Act II in stories we are used to hearing is the part where we hear and read about the barriers and challenges that the hero (the protagonist) faces and overcomes. In the stories that we read or watch, the more great barriers and challenges that build up the suspense and give the protagonist the chance to show how she/he overcomes them, the better. Each of the challenges get bigger and bigger until only a superhero using every power bestowed, or so it seems, could surmount them. This makes for a great story and one that we will listen, watch and read intently. The same can be done with your career story during an interview.
Last week we established you as the protagonist and the interesting and compelling character that has caught the interest and intrigue of the interviewer. They now know just enough about you to want to hear more about where you are going and how you have gotten to where you are now. This is when you begin to introduce the barriers and challenges of Act II that you have been able to overcome and beat back when they were put in front of you.
You might be thinking that these barriers are hard to come up with, but don’t jump to that conclusion just yet. The way to think about Act II is to consider first and foremost your audience. Nearly every interviewer has some story that is similar to yours that they will relate to and appreciate, if for no other reason than they share the same experience that you have…you both work.
Work can be a universal story-telling platform because of the common story-lines across every industry. You have to listen and look no further than an airport airline lounge to know that the same stories are being told across companies and industries. Just change the names and personalities and the stories sound the same. This is good for your career story in that you have barriers and challenges that you have overcome that are relatable and sound familiar, for example:
- the deal that almost got away
- the sales call that no one else could crack
- the employee that seemed impossible to manage or develop,
- the tough boss
- the co-worker who didn’t want to work with anyone else
- the job that was really hard to fill
- the merger
- the acquisition
- the lack of funding
- the promotion that no one thought could be had
- the bad board member
You get the idea – the list could go on and on. The key here is to find the three to four stories to tell, that when asked you can weave together challenges and barriers that got harder and bigger, but you, of all people, were able to overcome and remove. The listener should be walking away from Act II thinking there is nothing that could be thrown at you, his/her new found hero that can hold you back. In the course of these stories you will have emphasized your skills, your values and principles, your emotions, your passion, your ability to deal and resolve problems, and your tenacity to reach a finish line.
All that is left of the story now is Act III, on how you achieve the ultimate goal. Next week, we will conclude the “Story of You” with how to get the interviewer to buy into wanting to complete your story for you!