Often times in a meeting with a prospective client or employer, you want to tell a success story. You want to speak about something that you have accomplished. You want to have it directly connect to their issues, products, services, or something they can relate to.
What if you don’t have anything?
What if you are talking to someone in an industry where you have no experience?
What if you have never done anything great – or anything at all – that communicates how they could anticipate you would perform for them on their specific issues?
When you freeze up and you’ve “got nothing,” what do you say?
You tell the truth. You tell the truth about who you are and what you have done. No, you don’t say, “I got nothing.” You don’t have “nothing.” You have a lifetime of everything you have done.
When I ask candidates a question about their experience, sometimes I see this wild, fearful look in their eyes. In that moment, I know they have forgotten the most important thing about everyone in the room (or on skype or by phone).
They forget we are all just people. Real people, speaking to real people.
Here’s the ideal thing to say.
“I am concerned that I don’t have a direct example to give you. Would it be all right if I shared an experience that I think is relevant, and would you tell me if I am making a connection that makes sense, given this position (or project)?”
You are going to get encouragement to share your experience. It’s up to you to have stories in mind, prepared in advance, that get to some core issues that are almost unavoidably involved in any type of work. This would be where your personal intelligence and personal brand development work will win the day (or the project or the position).
What could be relevant? Your ability to
- Identify the root cause of a problem
- Sift through resources to find relevant data and findings
- Use information to develop different solutions
- Model implications or consequences, positive and negative
- Set up decision-making rules and use them
- Present choices to decision-makers
- Cooperate with others to implement a decision
- Test and measure results
- Capitalize on positive results and re-purpose successful programs
- Bounce back from failure and persevere by revisiting your initial work
That’s ten stories you’ve got to have “on trigger,” ready to articulate with details that make your experience come alive, especially when you have no direct connection. Worst case, you might not be the fit they are looking for this time. However, you will have made an indelible impression, and be top of mind when you do fit.