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Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Blue Sky Resumes is a small team of professional writers and job search experts. We offer one-of-a-kind resumes, smart career advice and fantastic customer service. This is our blog.

What Job Seekers Can Learn from American Idol

after-american-idol-its-time-for-vietnam-idol_14The people who do well in the world’s biggest karaoke show might not seem to have much in common at first glance. In recent years we’ve had indie rockers, country singers, R&B, southern rock, pop … and this year we have everything from a a gay glam rocker to a church-going widower, but all these people do have one thing in common. A clear personal narrative that everyone can describe in just a few words.

Each year there are many contestants who don’t have a clear identity or narrative and a year later, no one even remembers their names.

When I work on a client’s resume, this is what I also shoot for – a clear narrative for each client. Some call this personal branding, a term I don’t think is helpful but which I mention because no doubt you have heard of it. But whatever you call it, the goal is the same: create a resume that tells a clear story, so that the recruiter or hiring manager understands exactly who you are.

Storytelling in Marketing

Seth Godin is a marketing blogger and he talks about this concept in his book ‘All Marketers are Liars.’ He’s not really calling all marketing people liars – the point of his book is that the best marketers craft and tell a succinct clear story about their product, one that everyone can easily understand and relate to. Unsuccessful marketers never get to this clear story – instead they may tell lots of conflicting stories trying to appeal to a wide audience, or they may tell not story at all – just present the consumer with a long list of product features with nothing to explain why they need to buy this particular product at this particular time.

How Does This Apply to Your Resume?

This is tough to do when it comes to yourself. After all, we’re all complex beings with lots of different personality traits, experiences and skills. How do you boil all that down to one clear and compelling message? I think you do it by spending some time identifying what makes you uniquely valuable. What is it about your particular skills, experiences and personality traits that make you different from everyone else applying for the same position. None of us are alike – the key is just pinpointing your difference.

For example, I am a former HR exec. I’ve hired a lot of people. I’m also a good writer and I have always had an innate ability to take lots of information, see the key points quickly and summarize them. So my value narrative is my combination of writing ability and real world HR experience. Other resume writers will have different narratives.

Once you know what you individual narrative is, writing your resume becomes so much easier. Because now you know that you should include only the information that supports your personal narrative.

Read more about Job Search, Resume Writing.

Blue Sky Resumes

About the Author

Louise Fletcher

Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. Her industry experience includes music, video games, fashion and advertising. She lived and worked in the US for many years, but moved back to her native UK in 2012, where she now lives in the Yorkshire countryside. In addition to her full-time role with Blue Sky, she's a professional artist, so you can imagine why she couldn't answer the 'what do you do with your free time' question! Contact Louise by email.

4 comments on “What Job Seekers Can Learn from American Idol”

  1. Gary Capone says:

    Great advice… a personal narrative is even more important for job seekers in interviews. A large percentage of interviews start with the “Tell me about yourself” question. If you can’t provide a clear concise answer that positions you positively, you start the interview at a major disadvantage.

  2. Louise Fletcher says:

    Good point Gary. I think a well-prepared resume is as much about interview preparation as it is about having a strong resume. Telling stories in the interview that support your overall personal narrative will set you apart from everyone else.

  3. QuestingElf says:

    American Idol’s popularity worries me if it means more interviewers are going to act like Simon Cowell. I see this happening more lately, how the stress interview is making a comeback. It occurs in organizations boasting that they are fast-paced. They think grilling people during an interview brings out the true candidate. To them, anybody who takes time to think and reflect is a loser; they insist you must think on your feet especially at puzzle interviews.

    Such companies wouldn’t have the patience for hearing stories. They don’t like beginning, middles and ends, they just want the last page now. (Of course, the irony is some are in the software business, an industry notorious for delays.)

    P.S. One of my favorite CD’s is entitled “Storytelling.” It’s by jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Your use of that word is caught my eye. It also reminded me of an incident I had with one company that claimed to want people who knew how to integrate their personal hobbies with professional business goals. (Sounds ripe for storytelling, right?)

    Well, let me tell you my story. When I approached the company and told them how certain songs gave me ideas for products, they said there was no room during an interview to make references to such things as lyrics and keys. When I then pointed out their corporate literature as both source of inspiration and confusion, the VP of Engineering told me that was just something Marketing put together to make the company sound more interesting. (Apparently, they told quite a story too!)

  4. Lost Blog says:

    Simon Cowell is soooo bad, still funny to watch him take people down though

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