The best stories are true stories, and the best true stories are those taken from our own unique lives. The final segment of this three-part series on "Your Own Personal Brand" ( see part one and part two) is your "PAR" story -- Problem, Approach, Resolution. This is an effective and memorable way to showcase your talents, abilities, character and personality in interviews or introductions. A well-crafted and authentic PAR story powerfully answers statements and questions such as, "So, tell me a bit about yourself" or "Why do you feel qualified for this position?" because it "sells" your skills and character in an extremely original and positive manner, helping you stand out from the swarming crowd of yammering applicants.
Begin your PAR story with a line such as, "Well, I'd like to tell you a story that I think shows my character..." or "I'd like to answer your question with a story which illustrates how I deal with..." Then tell them a problem or challenge that you confronted in your life -- you were afraid of swimming; you were faced with a seemingly impossible task at university or at a previous job; you were dissatisfied with yourself. Then explain your approach to this challenge -- you taught yourself how to swim; you studied or applied yourself harder; you contacted an expert to assist you in a self-development program. Finally, end your story with a positive resolution: Now, I love swimming; the project ended successfully; I've increased my IT skills or have gained greater self-confidence, etc.
Your PAR story should illustrate a positive transformation and development in your life. It must be true; don't lie or make one up because perceptive interviewers will see through it. You should prepare three to five different stories, some personal and some professional. They should be one to five minutes long, and should show how you overcame some difficulty or challenge in your life, the lessons you learned from this experience, and how this process has made you the wiser, stronger person you are today.
The transformation in your PAR story should be: from then to the challenge to how you have developed. It should contrast how you were back then and how you have now improved. Some examples include:
Then → Development → Now
Paniced → Calm
Fat → Thin
Couldn't → Can
Smoked → Quit
Party animal → Hard worker
Weakness → Strength
Fearful → Self-confident
Ignorant → Gained know-how
Challenge → Creative solution
Didn't know → Learned that.../how to...
I was that way → Now I'm this way
Your PAR story should end happily, so don't tell a story such as, "Well, when I was a teenager I got hooked on heroin, and then got into trouble with the police and spent 10 years in jail. But now I've been released, although I do miss the greatest high imaginable! Um... am I hired?"
Effective PAR stories end with a positive summation of your experience, such as:
I've learned... to be more tolerant/flexible
I've become... more self-confident
I found... creative solutions to...
I discovered... how to successfully...
What this shows about me is... that I'm able to...
This illustrates... that my character is....
An authentic, passionate PAR story taken from your own life-story will have a "Wow!" effect on bored and jaded HR officers and managers who listen to scores of oh-so-enthusiastic applicants droning on about their education, experience and qualifications. Hitting them with a true and dramatic PAR story, however, will jar them out of their stupor and ensure that they don't forget you after the interview. If your story is good enough, it could even result in a job offer on the spot, and all you will have sold them is you; fascinating, unique you and your abilities to learn, develop and grow.