Let’s say you’ve set up a networking meeting or an informational interview with someone you’re interested in talking to. Pretty soon after you start talking, they’re going to say something like: “So, what do you do?” or “Tell me a little bit about yourself.”


This is the job search/networking equivalent of a free-throw in basketball: it’s your shot and no one will block it. They’ve basically given you the floor for a couple of minutes for you to tell them whatever you want.


What you say next will set the tone for the rest of your conversation and maybe even the business relationship—so what should you say? Well, why don’t you tell them a good story? In fact, tell them your great story!


Your story can be a great story if you frame it the right way


In a recent article, I talked about 4 parts to any good story:


Part 1 – Say why you’re telling the story
Part 2 – Set the stage
Part 3 – Say what happened
Part 4 – Recap and restate why you told the story


When someone asks to hear your story, make it a great one by following this framework.



Part 1 – Say why you’re telling the story

Yes, you’re telling the story because they asked. True. Still, you have the opportunity to say a few words about why you think it’s one they may find interesting. One example of a way to open a story could be:


“I’m always excited to tell people what I’ve done and what I’m looking to do next because my story is ultimately one of     (constantly figuring out where and how I can add the most value…)    .”



Part 2 – Set the stage

Resist the temptation to just ‘stick to the facts.’ Yes, people want to know where you’ve been and what you’ve done (i.e., the facts), but they want to know something even more basic. They want to know what has motivated you to go where you’ve gone and do what you’ve done.


Like the director does in a movie, as the storyteller, you need to explain a little bit about the characters in your story before things start happening to them. Tell them a little bit about who you are and what motivates you. Maybe something that follows one of these openings:


“I’ve always been the type of person who     (helps others…)    .”

“At my core, I’m     (an optimizer…)    .”

“I’m at my best when     (I’m collaborating with others…)    , and I’ve known this about myself since     (I was in the 2nd grade…)    .”


Then add enough detail to this stage-setting part to help the listener understand what you’re about to tell them happened to you in your story.



Part 3 – Say what happened

At this point you’ve told your listener a bit about who you are and what motivates you. Now tell them the story of how you got to be where you are today—namely, looking to do whatever it is you want to do next.


Don’t forget to continue weaving your motivation throughout your story. Maybe the main part of your story could follow a pattern like this:


“For    (‘A’ number of)     years, I    (worked at Company ‘B’ doing ‘C’…)    . During that time, I    (was able to leverage my natural ability to ‘D’ and my interest in ‘E’…)     to    (produce ‘F’ type of results…)    . What I learned during that time was that     (I had developed a taste for ‘G’…)    , which is what led me to look for    (oppportunities to ‘H’…)    .”


Something like that; it’s different for everyone. Whatever it is for you, repeat that format for every major plot twist in your story. Maybe it’s a change of job or industry. Maybe it’s your decision to go get an advanced degree. Maybe it’s your foray into entrepreneurship.


WARNING: Don’t include so many plot twists in your story that it’s dizzying to your listener. Keep it simple and compelling.


Then end with something that brings the story to where you are today. Maybe something like:


“I’m now looking to    (do ‘I’ kind of work…)     at an organization that    (focuses on providing ‘J’ type of service for ‘K’ type of customers…)    , where I can combine my    (experience in ‘L’…)     and my    (talent in ‘M’…)     to bring about    (‘N’ type of result…)    .”


The key to your story being compelling is that as much of Part 3 needs to relate to what you said in Part 2 about who you are and what motivates you. The more things tie together by the time you’re done, the more compelling the story and the easier for the listener to understand how they can help you.



Part 4 – Recap and restate why you told your story

This part should be a brief couple of sentences that drive home this point: Who you are at your core combined with the experiences you’ve had have led you, in a positive way, to where you are today, which is looking to do what you’ve just said you’re looking to do and, in fact, talking to the person you’re talking to right now.


Maybe it could be something like:


“So like I said at the beginning, my whole life I’ve really    (just looked for ways to add value…)    . And now, given my experience in    (subject ‘O’…)     and my new interest in    (focus area ‘P’…)    , I’m looking to talk to people who can help me learn more about how I can put those to good use in    (the ‘Q’ industry…).”



A bit of artistry involved


Simple, right? 🙂 Well, it’s simpler for some than for others. Give this framework a try for your story. And if you get stuck and want some help, reach out to me.


There’s definitely a bit of artistry and creativity that goes into crafting your story, and it’s why I love working with clients on theirs.


Remember: Your story is great and compelling. The way you tell it needs to honor and convey that. Good luck!



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achievers communicate with Purpose and get the career results they want.