Stand Out From Your Competition: Tell Your Story

Most job applicants spend a lot of time crafting the aspect of their lives one could term as, “the known facts” usually embedded in their Certificates and Resumes. In fact, a lot of young people are so particular about certificates for any little course they attend.

So when one gets into an interview room with a battalion of Certificates and well-crafted Resume, what they are doing is simply presenting facts about their life. To some extent, these facts are mostly things that are the obvious and the bare minimum. These are things like what subjects one studied in school, which school they went to, what course they took, which year, what grade, what other courses they took and so on.

In order to enhance one’s chances of being hired, one needs to present information that is outside of what is expected. This is because there is stiff competition for few job vacancies not just in Uganda, but around the world. For example, in Uganda, Makerere University alone will see more than 30,000 students each year graduate. There are more than 10 universities in the country. There are also tens of reputable tertiary institutions too offering Diplomas and Higher Diplomas.

So we have a tentative number of close to 50,000 ‘graduates’ every year. When granted the opportunity for an interview, most of these graduates only arm themselves with facts about their academics. That is what they have been preparing themselves with all along.

That should not be the same case with you, if you have to enhance your chances in getting a job ahead of everybody else, you need to add this one small nugget—the art of ‘Storytelling’.

People get hired mostly because of the blend of skills they have and the initiative they can show. If the 50,000 graduates are all super-skilled and interview panels have to make a decision on whom to hire, they will almost always hire the “story-teller”.

Now, we are not just talking about stories of the hare and the elephant. Far from it. We are instead talking about your exploits away from school. These are the things you:

  1. Took a personal initiative of: A good example is rallying your community to clean your neighborhood
  2. Volunteered your skills, time and knowledge: A good example is teaching children a particular skill in the weekends
  3. Personal Challenges: Where you challenged yourself to do something new such as run a marathon under one hour.
  4. Part of as a social club or any unofficial initiative: E.g. Rotaract, Youth Group, Church Group, etc
  5. Internships you were part of after school and so on.

The tragedy we see in interview rooms is lack of stories but lots of facts. This tells you that many young people are not personally developing outside of the school structure. Anybody who can tell you stories of personal achievement is someone who is intentional, disciplined, and action-oriented. Such a person stands a great chance of getting a job.

Another tragedy is that many young people wait for an opportunity to have an interview so they can do the above. In this day and age, that can be a little bit too late.

As you await your opportunity for an interview, we invite you to sharpen your ‘story-telling’ skills. This means that you need to accumulate hours upon hours of positive activity that you can be part of in order to create experiences from which you can share personal stories of inspiration and achievement with an interview panel.

As you do this, remember the following simple format to use in sharing your story:

  • Describe the situation before you got involved with it. A good example is, “there was a huge dump site in the community that was posing health hazards”
  • Describe your intention and goal to remedy the situation: A good example is, “I wanted to accomplish two things: First, to get rid of the dump site and second, to educate the community on the collective responsibility on our health”
  • Describe the real action that you took: A good example is, “I talked to my brother and cousins and we mobilized other youths in the community. Luckily, one of our friends is the son of the Elder in the community and so it was easy to get the buy in of the Leadership in the area”
  • Describe the situation after you were through. Did you achieve your set goal?
  • Identify obstacles and how you overcame them: This is what the panel is looking for. How did you handle the challenge and what did you learn. Could there have been a better way of doing it? What is the next big thing that you are thinking of pulling off?
  • Add emotion: Use words such as, “I really felt”, “It was pretty frustrating”, “I am so proud”, and so on
  • Add details: Be as expressive as possible

Now, we are not advising you to be mechanical with your story telling, but to be spontaneous. The panel would ask you questions such as, “What is the thing that you are proud of in your life?” That’s your cue to story tell.

Advantages of stories:

  1. Emotional attachment by the panel: They will be intimately involved in your story and that increases your chances.
  2. Showcases personal involvement and initiative outside of the facts of school certificates
  3. You take the platform from the panel to yourself: For the period of time that you are talking, you are ‘the boss’, so to speak. The more you own the platform, the higher the panel trusts you and the better your chances are.
  4. You have an opportunity to inspire the panel with a personal story of achievement outside of school.

You want to be successful in your job interview, add to the facts about your academics, your stories of achievement outside of school.

10 replies
  1. Nalumansi Shahidah
    Nalumansi Shahidah says:

    It is a great piece indeed but if i may ask do family challenges apply to personal challenges too or they are out of the box

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *