Origin Stories!

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Stories are so important to connecting with interviewers so they “get you” This show features Allison Farber with whom we talk about how to work these into your repertoire.

There Are Stories And Then There Are Stories!

So, my guest today is Allison Farber, a career and communication coach. Through her two businesses, affordable career consulting and the inspirocity Institute, she’s helped hundreds of professionals, surely people between 30 and 45, create intentional and sometimes unconventional career paths, and go personal brands to get what they want from the professional world. Allison, welcome!


Hey, thank you so much for having me.


It is my pleasure to do that. Folks, we’re going to be talking about a whole bunch of stuff. We’re going to start off with what the heck is an origin story?


I’m so glad that you asked Jeff. So, an origin story is one thing that I work with my client straight up front. It’s actually to answer one of the most dreaded questions, which is, tell me a little bit about yourself. So, very early on in my career, as a coach, I started just straight up career coaching, because as a hiring manager beforehand, I realized that a lot of people struggled with this question. 99% of the interviews that we have, the first question that you get asked, and people sit there, and if you read advice online, folks tend to just go backwards through their resume. As somebody’s doing the interviewing, it’s just like falling asleep a little bit because it’s a little bit boring. So, as a communications coach, and as somebody who’s focused on diet, but like very dynamic conversations, we want to focus in on being dynamic from the onset, so we can really establish who we are, and be impactful from the get go have really sensitive conversations.

So, an origin story is a really great way to do this. I frame it up based on superhero origin stories like Spider Man. That’s probably the most famous origin story that’s out there. So, spider man got bit by a radioactive spider. But that didn’t turn him into spider man. He did something before he was nerdy kid before got bit by a radioactive spider, decided to do things for his own stuff, made some questionable choices. But then a moment happened that made him realize that he had to be Spider Man. There’s a narrative arc in there. What’s interesting is that as individuals, we can actually take that origin story and apply it to our own career paths. This is really great if you’re changing career paths, or something along those lines and you’re going through and you want to articulate that moment of change, and that moment of inspiration for yourself, and what’s put you on to this new alignment. Because everything comes from something else, we’re always reinventing ourselves as we go through life. This is a great way to put it into a narrative arc for somebody else’s stories.


When you teach people origin stories, how long should they be when they’re presenting them?


So, honestly, the length, we try to keep it to less is more, but we it’s more important that we get the point across. So, we don’t want to just go into little aside and get off topic or anything like that. It’s very strategic to say. I haven’t always been in this profession. Where I started was over here and what I did was I got curious about something else, for some reason. So, I investigated it more, I learned more, I developed. Now, I got to this point of inspiration where I decided to make the shift. That’s why I’m here in front of you today. So, if we follow that narrative arc, it makes it really concise and clear for somebody. It also starts to articulate those transferable skills that you’re bringing along the journey with you that otherwise might not be highlighted in the past.


So, when I think of them, it’s an emotional story as well. For example, it’s not quite the flat recitation that Allison just gave. A little bit of acting and heart goes into it, so that they feel the feelings that you went through and understand the anguish that you I was over here, but I became interested in this. So, I went exploring, and I went on the hero’s journey into the lion’s den, into the desert, I went exploring but I was still over here. I was curious and remember, you’re an entertainer when you do an interview, putting on a performance trying to connect with the interviewer so that in this way, they catch you.


The huge part of it being an origin story, as well is that it’s your story. So, that emotion is already ingrained into it. So, as an example, I’m more than happy to give my origin story, which is I started, obviously. I haven’t been a coach my entire life. It’d be great if I was but nope, everybody has a weekly way of getting back. So, back before I started this, I was actually the head of sales and marketing for several, very successful software. Even though I was really good at my job, what I found was that the thing that really inspired me was helping my teams seeing those individuals and grow and prosper in their careers. Even if it meant that eventually they had to leave my department, which to be honest, got me in a little bit of trouble, because I was encouraging people to quit sometimes. But that’s really what motivated me.

I realized that sense has nothing to have me going. The thing that was making me wake up in the morning, that I probably should pursue that a little bit more. That’s where I started discovering more and more about becoming a professional coach, and how I could help empower people who are trying to get that support structure that I was naturally getting, that they didn’t have. So, through that exploration, and through that experience, eventually it got to that point where I realized that I had to quit the day job and do this full time, so that I could give back and continue feeding not only those individuals, but also that inner calling that I had and so, that’s why I’m here today. So, there’s already an emotional connection because it showed that vulnerability, it shows that thoughtfulness and it shows that introspection, which as an interviewer, going on the tactile side as an interviewer, that’s what we need to know, we need to know who you are, how you think, how you operate.


Versus all the other people who walk in and say factual stuff! It’s like in sales; there are feature�s benefits that they talk about when you’re selling products. So, there are people who walk in and they’ll talk about well, I’ve done this, I’ve done that, I’ve done this, I’ve done that. If they can read a resume, they’re talking to five to 10 people who could do this and who can do that and yes, they eliminate half of them who really can’t do it, a choice choose between you and the other four.


In sales, there’s actually a saying for that, which is called the deal is one and discovery. So, that’s the conversation that you have, before the features and before the qualifications to say, yes, I can live up to those expectations. It is asking the questions and doing the digging to find what matters to your audience, so that you can connect with them on that emotional level. So, it’s not enough to say I can do what your advertising but you have to get to the why are they advertising that way? How does that organization work, all that type of stuff. That’s where the real choices start to get made because it’s not just they can do it but also because they like you and you are their people, and they trust you. So, that’s why we start with origin stories. That’s why we start with a really compelling, tell me about yourself statement.

Telling High Value Stories


We’re going to go into that. Folks, if you’ve watched me for any length of time, you know, I believe that firms are incapable of assessing for fit. The reason I say that is you’re on good behavior, and so are they. So, each of you is putting on an act for one. But someone’s got to lower the guard first, to actually see if there’s a fit. Truthfully, it’s got to be you first, because they’re in there in selling mode. I know that’s typically what you’re going to do. So, giving a little bit of vulnerability makes all the difference in the world for you and for them because they’re going to be interacting with the real you and not the act.


So, you have to show up as your authentic self and also peppering those questions throughout the interview, too. I know we’re getting a little bit off but peppering those questions throughout the interview as well. So, the one it’s an engaging conversation, nobody likes just spewing out questions and getting talked at it for a half hour or an hour. But also so that you can do a little bit of digging to see really what the inside of that organization is actually like. So, if you ask about people’s management style, if you ask about the culture, if you ask about what a day in the life is like, you can start to pick up on whether or not they’re giving you the shiny, fancy thing or if they’re giving you the real answers to your questions. It goes both ways here.


Especially when you talk to the team at some point during the interview, and you explore with them some of the things you’ve been told by the hiring manager winces a little bit. Now on to tell me about yourself! So, with the idea of using the origin story is the framework for how to answer tell me about yourself. How do you approach it?


So, the origin story is really great for people who are going through a little bit of a career transition. So, this is something that they’re coming from a background Interviewthat’s not quite in line, and not linear progression for their inner further career. So, that’s where origin story sets, but tell me about yourself answer is a little bit more formulaic, helps open up some of that vulnerability and also helps pinpoint what you want to talk about, so, you’re editorializing, your experience and that’s what’s really nice about this. Because once you go into an interview, you should just forget that the resume is there. They’ve read it. Maybe you wrote it. So, you’ve read it, cool. Don’t refer to it again, because that’s getting the concentration focus off of you. So, by answering, tell me about yourself thoughtfully, it’s editorializing and talking about and setting up the plate for what you want to talk about within the interview and starting to take control and ownership over that conversation. Are you following me, so far? I saw your eyes glaze over little bit.


Oh, no glaze, no glaze.


So, when we go in to an interview, there’s a certain formula to follow. The first one is to really focus on why you’re there. So, after you say thank you for the opportunity, I’m really excited about this conversation, etc, showing that you’re humble, and then you want to go into why you’re in the room. I teach my clients that it’s whatever made you click and apply, besides the fact that you can do all of the things, right, or at least 80% of the things that you need a job, that’s fine. So, you’re compelled by the mission, you are interested into that particular industry, you want to build your career or something along those lines, that’s really the truth of why you’re sitting in that chair. Once you go into that one, you can start to talk about the needs that you’ve perceived from the company based on the job description, the research that you’ve done, and things like that, and then execute one or two things from your experience, that’s going to help them solve their problems. So, that way, you’re already making this conversation dynamic, you show that you’ve done the discovery, you’re coming from a place of knowledge of who they are and what they’re about. Also, you have unique experiences that are going to help build them up and that way; they’re not fishing, trying to figure out how to get this information from you, because you’re already serving it to them in a nice, unique package.


I love the idea of serving it to them in a meaningful package. I want to be clear. A point earlier, you spoke about the origin story and synthesizing and to tell me about yourself as part of the career changers way in answering things. This also sounds like it could be applied to a job changer. Am I reading that correctly?


Yeah, a job changer, a career changer! That origin story is one of those things that you can apply for just about anything when you’re looking at going through different phases of your life It’s one of those, and honestly, I didn’t like using it for a family reunion or something when they say, hey, tell me about what you do. It’s a fun and interesting way to answer that, as opposed to saying, oh, well, I’m a CPA. No offense if any CPA is out there. But it’s a way to just kind of open up that conversation so that they can again see that path and understand the journey that you’re on.


Folks, I’ll throw in the idea that Allison is speaking about connecting the dots, and making the fit obvious, while at the same time making the emotional connection with people and that makes a huge difference because as we said earlier, it’s the notion of Carolina people who are capable of doing these jobs, it’s all about them feeling you and them getting you. Thus, the idea of bringing this out into the open gives them a way of going, oh, you are not like the other ones that are so boring.


It’s a way for them at the beginning of the conversation to say I like you, I like you. So, I’m really going to actually spend time getting underneath here and really understanding a little bit more about what makes you tick. That vulnerability is just so important to make those connections for them and just answer the elephant in the room. The other thing was that when we’re talking about introducing yourself. There’s the phrase of personal branding really just spinning around the internet right now. Some people say it’s how you appear on social media. Some people say that it’s how you carry, a lot of different ways of how you show yourself but I think that the core components of personal branding and again, this is how I work with my clients. It’s actually really focusing in on the characteristics of your personality that make you unique, and then leaning hard into those. So, if you’re really a fun, zany person, like show up as that person because at the end of the day, they need to know that going in so that they can hire you right there. Enjoy that Jamie person, because that’s where you’re going to be at work. So, even though you’re on your best behavior, it’s okay to pepper some of that through. If you’re a quiet contemplated analytical type of person, that’s okay too, you can lean into that, it does not mean that you’re not dynamic, it just means that you’re dynamic in a different way. So, learning that about yourself and then showing that very fearlessly is so important from the get go.

Data-Driven Assessments and Culture Fit


I’m going to add to that you don’t want to be hired for the wrong organization. The job is, no, I could do this job; I’m going to be a star in this job. But they’re going to try and have you conform in ways that don’t really fit you. They’re going to put you in a box of behavior, that isn’t your, they’re going to expect the loud person and you’re an introvert. Conversely, an introvert or an extrovert, who they want to have as an analytical personality, doesn’t mean you can’t be that way but why behave? Behaving is not a good thing.


It also runs your energy out. Focus on your work; focus your energy at your work on your work, not on who you have to be around other people, the jobs will turn up. For job seekers out there, I know there’s always just desperation like I got to get a job. Now, I don’t have insurance, I don’t have money. It’ll happen, it will absolutely happen but to keep you from stepping on rakes again, and again, you have to dial into figuring out who you are, how you operate, and the type of organization that you operate well for and how you communicate yourself. Once you tap into those things, you’re going to find that you’re going to be able to navigate that job market a lot more and start making these decisions based on your own tastes and preferences, not just trying to fill in the void of not work. So, it definitely is a little bit of cause and effect there.


Without question and I’ll go very simply, you’re absolutely right. It’s the notion of know yourself, know where you excel. Look for signals that this is a place that you can excel during work that you’d love to do, and you can deliver great results on because again, this is going to be part of your here’s that phrase again, personal branding because after all, you can brand yourself as a failure. You can brand yourself as a winner. Even brand yourself in a lot of places between those two extremes. So, it’s so important for you to start off with honesty, emotional honesty, in the course of your interviews, because otherwise, you get hired for the wrong places, you have to behave. You wind up feeling, as you said, drained, because you have to put in so much energy to conform to something that you’d not really good at. It’s tough.


Yep, it sure is.


So, how else can someone demonstrate their brand in the interview?job-interview


I love this question.


Good! By the way, we’re not rehearsed on this, or any of this.


Yeah, I love this question. There’s a couple of different ways that we can bring our branding throughout the whole thing and one goes back to that open and honesty. So, I’m not telling you to be vulnerable to the point where you’re going to cry or anything, but sharing things that are thoughtful, and also, when you’re giving answers, specifically behavioral and situational questions. A lot of people focus on what happened. While that’s important, what we really want to know as interviewers, what people are really looking for is how you take complex problems, and how you think and resolve them. So, opening up that little vulnerability box, and really starting to articulate not only what happened, but what you thought about who you communicated with how you felt, those types of things and you start peppering those through your answer.

You’re talking about how you get to a solution, as opposed to what the solution just is. That’s how they’re going to really start to know and start to get the nuances of one, how you communicate, and to how you view things and how you operate, which is really hard for people doing the hiring to do. A lot of times, we’re just going to have to take our best guests and then put them into it. So, again, you’re giving those clues to saying this is how I’m going to operate within your organization because I’m telling you how I think and how I react to situations. So, it’s a lot more important there.


I’m going to speak to the men here for a second who, especially in certain fields that are considering motion less, tech, engineering, accounting. There are places where you may need to practice opening up and rehearse your stories in advance. I believe in keeping it concise and then asking for permission to go further. So, you may have learned the star formula, situation or task action result and that’s fine, or soar situation objective action result, also fine. But once you’re done with that story, I believe that should go into you offer them the opportunity to go into more detail with you. So, I’ve given you a high level perspective on I can go into more depth with you if you like. Normally they say, sure, I’d like to know more. This is when you start digging in deeper, and sharing more of yourself. So, the first part of this and the star or soar acronyms, and giving them the basic facts that confirm that you’ve done this kind of work before you can handle this kind of situation, blah, blah. Then by asking for permission to go deeper, number one is keeping them engaged, and interactive. Number two is, if they say, no, I got what I needed, great, you haven’t put them to sleep. They just want to get off that topic. They are not the one who are the next thing and that’s okay.

Telling Stories, Not Tall Tales


I’m so glad that you brought up star and soar because one thing that’s actually really compelling with those answers is a lot of people start with the result, which is good, because they’re like, I got the job done. But if you can take that answer, and elevate it a little bit throughout the interview, and say, and these are the learning and this is what I learned from that experience, that is an immediate, you might as well just take a sticker, boom, there you go, this is what you’re going to have in that new organization. Because it’s showing, again, those transferable skills and those learning that you’re bringing with you in your career backpack, to go ahead and apply to that organization. So, if you can say, yeah, at the end of the day, I was able to get that thing done. What I learned from that experience is that sometimes I’m not going to know the answer, but I’m going to be able to figure it out, boom, straight, big piece of your personal brand. That’s what they’re going to remember at the end of that story. That’s what they’re going to hold on to. That’s how they’re going to internalize how you think and operate.


With someone I worked with not long ago, he stepped into a situation where he took over a team that had been failing for years, and no respect within the organization. This is a marketing group for a major international organization and now he’s got a chairman and from losers to winners and people’s thoughts, and what he did in stepping into the role. Folks, I’m giving you an example, if you haven’t figured this out. What he did was meet with him individually and understand why they fell into the funk, where they developed the bad habits, what was it institutionally that was contributing, so you can clear the runway for them to excel. Number two; give them the kick in the rear to step it up, because they had gotten slow and bureaucratic. The result was he took the failing organization. Frankly, there were zero high profile high potential employees; the five not including himself, there were identified by the organization out of a team of 12. So, he had a huge success there. Amongst his learning�s was demonstrated that he cared about them, because no one seemed to do that before. Notice how this flies so easily folks or does it sound complicated.


There’s just identifying what you want people to know about you as an employee and it all goes back to how you want to operate in that organization, how you view yourself, and really finding that right match. It’s like dating. You go on a first date, and anybody who talks about themselves full time as a turnoff, and anybody who talks about you the whole time, it’s a turn off. You got to find that right match for yourself.


So, I know you believe in a person checking in with themselves, to align themselves with their resume and job search. I wonder, are there a couple of pointers that you can give to people that will help them at least understand the basics of that?


Yeah, absolutely! Just start with that one. A lot of times, people wake up one day, and they’re just like, I don’t know if I can do this anymore, but it’s actually unpacking a lot of things. Usually there’s not one type of thing that happened, then there’s a lot of things that have layered on that breach them to that breaking point. So, starting to unpack that box a little bit really helps us do that analysis of what is working for us, what isn’t working for us or for example, do I feel supported in my work environment? Do I enjoy my work? What parts of my work do I enjoy? Which ones don’t I? Have objectives changed for me recently? Has something in my life changed? The now work isn’t supporting my life anymore? Am I being challenged? Or am I just showing up and that’s starting to wear me down? It’s all these little tiny questions, and I can absolutely get your worksheet on those questions.

But it’s all these tiny questions that we start to ask ourselves to unpack that box to understand what it is that barometer of why we’re feeling frustrated, why we’re feeling stuck. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as, I’m not interested in this line of work anymore. Something else came in; I used to be passionate about this. But now I learned something through my career that I want to explore that opportunity and that’s okay, that’s absolutely okay. We are always changing and growing. A lot of times, what happens is that we change and grow as individuals. But we don’t allow our careers to keep up with that and that’s when we start to get into unhealthy cycles. We get into these periods of quitting jobs and getting into new jobs. But they’re the same job. We keep stepping on the same rake over and over again.


The notion folks that you should settle are ridiculous. It’s the habit that involves a certain degree of lethargy and boredom. People get into habits and bad behaviors that cause them to start not caring anymore. It’s sad to say, and if you identify with that feeling, this is a great video for you, because, frankly, it’s time to wake up again and get the passion back in your life. That in your career, and feel excited, again, is something that that’s giving you a case of what Zig Ziegler used to call stinking thinking. I love that funny old alliteration and get back into excitement again.




So, what haven’t we covered yet, because we have covered a lot of territory here?


Yeah, we went all around. I think that really what we’re looking at here is, if there’s one piece of advice I could give to people, it is to before you go into the next job interview, before you introduce yourself in the next networking event, anything along those lines, think about the story and the person that you’re showing up as and whether or not you would actually be interested in what that person has to say. If not, think about your own personality and maybe get input from other people that love you and know you and everything else, to see what it is that makes you just glow makes you the person that gets that attention because that’s who you should want to be all the time. If you leave him at home or she at home, then you’re missing out on a lot.


Or someone so wisely wrote, live the life you’ve always dreamed of. In the face of adversity, never stop learning. Use your imagination, wherever, whenever possible. Recognize the beauty that surrounds that that surrounds, remember where you came from, and never lose sight of going.


Yeah, be you. Absolutely! So that’s my guiding light and it’s the guiding light of my family. That’s why it’s in my office. I look at it every day.


So, yep, beautiful! This is great. How can people find out more about you in the work that you do?


Yes, absolutely. So, folks can find me at my website affordablecareerconsulting.com. They can also follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. My Instagram handle is Coach Jeff and I am happy to connect with anybody and drop any words of wisdom that I can.


Fabulous! I’ll have all the links that you provided in the show notes. Folks, we’ll be back soon with more. I’m Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter. I love working with you. Visit my website, thebiggamehunter.us. I’ve got tons of posts there that can answer a lot of your questions about job search. But they’re not personalized to you and your circumstances. That’s what I do as a coach, I help you perform at a higher level in a job search hiring more effectively managing and leading, being effective in the workplace. If you’re interested in one on one coaching, you can schedule time for a free discovery call or schedule time for coaching. I’d love to help at the site. By the way, you can order a number of my courses. Some of them are available through Skillshare. They offer a trial. Take the trial, you get the courses for free, and don’t continue on. It’s okay, my feelings aren’t hurt, and you get the information that you need. I’ll also say connect with me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/In/thebiggamehunter. Hope you have a terrific day and most importantly, be great and take care.

Why You Put Contact Info on Your Resume


People hire Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter to provide No BS Career Advice globally because he makes many things in peoples’ careers easier. Those things can involve job search, hiring more effectively, managing and leading better, career transition, as well as advice about resolving workplace issues. 

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