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For Success, Tell a ?Corporate Story?
Make r?sum? more than just a summary.

AUTHOR:      By MARIA MALLORY for The Journal Constitution
PUBLISHED:  May 5, 2002

If you want to make an impression on a potential employer, offer a corporate story instead of a r?sum?.

"That's what [a] r?sum? is," says Gayle Oliver, chief executive officer of career management consultancy Execum? Inc. in Buckhead. "It?s your corporate story." The difference can be crucial Oliver says.

"What most people think of as a r?sum? is almost like a thumbnail sketch, almost like an outline? she says, including "the employer, a title, a date, maybe a couple of sentences, maybe a bullet or two that give some accomplishments. People think of it as just an outline of what they've done."

That might have been OK in the past, she says, when "writing our corporate stories was simple: I go to work for company X, and I keep that job and then retire," she says.

"The stories are so complex because now they're riddled with change. Now, you?re having to rejustify to the next employer why your contribution was valuable -- even if you were only [with previous employer] a month, even if you were downsized for no fault of your own."

When Oliver counsels clients she says, her goal is to move beyond an outline or summary to craft a document that relates career successes and accomplishments -- the corporate story.

"The essence of the corporate story is telling your [career] story in a way that shows why you did what you did and what was valuable about what you did? Oliver says. When you get so brief you don't create the theme, and you don't build on that theme, and that's what a story does. There are themes that thread throughout a story." Oliver says themes are drawn from the person's work experience and job history, as well as the target audience to whom the resum? is sent.

?You may modify different things in the r?sum?," she says and ?you may tweak them to go after a certain audience.?

Still, your r?sum? should tell a story, the success stories -- not a summary -- of your career.

?Basically, what [clients] are paying me to do is tell each of their corporate stories," she explains.

When they came to the table, they thought, ?Oh, it's just a r?sum?.? But when somebody else who's really skilled at defining your story tells it for you, they give it a lot more depth and a lot more content. They force you to justify your contributions -- which people tend to undersell. They're forcing you to give explanation to all these things you've been doing, and [clients] sit back and say, 'Wow. That's me???

To make your r?sum? the marketing tool it is intended to be, you must learn to tell a story, Oliver says.

Analyze key areas

To begin, for each of your jobs that will be presented on the r?sum?, start by analyzing three areas from which you will draw the most compelling material for your corporate story -- depth of content, critical success factors and performance metrics, Oliver advises.

Simply put, ?depth of content? is what you did in the position. It's the substantive explanation of your duties and who you worked for, Oliver says.

?If I say to you, ?I work for a trucking company,? that's one thing. If I say, ?I work for a $500 million trucking company,? that's another thing. If I tell you, ?I work for a trucking company that works as a logistics management provider,? that's another thing,? Oliver explains. ?Each one of those really gives you a greater frame of reference as to what I did and who I did it for.?

By considering the depth of content for each of your jobs as you write your corporate story, you hone the ability to present key information that gives the reader an understanding of the business you worked for and the specific functions you provided for that business, Oliver says.

?That gives the reader a greater understanding of who you are. You're giving more of an explanation, instead of saying just, ?ABC trucking company,? ?she says.

Success factors

Critical success factors are a second consideration for telling your corporate story.

?What that means is, what every person needs to analyze in their [jobs] is what defines me as successful in that position,? Oliver explains. ?How did the company define me as being successful?? Success in one position isn't always considered success in another, so it's important to know the parameters of a job and to present them in context.

For instance, at a company with declining revenues, higher revenues alone may not be the critical success factor, Oliver says.

One client of Oliver's joined a company that had been losing money for four years, she says.

?The company's goal was breaking even and to stop losing money, so his success factor was to eliminate expenses, cut costs, etc.,? she says. ?A lot of times, people don't even know what makes them successful in their jobs. They take the job, but they don't even know what the employer expects from them to make them successful.?

Find out and reflect critical successes as part of your corporate story, Oliver advises.

Performance metrics

Finally, and related to the success factors in telling your corporate story, are performance metrics, Oliver says. They're the numbers that flesh out the story.

?If your goal was to break even, one of your performance metrics might be that you reversed $2 million in losses to break-even status and that $2 million is your performance metric,? Oliver says. ?That means more than saying, ?I turned around the company.? You turned it from what to what???

To best serve your corporate story, performance metrics should be concrete and specific. ?A lot of times people use percentages. They say, ?I raised revenues 300 percent,?? Oliver says. ?Well, what does that mean? You could have raised revenues from one dollar to four.?

By analyzing these elements of your career, you can cultivate the details and specifics to tell a compelling corporate story that will stand out among a mountain of r?sum?s, Oliver says.

Still, there is one important difference in the corporate story. ?In most storytel1irlg, there is an ending, and the interesting thing about your corporate story, it's always changing,? Oliver points out. ?There's no final destination. That's why you have to keep telling the story. Keep updating.?

- Maria Mallory is a free-lance writer based in Atlanta. Her e-mail address is: malloryink@aol.com




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