Tell Your Career Story with Gusto
And Boost Your Self-Confidence Along the Way

Just about every client I’ve worked with has told me they don’t know how to “sell” themselves to prospective employers.  They’re not sure how to discuss their skills and successes in a confident, proactive manner.  In short, they’re unsure how to communicate their value to future employers, colleagues and even to themselves.

For some, this stumbling block feels insurmountable and they abandon any hope of changing jobs or careers because they find the prospect of having to sell themselves too intimidating

It doesn’t have to be this way!  I’ve helped each of my clients develop comfortable language with which to promote themselves and their achievements in a positive, truthful, confident manner. 

I want to help you do the same.  The key is to develop your success stories.  The power activity in this career success guide will help you do just that.   

Success stories are essential because they bring the skills you claim you have to life.  They paint a vivid picture so others can easily grasp the points you’re conveying about yourself. 

People love to hear stories, especially real-life stories.  I’m convinced this is why reality shows are so popular.  Everyone wants a sneak peak into another person’s unseen life. 

Later in this guide, you’ll find real-world examples of success stories from some of my coaching clients.  I also include specific instructions on how to develop your stories.

Your success stories will serve you in a variety of ways.  You’ll find you can use these narratives in multiple settings, including when you are:

  • Interviewing for a Job
  • Applying for a Promotion
  • Negotiating a Pay Raise
  • Networking in a Professional Setting
  • Building Your Resume
  • Enhancing Your Self-Confidence
  • Overcoming Past Negative Experiences
  • Honing Your Career Sweet Spot

As you can see, your stories will have many practical applications.  The most important of which is helping you hone in on your career sweet spot. 

As you review your past successes you’ll notice themes will emerge pointing to the highest and best use of your individual skills and talents.  These themes will provide information essential to defining your authentic career fit.  The following pages outline specifically how you can put your success stories to work for you.

 

Practical Applications of Your Success Stories


Success Stories – Practical Application #1: 
Interviewing for a Job

Your success stories will be invaluable during job interviews.  Most interviewers like to ask “behavioral style” questions.  These types of questions are meant to illicit real-world examples of your on-the-job accomplishments.  The interviewer is looking for you to provide real-life scenarios from your job history.  These types of questions usually start out with the phrase:  “Tell me about a time you …”

Examples of behavioral style questions include:  

  • Tell me about a time you faced a problem and how you solved it.
  • Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult client or colleague.
  • Tell me about a time you used an innovative approach to address a perplexing challenge.

Telling the interviewer a story packs a much greater punch than simply declaring you have a certain skill.  Interviewers want specifics when meeting with job candidates. 

See the difference in impact between these responses:

Example One

Interviewer Question:         “Do you have budget management experience?”

Candidate Response:           “Yes I do have budget management experience.”
  –  vs.  –
Candidate Response:           “Yes, I have budget management experience.  In my previous position, I successfully developed and managed an annual budget of over $6 million.”

 

Example Two

Interviewer Question:         “Do you have grants management experience?”

Candidate Response:           “Yes I do have some grants management experience.”
  –  vs.  –
Candidate Response:           “Yes, I have grants management experience.  I currently oversee $3.2 million in annual grants to 36 nonprofit agencies in 18 developing countries across Latin America and Africa.  These grants deliver services to 240,000 clients and public health information to 1.6 million clients each year.”

 

Success Stories – Practical Application #2: 
Applying for a Promotion

When you’re applying for a promotion at your current place of employment, you need to present solid evidence as to why you deserve it.  Providing proof you are a performer who delivers powerful results will make it much more likely you’ll get the promotion. 

Many managers ascribe to the theory that the best indication of future behavior is past behavior.  Use your stories to demonstrate your recent on-the-job wins.  This will provide the decision maker with evidence to help them choose you for the promotion.  When angling for a promotion, I recommend you develop a one-page memo to share with your manager during a face-to-face meeting. 


Success Stories – Practical Application #3: 

Negotiating a Salary Increase

When asking for a raise, provide as much detailed information to your manager as possible.  Provide them with a one-page report outlining the top reasons it’s in the company’s best interest to give you a pay increase.  Your success stories will be a big part of this written report.  You will also use these vignettes during the oral presentation you make to your supervisor. 

 

Success Stories – Practical Application #4: 
Professional Networking

How many times a year do you get asked the question:  “What do you do for a living?”  In response to this common question, wouldn’t you like to have a lively answer that establishes you as someone who stands out from the pack?

Furthermore, how many times has someone shared with you what they do, but you’re still not really sure what they’re talking about?  Wouldn’t some real-world examples help in this situation?

Your success stories will add life to your networking presentation.  As you’re describing what you do, you can sprinkle in real-world examples that paint a vivid picture of the value you bring to your position. 

Consider the following responses to the question:  “What do you do for a living?”

Answer One

I am an Information Technology Consultant.

Answer Two

I am an Information Technology Consultant.  I help busy executives learn new software to help them increase both their productivity and bottom line.  For example, I recently helped a new CEO learn three new software applications in one afternoon.  As a result, he reported he increased his productivity during an average week by 20 percent!

As you can see, adding the success story example offers the listener a much crisper picture of what you do.  Therefore, they can connect with you on a much deeper level and will be empowered to assist you in the future.  That way, you’re forging valuable networking connections that will assist you with your professional goals in tangible ways.  That is, opposed to simply cluttering your desk drawer with stacks of business cards.


Success Stories – Practical Application #5: 
Resume Building

Your success stories are crucial to building an effective resume.  The key to a stellar resume is including results and outcomes.  The number one mistake women make with their resume is focusing too much on their job duties rather than their accomplishments.  Hiring managers want to see the actual results of your efforts not just the assignments you carried out and the tasks you completed. 

Consider the following example of a resume bullet for a marketing professional:

 

Option One

  • Managed sales campaign to promote technology product in 38 markets nationwide.

 

Option Two

  • Led development and implementation of sales campaign to intensely promote technology product in 38 markets nationwide; Campaign generated $3.5 million in net income, exceeding target by $600,000.

 

As you can see, bullet number two packs a much greater punch.  Adding specific outcomes, quantifiable results and lively language adds life to your resume and makes your words jump off the page.

 

Success Stories – Practical Application #6: 
Enhancing Your Self-Confidence

Every time I assist a client in developing their success stories, I receive the same feedback.  Each person comments on how this is an extremely empowering exercise and one that markedly improved their self-confidence.

You will also find your success stories provide evidence of your contributions and accomplishments.  You can effectively use them as inspiration for your own positive self-talk and to buoy you during the challenging times.

For example, I use a specific past success to lift my self-confidence before I do public speaking.  I am a very good public speaker, but I have to get myself psyched up to be in the right frame of mind.  The following story helps me prepare when I’m feeling anxious about getting in front of a group of people.  It is actually, believe it or not, a success story from high school.

I was a senior in high school.  My social studies class was doing a group project on the United States Congress.  We were organized into groups of ten and each of us played the role of a United States Senator. 

I was chosen to be the leader of my group and deliver our presentation to an entire combined class of two – about sixty students.  To ramp up the pressure – my former boyfriend (the one who broke my heart) would be in the audience! 

I really wanted to do well in front of him.  And that I did!  I delivered my presentation flawlessly.  I’ll always remember the feedback I received from my teacher.  After my presentation, he walked over to me and congratulated me on such a great presentation.  He looked me in the eye and shook my hand.  This was the first time I had ever had an adult “authority figure” shake my hand as though we were peers!  This really meant a lot to me.

This is the “success video tape” I play in my head as I ready myself for big presentations.  I let myself emotionally connect with the great feelings I felt on that day back in high school.  It builds my confidence and helps me face the daunting challenge of public speaking.  Use your stories to do the same and play your own personal “success video tapes” whenever you need a self-confidence boost.

 

Success Stories – Practical Application #7: 
Overcoming Past Negative Experiences

Along the lines of enhancing self-confidence, developing your success stories will be particularly useful in helping you overcome past negative on-the-job experiences.  For example, one of my clients had a negative experience with a previous manager four years earlier.  Even though this client had moved on to a new company, she never got over the negative feedback she received from that one manager. 

Developing her stories helped her process through and overcome the feelings of inadequacy that one bad manager had instilled in her.  Seeing all her very solid and quantifiable results laid out on paper helped her triumph over the past negative experience and move forward in her career with gusto.

 

Success Stories – Practical Application #8: 
Honing Your Career Sweet Spot

Most of all, your success stories are going to help you laser in on your career sweet spot.  They will assist you in finalizing the process of discovering your authentic career fit.

The vignettes you come up with will help tell the story of when you are at your best in the workplace and help you key in on the highest and best use of your professional talents. 

Next, I share some real-world success examples and then provide step-by-step instructions on how to develop your narratives. 

 

Success Story Examples

To give you a clear idea of what I mean by success stories, here are several examples.  These stories are from some of the women I have coached. 

The headlines of each of the six stories are:

  • Story 1: Millions of Dollars Saved
  • Story 2: Pending Litigation Resolved Out of Court
  • Story 3: Successful Strategic Planning
  • Story 4: Staffing Challenge Resolved, Departmental Performance Improved, Money Saved
  • Story 5: Follow-Up Rate Increased to a Full 100%
  • Story 6: Sales Results Exceed Projections by Over 40%

 

Success Story 1: 

Millions of Dollars Saved

Elaine works for a large energy company in Houston.  She is a director in the Credit Risk division.  She and her team are responsible for deciding which corporate customers her company extends financial credit to. 

During a coaching session, I helped her identify one of her greatest on-the-job successes.  It was a huge accomplishment she hadn’t previously fully acknowledged.

I’m sure you remember the corporate scandal from several years back involving a company called Enron that experienced a complete financial meltdown.  Elaine was responsible for the decision not to extend credit to Enron based on her risk analysis of the company. 

This was almost a year before the scandal broke.  This decision turned out to be an extremely valuable one that ultimately saved her company literally millions of dollars.  But, she hadn’t really connected with or acknowledged this huge success until we talked about it.

This was clearly a colossal professional win for her and a phenomenal success chronicle she can use throughout her career in a variety of settings.

 

Success Story 2: 

Pending Litigation Resolved Out of Court

Keith is an attorney and serves as corporate counsel to a global insurance firm in Atlanta.  Here is one of his most impressive success stories:

“As a member of the corporate counsel team, I managed the largest caseload of commercial property and casualty insurance litigation in the department which included over 150 cases.  I also directed outside counsel to use strategic motion practices to resolve numerous pending litigation cases out of court, thus saving the company untold dollars in legal fees and reducing the case backlog by one-third in a two-year period.”

 

Success Story 3: 

Successful Strategic Planning

Robin is a Vice President at a national nonprofit organization in Orlando.  Here is one of her success stories, in her own words:

“Earlier this year I was asked to lead the Strategic Planning Workgroup.  With only the most cursory guidelines and rudimentary articulation of what the finished product should look like, I assembled my team and launched the implementation of this challenging project.  Meetings amongst the workgroup were scheduled, processes for developing the strategic plan conceived, stakeholders identified, responsibilities and expectations communicated and deadlines for assignments distributed.  

Under my tutelage, we produced a strategic plan that exceeded expectations and has utility beyond the plan itself.  As an outgrowth of this project, our division has developed a detailed fiscal year work plan from which every staff member in headquarters has developed their individual work plans.  Moreover, because the project design and implementation was inclusive and transparent, necessary staff ‘buy-in’ and support was achieved, helping to ensure ultimate success.”

 

Success Story 4: 

Staffing Challenge Resolved, Departmental Performance Improved,

Money Saved

Luke is a manager at a financial services company in Boston.  He supervised a team of three until one person had to be terminated due to poor performance and another staffer moved on to a higher paying position.  

Instead of hiring two replacements, Luke subscribed to a new cutting-edge online financial tool which streamlined the entire analytical process.  This subscription allowed his one remaining staffer to produce reports even more effectively and efficiently than before at a mere 30 percent the previous cost.  This strategic decision saved the company money, improved overall performance and resolved a challenging staffing predicament.      

 

Success Story 5: 

Follow-Up Rate Increased to a Full 100%

In a previous position, Elizabeth served as the Director of Child Victim Services for one of the largest counties in California.  Here is her success story: 

“I developed the entire Child Advocacy Program from the ground up, building it into an effective and comprehensive system of services for children and their families.  By creating an effective and cohesive team of social workers, police officers, probation officers and prosecutors – I increased morale, team pride and staff commitment to the program. 

This resulted in an increase in the case follow-up rate to a full 100 percent.  Furthermore, due to the outstanding results of the program, I successfully transitioned the funding from a contingency grant to dedicated, ongoing state funding.” 

 

Success Story 6: 

Sales Results Exceed Projections by Over 40%

Victor is an Advertising & Public Relations Director for a national department store.  This is his success chronicle about launching a brand new store in a previously undeveloped market:

“I was tasked with the marketing and advertising of a new store that was scheduled to launch in an undeveloped market for our company.  The pressure was on and I knew the results had to be good for this high profile, new-market entry launch.  In an already saturated market, my company had low brand awareness.  With a limited budget, I decided to use a low-cost public relations strategy.  

In less than three months, I used my media contacts to generate over fifty stories in 19 major print and broadcast outlets.  During the opening weekend, the new store achieved high foot traffic and sales results.  Grand opening sales exceeded projections by over 40 percent.”

Use these six narratives as both models and inspiration to craft your own stories.  Next, I provide detailed instructions on how to develop your success stories.

 

How to Develop Your Success Stories 

Now its time for you to develop your success stories.  At this point, you may be thinking:  “But I don’t have any success stories.”  To this I say:  Hogwash!  I know you do! 

Every client I coach through this process has feelings of self-doubt in the beginning.  Each and every time, I help them develop strong, powerful stories that truly exemplify their greatest strengths and talents.  If you’re feeling some anxiety right now that is ok – your emotions are valid.  Just remember, you are a legitimate professional with lots to offer and a track record of success to prove it. 

Most women get stuck when it’s time to develop their stories because they aren’t sure what compelling contributions they’ve made.  The main reason for this is women tend to devalue their own contributions.  For many, this is due to a combination of not wanting to brag and simply not knowing (or not owning) their gifts and talents.

Everyone has areas in which they excel.  Too often, women overlook or devalue their greatest strengths.  Since certain skills come to them so naturally, they assume everyone possesses these same gifts.  The fact that a certain assignment may feel effortless to you does not negate the fact that it is a sought after talent.  This exercise will help you identify your unique skill sets. 

 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Develop conversational stories that paint a vivid word picture of your accomplishments.  They should be short and concise and clearly highlight your role in the outcome. 

To start, brainstorm a list of topics for your stories.  Review each of your past jobs and write down your top accomplishments from each position.  Use the above success narrative examples as inspiration.

You can also get ideas from:

  • Feedback you’ve received from clients, managers, colleagues, etc.
  • Praise you’ve received in your past performance reviews
  • Comments from audience members from your public speaking presentations
  • Information in your “Success File” – You do keep a Success File, right? (If not, see Program III of this series – Standout Like a Superstar – for detailed instructions on how to establish and maintain a Success File.  Go to the section titled Boosting Your Communication Power, Building Block 2:  Promoting Yourself with Ease.)

 

Each vignette should be comprised of:

  • The Challenge / Opportunity You Faced
  • How You Resolved / Addressed It
  • What the Outcomes Were
  • Specific Feedback You Received
  • The Specific Skills the Story Highlights

 

Each story should depict a “before and after” chronicle.  Clearly demonstrate the cause and effect.  Describe the original set of circumstances and how you contributed to improving the situation. 

Be careful not to exaggerate or over-inflate in any way.  Also, do not diminish your role by being overly humble either.  Too many women craft their stories to depict strictly a team effort. 

Acknowledging it was a team effort is fine but you must also describe how your specific efforts contributed to the outcome.  There is no point in relating a story that fails to demonstrate how you contributed to the outcome.  Don’t let the narrative fall flat and miss the point about your personal contribution.

Keep it short.  Each story only needs to be a few sentences.  It can be up to two paragraphs and as short as four sentences.  Brevity is essential to an effective vignette.  Keeping it succinct gives it much greater power.  

Try to quantify your results as best you can.  As you can see in the previous samples, specific numbers and outcome data were included, for example:

  • Story 1: Millions of Dollars Saved
  • Story 2: Reduced Case Backlog by One-Third in a Two-Year Period
  • Story 3: Produced a Strategic Plan that Exceeded Expectations
  • Story 4: More Efficient Results at 30% the Original Cost
  • Story 5: Follow-Up Rate Increased to a Full 100% 
  • Story 6: Grand Opening Sales Exceeded Projections by Over 40%

 

To get started with your first story, simply begin to brainstorm.  Do not edit as you go.  Simply put your thoughts down on paper or type them up on your computer. 

Think through each job you’ve held.  This can include both professional positions and part-time jobs you held before you launched your career.  If you have children, include motherhood as well since this is the hardest job on earth.  Also feel free to incorporate any volunteer roles you’ve held.

Here are some questions to get you started.  Think about each job you’ve held and answer these questions to help get your thought process going:

  • What did I enjoy about this position?

 

  • What assignments did I like working on?

 

  • What assignments were easy for me to accomplish?

 

  • What projects gave me the greatest sense of satisfaction?

 

  • When did I have the most fun at this job?

 

  • Which of my projects elicited the highest praise from managers and clients?

 

  • What were my accomplishments at this position?

 

  • What results and outcomes did I produce

 

Once you draft your stories, practice them out loud.  That way, you’ll be ready to use them spontaneously in job interviews and while networking, etc.

First practice them out loud to yourself.  Then start practicing with someone you feel safe with.  You want each narrative to feel authentic and highlight your skills effectively.  What most women find when they start practicing them out loud is they fall into the trap of diminishing their role.  Again, don’t let this happen.  As the saying goes:  “Say it loud and say it proud!”

As you practice, you’ll probably find you want to modify the language somewhat to smooth out delivery.  Your final step is to hone your stories for optimal impact.  Make any necessary modifications so they’re succinct, interesting and effective.

 

Power Activity:  Create Your On-the-Job Success Stories

Here is your opportunity to develop your success stories.  Use the template below.  Make enough copies so you have one blank template for each job you’re going to review.

For each blank template, enter your job title and employer at the top of the page.  Then, identify three successes for each job.  Use the thought-provoking questions listed above. 

Next, draft out the details of each vignette using the following five bullet points as your guide.  Each story should include:

  • The Challenge / Opportunity You Faced
  • How You Resolved / Addressed It
  • What the Outcomes Were
  • Specific Feedback You Received
  • The Specific Skills the Narrative Highlights

 

If you need help, feel free to schedule a one-on-one coaching session with me.  I will help you identify your success story topics and craft each of them in a compelling manner so they create the desired impact.  I will also assist you in refining the verbal delivery of your stories so you feel comfortable sharing them in a variety of professional settings. 

Click here to schedule a private coaching session. 

 

Your Success Story Template

Job Title:

Employer:

 

One-the-Job Success #1:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

One-the-Job Success #2:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

 

One-the-Job Success #3:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

Details of On-the-Job Success #1:

The challenge / opportunity you faced:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

How you resolved / addressed it:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

What the outcomes were:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

Specific feedback you received:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

The specific skills this story highlights:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Details of On-the-Job Success #2

The challenge / opportunity you faced:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

How you resolved / addressed it:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

What the outcomes were:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

Specific feedback you received:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

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The specific skills this story highlights:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

Details of On-the-Job Success #3

The challenge / opportunity you faced:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

How you resolved / addressed it:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

What the outcomes were:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

 

Specific feedback you received:

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

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The specific skills this story highlights:

________________________________________________________________________

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________________________________________________________________________

 

The next step is to practice, practice, practice!  Then, hone each story as you learn what has the strongest impact with your various audiences.

Once you’ve developed your success stories, I encourage you to own them!  This does not make you a boastful or braggadocios person.  Rather, this is about sharing your talents with the world in a relaxed, self-confident manner.  Trade in that “deficit model” for an “asset based” view of yourself.

Embrace your gifts and let them shine!  And let them “work” for you. 

If you feel you’d like assistance with developing your career success stories, I invite you to schedule a one-on-one coaching session with me. 

Click here to schedule your personal coaching session.

Now, let’s move on to your Career Success Guide to Identifying Your Career Must-Haves.

 

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