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Story Powered Job Search

05/04/2015 10:19 am ET | Updated May 03, 2016

It's a new way of thinking about connecting people and jobs. There is no organization where this is done today. Should that change?

Here's where it starts.

All three had just lost their jobs. Jenny (22) a writer; Harry (60) a human resources executive; and Jose (45) a Business Analyst. Each of them were working with professionals. Career Development, Outplacement, Coaches, Workforce Development. Different names delivering the same thing: Recipes and Formulas for finding work. As if search was a math problem.

The professional job search pros were all hard working, caring people. Some even spoke to the "isms" that heaped another set of challenges on the unemployed trio. Jenny faced sexism and one kind of ageism. Harry faced the other kind of ageism. And Jose had a physical disability. So the basics of job search were helpful.

Problem was that this newly unemployed trio already knew those basics. The resumes, interviewing and networking.

And even if their basics needed brushing up, what happened then? The real gut squeezing terror of job search just couldn't be faced by a set of instructions that began with 'How-to . . .'

In their own words:

Jenny, "Job search advice is like going to this great new store full of the most beautiful clothes you've ever seen and nothing fits you."

Jose, "Where's the app that answers 'What am I supposed to do now?"

Harry, "Why is this taking me so long?"

The "how-to" advice went on and on, but something was missing.

The image comes to mind of all us serving the unemployed standing around a giant swimming pool, pretending to swim on dry land. Then after we've watched the job seeker do a few strokes on their own, we 'professionals' point at the pool and say, "OK! Jump!"

Which is why it's time to start thinking differently about the way we find work. It's time for "Story Powered Job Search."

Story Powered Job Search

It starts with this: Job search can be irrational!! It can take a minute or a decade. The most qualified candidates don't always get the job. Dig deep enough and you'll find something unique about the way you got your job. Or don't dig deep. You got the job because your Uncle Jack owns the company. There is no formula!

So why do we keep trotting out the same old boring job search clichés to answer an irrational problem? It's because familiar formulas are easy. Even if they fall short, formulas are much easier. Stories take thought. Stories are hard.

Story Powered Job Search takes a different approach: Given that every search is unique, and given that the process is essentially irrational, then the single most powerful tool in this journey is the Story.

Why The Story?

First, because the story is the currency of human communication. People don't communicate by sharing instructions. People use stories. Stories reflect who we are as individuals at the deepest and most visible levels. Stories can change the world. The answer to "Why are you a fit for this job?" is NOT the data on a resume. The answer is a story.

When you share a story, you aren't giving an 'elevator speech.' You are building the mutual understanding that drives hiring.

Second, Stories can prompt action. In Finding Work When There Are No Jobs, we have five principles: "Tell your Story, Add Music, Communitize, Solve a Mystery and Practice Stewardship."

What does all that mean?

Without the story it means nothing!! But with a story, showing the principle in action, each of those principles can shape one's individual search for more, better, or any work. Each story prompts the individual in their own way. Each story prompts different answers to the question "What if I thought or did something differently?"

Job search today is about performing a uniform set of tasks. That's not a bad thing. It's just not enough. Story Powered Search takes the next step and makes the search totally personal. It prompts the seeker to expand their path. To own their search. To build bridges to shared understanding. The kind of shared understanding that gets a person hired.

The Secret of Story Power

Jenny and Jose both got jobs. Harry is still struggling. What Jenny and Jose came to see, and it was a brutally hard learning, is the absolute need to answer the question "What would thinking differently about finding work mean to me?"

For example, Jenny's struggle included her need to reveal every tiny detail of her work history to a perspective employer.

But through a thoughtful reading of a story in Finding Work When There Are No Jobs, a story about a Chicago disc jockey who built a career on his honesty, Jenny came to see that the elements of her work history that mattered most to the employer made a more useful story.

Jose got his job because after reflecting on a story and the book's thought prompting questions about an elderly Welsh lady who lived the life of a leader, he decided he could also be a leader. So he started sharing stories about the courageous leadership in everyday tasks that are demanded of him as a young man with a disability. When it came time for an employer to choose between a business analyst who met the criteria for the job and Jose, who both met the criteria and was a leader--the employer chose Jose.

For Jenny and Jose the prompting of the principle driven stories made their searches personal. It wasn't about the advice, it was about them.

And Harry? He's still out there pitching resumes to strangers. It could work. Or not. All he knows is that he doesn't have time for stories.

And if he looked for an organization with a Story Powered approach, he wouldn't find one. Because there are none.

He's working with an outplacement firm. This week they'll critique the resume.

Maybe that will help. Maybe not. But is there another way for Harry?

What if there was an organization that did Story Powered Job Search? Humanized this horribly hard process by making it personal.

Do you think it's possible? And if it is, how could we build it?