How do you stand out from hundreds of other applicants in your job search?
Whether you’re a grad student seeking a transition into industry or an industry
professional seeking a new role, communicating your value in a memorable way can
play a huge part in achieving your career goals. This month, Dr. Bruce Seet launched
the Guelph and Waterloo S2BN Chapters by sharing how to communicate your value
and other key leanings of his journey from academia to industry.
Discover your story by becoming an expert in the most important subject –
You may be an expert on that particular protein you’re researching or a particular
therapeutic area, being able to carry conversations on the topic with ease. However,
when was the last time you sat down and studied yourself? Imagine how easy it will
be to speak about your strengths, your experiences, your passions, or what makes
you unique once you have taken the time to fully assess yourself. You will be able to
authentically and confidently answer questions about yourself in job interviews and
essentially any interaction with others, leaving them with a lasting impression.
Considerations for self-assessment:
Complete a personal SWOT analysis to learn your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for growth or new experiences, and threats to reaching your goals. The website Mind Tools offers a free worksheet to get you started. Consider asking your family and friends for feedback on your SWOT by creating an anonymous online survey.
Take inventory of your values (e.g. making a lot of money, having a good work/life balance, the kind of work you find meaningful). Knowing your values will help guide you in making tough decisions regarding your career path. Choosing a role that aligns with your values is ideal, as doing the opposite can lead to dissatisfaction. Check out https://myidp.sciencecareers.org for more information.
Keep a list of your experiences and skills learned from these experiences. Include major experiences like completing a PhD or getting a new job, as well as smaller experiences like successfully handling conflict with a colleague or coming up with an innovative idea that impressed your boss. These experiences will help you answer those tough behavioral interview questions and help you build your story. Your list of experiences should be diverse and if it is not, it’s time to gain some more experience! Consider collaborating with people outside of your field, joining a club or volunteering.
Challenge yourself to write a summary statement about you. Think of it as an elevator pitch, being no longer than 30 seconds. You may need to start with a longer summary and revise it to be as concise as possible, including only the key points that make you unique. This is a huge asset in answering the “tell me about yourself” interview question or when networking.
Tell your story in a memorable way
A key part of standing out among others is being memorable. Storytelling is a
method that creates an emotional connection and captivates the listener. Good
stories will be memorable. After studying yourself and completing the exercises
listed above, you should have discovered elements important for including in your
story; the question now is how to tell it.
The simplest framework for storytelling: CAR
Context – describe the setting; explain the problem.
Action – explain what you did to solve the problem, walk the listener through your thought process and what you did that’s unique.
Result – deliver the punch line; what happened because of your action. Consider the broader impact of your action for a more meaningful story.
This framework is useful in resume writing, where each concise bullet point should
be in CAR format. For example: “In response to a vaccine supply problem, I
researched and learned new experiments to optimize the manufacturing process,
leading to increased antigen yield and supply”. This framework can also be used in
job interviews, where you have the opportunity to be more detailed and elaborate.
A few other tips for telling a memorable story:
Be vivid and descriptive to paint a picture for the listener
Use metaphors to explain complex concepts
Avoid data and jargon (too scientific and lacks emotional connection; use sparingly to back up your story)
Network and share your story
Your story is a useful tool for communicating with new people. When you meet
someone and make a memorable positive impression, their network becomes your
network, significantly increasing the number of people you know. The saying “it’s
not what you know, its who you know” wouldn’t be used so much if it weren’t true.
Sometimes it takes a little nudge from someone you know to get your application to
the top of the pile, despite how well you’ve written your resume or performed in the
job interview. Aside from benefiting your career, networking can also lead you to
find new friends or new experiences.
Tips for effective networking:
Be personable, as talking about something unrelated to work can help you stand out. Find common interests (e.g. sports) or talk about what matters to them (e.g. their children, pets, a cause they volunteer for). Share your passions as well, as people tend to light up when they talk about their passions and that fosters human connection.
Always follow-up (e.g. over email or LinkedIn) and include something memorable in your note (e.g. a shared joke, an update on their favorite sports team or wish their kids well at an upcoming competition). Of course follow-up, requires you to have their contact information. Ask for a business card at the end of your interaction and try noting a few things about the person on the back of their card to remember for the follow-up or your next encounter.
Consider reading the book “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferazzi, which highlights the power of relationships and is an excellent guide to networking and connecting with others.
Communicating your value through storytelling can help you differentiate yourself.
Study yourself to discover your story, tell it in a memorable way, and meet new
people to share your story with. What better place to meet new people, than at
Science to Business Network events – we hope to see you soon!