Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Build your Story Bank: Learn How to Tell Your Story

You now know what employers are seeking in new hires – many graduate schools and professional programs have similar ideas of what constitutes success. So how do you show that you’re a top-notch candidate?

Demonstrating your strengths and aptitudes requires more than just saying “I am good at…” A successful candidate provides examples and tells stories that prove they’re as good as they say (or that they have the potential to be!).

The difficulty with storytelling is that each event is often comprised of numerous and entwined details. It can cause a narrative to come out more as a series of tangents, leaving the audience wondering if you’ll ever get to the point. Thus, you need to really hone in on the elements that are most impactful and necessary to achieving the purpose of the story. Thoughtful and well-crafted stories show that you have prepared, are aware of your abilities, and are able to clearly articulate experiences and strengths.

A great technique to help you tell a story is the S.T.A.R. method:

10.15.2014 post picture - STAR method

Learn to tell many short stories about your accomplishments and contributions in the classroom, at your internship, on the soccer field, in your volunteer project, etc. These examples help demonstrate how you are likely to conduct yourself in the future. The next several blog posts will focus on forming stories based on multiple aspects of your life to give an interviewer an in-depth look into your abilities.

~ Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Start Strong: Grab interest in 60 seconds

Who are you?

Jumping right in with the most common interview and/or networking question, Tell me about yourself is the opening to many a conversation, the response to which often sets the tone of the exchange that follows. What information is actually sought here? According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, information from this list can prepare you for your 60 second introduction:

  • Name
  • Class (senior, junior, sophomore, freshman)
  • Major
  • Opportunities that you are seeking
  • Relevant experience (work, internship, volunteer work)
  • Highlights of skills and strengths
  • Knowledge of the company

It may seem like a lot to include, but you may not be offering lengthy details all at once. An employer once said, introducing yourself should be like dropping a few M&Ms at a time, not trying to force-feed the whole bag. Let the person digest those few bits of information (M&Ms) and then offer more during the conversation. It’s much easier for the listener and the speaker!

Here are a few examples:

  1. “Hi, my name is _______; I’m completing my degree in _____ and am very interested in talking with you about the opportunities within the ________ department at _(company name)__. I know that __company___ is well known for ______, and I am confident that my skills in _____, _______ and my experiences from _______ and __________ could be a good match.”
  1. “Hello! My name is __________. I’m thrilled to be talking with you, as I’m extremely interested in contributing my skills of ________ and _________ to the _____________ department of _(company name)_. I’ll be completing my degree in _field of study_ in May 2016, graduating from Lebanon Valley College.
  1. “As an experienced ___________, I was excited to see that your company would be attending this event! My name is ________ and……”

There are many ways you could tell someone about yourself, but the key is to put thought into what you’re going to say ahead of time so that your conversation starts strong.

Additional tips: Tailor your introduction to each employer based on research and knowledge of the company. Practice, practice, practice so that it is a natural conversation starter, and pay attention to your nonverbal communications—eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and posture. Finally, don’t just end with an awkward pause – ask a question to encourage the person with whom you are speaking to pick up the conversation!

~Gwen Miller, associate director

What to wear, what to wear…?

You know that your jeans and t-shirts aren’t going to cut it in the work place, but perhaps you don’t know if a 3-piece suit is the way to go.  You’ve heard of casual Fridays, but aren’t sure what that means either!  So what do you do?

First of all, think situationally.  Interviews should always be business attire; it’s best to wear business attire to career fairs, although business casual could be acceptable if you’re seeking an internship.  Networking events depend on the venue, your purpose for attending, and those who you are hoping to meet.  Basically, it always depends!

Take the guess work out of it by setting a few rules:

  • Wear business attire in any situation in which you hope to make a good impression on potential employers/clients/colleagues/etc.
  • Don’t assume that “Business Casual” is in any way casual.  Instead, think of it as “Business Smart.”  Take a look at the CareerSpots Video – Business Casual – for more information on this distinction.
  • When in doubt, opt for conservative business wear.
  • You don’t have to spend a fortune to find business attire that fits well and looks professional; shop around and find key items that will mix and match to create several looks.

It’s better to be overdressed on your first ‘Casual Friday’ so you can scope out what is considered acceptable prior to implementing your own wardrobe creativity.  Keep in mind, your boss has the final stamp of approval.  Dress for the job you want, not to impress your colleagues with your fashion sense.  Also remember that your internship or field experiences may allow a more laid back style; the expectation is still business attire when you prepare for your full-time job search.

When in doubt, ask professionals in the field or talk to faculty or Career Services’ staff members.  Take a look at the image below from the 2013 Job Choices Digital Magazine (accessible on our Resources for Students page) for additional tips:Post 19 Professional Dress image

Researching a Company

When preparing for a career fair, an interview, or a networking event in which you will be interacting with employers of interest, preparing ahead of time will help you to make a strong first impression.  We frequently receive feedback from events that employers wish students would spend more time researching their organizations beforehand; doing so will help you to prepare good questions and have a more targeted conversation.

CareerSpots has recorded a 4 minute video offering employer suggestions on how to begin Researching Companies.  A few specific points offered in their corresponding Quick Tips sheet are as follows:

  • Start with the company website.  You will find all the basics: information on the company’s products or services, mission statement, history, press releases, locations, job openings and much more.  Read the company’s annual report.  Look through company personnel profiles and, if possible, find information on the person who you ill interview with.
  • Get an industry view of the company.  Check out trade journals at the university or public library to see what other people are writing about the company.  This gives you a broader sense of the industry as a whole and how the company fits into the larger picture.  You can also find out who are the company’s top competitors.
  • Check out company blogs…

Informational interviews are also an excellent way to learn more about a company, industry, or profession.  Refer to last week’s blog on Informational Interviewing to learn what they are, their value, and how to conduct one!

Don’t underestimate the value of being prepared!  Spend the time researching companies ahead of time; it will be noticed by employers and will help you to stand out and move farther in the job search process!

The Elevator Pitch

You find yourself in the presence of a representative from a company you’re interested in working for – what do you say?

Whether it’s an accidental meeting, a networking event, or a career fair, you have a very short amount of time to make a positive impression.  Often called an elevator speech or a 30 second commercial, these short introductions are your first chance to tell someone about yourself and convince them that they want to know more.  It can be extremely difficult to offer valuable information that is going to help you stand out and make an impact on the person with whom you are speaking.  Practice, practice, practice!

Don’t get too caught up in trying to memorize an elevator speech – you need to be able to adapt quickly and discuss key points that are relevant to the organization or person in front of you.  However, it can help to keep the following tips in mind to give you a framework of what to say and help you practice:

  • Who are you? Give the basics!  (name, major, class standing….)
  • Why are you interested?  What’s your purpose in talking with them?
  • Why are you qualified? What can you do for them?
  • What makes you stand out from your competition? What’s your hook?

Prepare responses ahead of time and practice saying them concisely and confidently.  Practicing out loud is a must – preferably in front of someone so that you can hear how your speech flows and so they can provide you with feedback.  Take a look at The Elevator Pitch video from CareerSpots for some real-life examples of students giving their elevator speech to a recruiter who then offers feedback on what stood out to her and what could be improved.  The article Fantastic Formulas for Composing Elevator Speeches also offers great advice from the experts for ways to outline your introduction.