Here’s something I get asked about:

“Why didn’t you use stories earlier in your career?”

I get it. Not every person grew up with a master storyteller for a father. Or studied and worked in theatre for 20 years. But, before you think you’ll never be able to use stories to grow your career, remember, I spent most of my career making $32,000 or less. I didn’t know how to use stories in my career at first either.

I’ve been in the place where I sensed I should be making more money doing work I loved. And, I’ll share with you what I did to change that.

Years before I made the move to running Career Stories, I worked at a small not-for-profit. The good news was that I had a job that respected my talents and where I had a flexible schedule. The board of directors accepted and celebrated almost every idea I shared with them.

The bad news was — none of that turned into a promotion or more money.

I tried negotiating a higher salary, but the result was minor. I applied for other art and community jobs and got interviews, but the salaries were the same and they had less flexibility. I signed up for online HR classes and applied for HR jobs and never got a call.

I wanted a job where I could do my favorite work and get paid well. That’s why I started looking at the story I was sharing.

So, what did I change?

I heard many quotes about the power of stories, but the one that stuck with me was, “don’t tell them where you’ve been, tell them where you’re going.”

That got me thinking: how could I tweak what I say about myself to grow my career? Would this change my life? Would I finally land work that paid more, but where I also got to be myself?

I decided to try, so I made a new resume that talked about what I wanted to do.

I knew it was a good resume because I couldn’t stop reading it over and smiling. I looked good on paper.

Here’s how it worked:

  • I read every resume book in the world (not really, but really)
  • I changed all the artspeak to industry language (mostly HR)
  • I highlighted skills the companies were looking for and used the right words
  • I backed up those skills with examples (aka stories)
  • I stopped saying “taught a class to children” and changed it to “developed workshops for clients and stakeholders” so I didn’t sound like a children’s drama teacher

I started to send the resume out. And, it worked. I got interview requests for HR jobs, even at places that sold insurance and were corporate. But, no job offers or second interviews. When I went to interviews I was worried about…

  • Not being corporate enough
  • Coming off as too creative
  • Not having the right answers to their questions – no matter how much I googled the popular questions and how to answer them
  • Looking stupid

This was supposed to be my big launch into growing a career and I felt like a fraud.

I know what I did next, but my question for you is what would you have done?

Here’s the situation again:

You are getting called for interviews. You have the skills to do the job. You have some time to prep for them. You’ve never worked in a company like theirs before.

What would you do?

Comment below and tell me what you’d do and why. I’m eager to read what you’d try.

Next week, I’ll tell you what I did and how it changed my career. And, how learning to shape your story can change yours too.