What’s the Story? | Foundation 4 – Lesson 2

Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.

In case we haven’t gotten through to you yet, you’re looking for a story, not a job. Getting a job makes you a commodity. Becoming part of a company’s story makes you indispensable, unfireable, and essential. People who are part of a company’s story don’t get laid off. People who have jobs do.

If you were raised like most kids, you grew up on stories. They were your main form of learning for your first few years, and even now they still make learning easier. Remember the story about hiring a babysitter? Exactly.

If we take your job search and change it to a story search (we’re still going to call it a job search, though), we’ll be building the foundation for success.

Why the Story Is Important

I’ve already started discussing why understanding a company’s story is important, but let’s look at this topic a little bit more closely.

Our goal here is for you to set yourself up to be the solution to a company’s problem. They have a need, and you are going to fill that need. To understand the company’s problem or need fully, you are going to have to understand their story. For some companies the story may only be mildly important because what they do has been commoditized, but for others the story is everything.

Now is a good time to pause so that you can ask yourself a question. Do you want to work for a company that doesn’t have much of a story? Or do you want to work for a company that is all about its story? (Guess which one is still going to be around after this recession has run its course.)

Remember when Jason asked you, “Assuming that you have 100% personal responsibility for your own success, what do you need to start taking control of today?” His point was that you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your career. You can blame getting laid off on the economy, greedy management, or some other circumstance that was out of your hands, but if you take responsibility now to find a company with a great story that you can become a part of, that layoff is far less likely to happen. And if, in the future, it does, you’ll have to ask yourself if there was anything that you could have done at this point, where you are right now, to prevent it.

Looking for stories is different from looking for jobs, because job boards don’t typically tell companies’ stories very well. In fact, companies often don’t tell their stories very well either. Finding and understanding a company’s story isn’t necessarily going to be easy, but it is going to be valuable.


Because it’s going to dictate how you position yourself as the solution. If you are not only a solution to a company’s problem, but also a perfect addition to their story, you are going to be that single person who wins the job offer.

To illustrate how much a company’s story can change the meaning of a job posting, we’re going to look at two job board postings for jobs with very similar skill requirements.

You may have no idea what a Java Engineer does, but I’m pretty sure that you were much more intrigued by the Adchemy’s job posting because it included a piece of the story.

Companies Control the Message

Ok, so stories are great, but you have to ask yourself, “Who is telling them?” In other words, who is controlling the image? That’s easy. The company is.

Have you ever read The Wolf’s Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood? It’s a very different take on the childhood classic. Well when you’re checking out a company’s story, there’s a good chance that you’re only hearing their side. That’s why this Foundation on Researching is going be so useful. It’s going to enable you to get all sides of the story and make an informed decision.

Do you think that every single employee at every single company on Fortune Magazine’s list of 100 Top Employer to Work For list loves their employer? No chance. And not all of the people who are unhappy are typical malcontents either.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to rip on the companies on this list. They are excellent examples of the kinds of stories that you’re looking for, but you need to be aware that the reason that these companies are so successful is because they understand the value of a story and they know how to control their image.

Always keep that in mind.

What to Look for in the Story

So what are you looking for in a company’s story? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of key components.

  • Products or services that the company offers
  • History of how the company came to be
  • Key players in the company’s story
  • How the company fits in with its local community
  • The company’s financial results
  • News items that mention the company
  • How the company serves its community
  • Who are the company’s strategic partners
  • What have the company’s people done after they’ve moved on

You’re going to have to go to a variety of resources to get a fair and balanced picture of any company’s story, which is why the next few lessons will get you familiar with information sources like Corporate Websites, Wikipedia, Google, Social Networks, and a few others.


Remember yesterday’s homework of fitting your elevator pitch into 140 characters or less? Today’s homework is the same, but instead of doing it for yourself, you’re going to do it for 5 companies that you’re interested in. Go find their stories and edit them down to the bare minimum. Post the names of the companies and their 140 character elevator pitches in the comments below.

Here’s my example for One Day, One Job: “One Day, One Job is the insider’s guide to unique and exciting entry level job and career opportunities for recent college graduates.”

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5 responses to “What’s the Story? | Foundation 4 – Lesson 2”

  1. mdabhi says:

    Adobe revolutionizes how the world engages with visual ideas/information. Adobe have changed the way business, entertainment and communication operates by developing new ideas/technology for creating and delivering products and services that engage people globally.

    Apple launched the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980’s with the the introduction of the Macintosh. Apple is commited to bringing innovative and amazing user experiences and ideas to customers worldwide.

    Ubisoft is a leading developer, publisher and distributor of breathtaking, environmental immersive gaming experiences for customers worldwide.

    Virgin Group is one of the world’s most recognised and respected brands. The group stands for innovation, quality and playfullness with a competitive edge. Offers a quality service by empowering employees and continually improving the customers experience through innovation.

    Amazon Group is the world’s leading online retailer. Where people from the comfort of thier own homes can find and discover anything they want to buy online at the lowest possible prices from books, movies, music, video games to clothing.

  2. Willy Franzen says:

    Nicely done. I especially like your takes on Amazon and Adobe because it gets to the core of what they do and who they are without a lot of buzzwords.

    Here’s another exercise to try. Read the elevator pitches that you just wrote without the company name. Pretend that you have never heard of them before. Does your elevator pitch accurately portray what they do and who they are? Or does it leave you with no idea of what they actually do?

    You’ll know your elevator pitches are good when you can go through that exercise and not be confused. You might also want to try it with other people. Give them the pitch, and see if they can identify the company.

  3. Roxy says:

    OK so probably no one cares but I used to work for the consulting firm that produces the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for in America list that Willy mentioned (www.greatplacetowork.com).

    When I worked there I wanted to quit my job and work at those companies on a daily basis – it was torture!

    The perks, the free coffee, sustainably grown food, bouncy gyms, massages, goats, kettle corn, non-cheesey town hall meetings, book groups, oh my!

    We tried to see through all of that and get to what makes a great workplace, and it was the relationship between the person, their job, and the management.

    Keep in mind these are large companies, to qualify to apply you had to have at least 1,000 or more U.S.-based employees.

    Most of us don’t work for or want to work for such large corporations.

    I actually fielded the comments from employees at these companies that did not think their company should have made the list. Not all are happy, so Willy is right.

    And this was measuring just one facet of the organization – the culture. Maybe people liked their organization’s but not their actual job.

    I also saw that even at the top companies employees could complain – even when they were being paid above average and got all the free perks in the world!

    HR & PR at these large companies are good at selling their stories. I think the whole point of this course is to help you figure out your own story and find alignment with your and the organization’s story or else it will be just another job. Emphasis on figure out your own story FIRST.

    BTW some of these companies are amazing, so you should check them out. If you want to see a list of smaller orgs, we also did the list for HR magazine’s 50 best small & medium companies to work for in America. Some inspiring stories!

  4. Willy Franzen says:


    That’s an awesome perspective.

  5. Benjamin says:

    Right now, I really want to work for (1) organization. I already do some work with them, but I do have the position I want (for now). So yes, I will get an “F” for this assignment as I am only completing one “elevator pitch.”

    Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Labeled one of the “Big Five” in the U.S., this organization was founded in 1891 and has since produced excellence in all facets of the word: music. With a new face as its music director, monumental achievements lie ahead. Not only musically, but with an outreach to the community that will help the city “Get things done.”

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