself in a new environment, then make it happen.
- #11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone. – There is nothing that organizes thoughts and coordinates actions better than writing it down. This is the grand “to do” list, the measures of accomplished tasks, the things too important to forget.
- #17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later. – Agonizing endlessly over the stumbles is not in itself productive but does form a learning experience around stumbling. Next time you will be ready to walk around obstacles in your path.
- #22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there. – The last step, not the first step, is the elevator speech. You know the beginning, middle and end, so your audience is ready for your condensed version. Think of it as your life script trailer.
What is your “Once upon a time…” or “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” line and what happened next? Creating your story before you begin committing mistakes along the way can smooth over the rough parts and reduce the need for editing in the end. A consistent and rehearsed story instills confidence in the storyteller and makes it believable. In a first contact, make them want to see the whole story. After hearing the story, make them want to see a sequel. Then live happily ever after.
Image credit: PixarToyStory kawing921 / 123RF Stock Photo