Students testing evidence in lab.

Telling Your Story

Now that you’re earning the credibility and recognition of a Miami University education, you are poised to begin your journey to a successful and rewarding career. To ready yourself for your job search, it is important to know how to communicate your knowledge, skills, and experience to employers in a clear and concise way. By reflecting on the following, you’ll gain valuable preparation for your elevator pitch and interviewing, and even your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn summary.

Top 10 Skills

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducts an annual survey to determine skills and qualities most valued by potential employers. NACE determined the Top 10 Skills included the ability to:

  1. Verbally communicate with persons inside/outside the organization.
  2. Work in a team situation.
  3. Make decisions and solve problems.
  4. Plan, organize, and prioritize work.
  5. Obtain and process information.
  6. Analyze quantitative data.
  7. Relate technical knowledge to the job.
  8. Work proficiently with computer software programs.
  9. Create and/or edit written reports.
  10. Sell or influence others.

Reflecting on Your Skills

Remember, employers do not expect job applicants to possess ALL of these skills, and much of what you’ve learned will help you acquire these skills on the job. However, it is important to consider how your experiences and the skills you have gained in college contribute to any one of these 10 areas so you can effectively communicate your preparation to employers through your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and interview. Based on the knowledge, skills, and experiences you gained at Miami University, acknowledge the NACE top skills you believe you have started to acquire.

  • What NACE skills have you acquired?
  • How do you demonstrate those skills?

Building On Your Skills

There is always time to acquire more skills! Think about the kinds of jobs you are interested in pursuing. What is required of professionals in those fields? If you do not know, use a browser like simplyhired.com or indeed.com to find job descriptions and identify some of the skills the job descriptions point to. Are they consistent with NACE skills? In the space below, consider how you can continue to improve on your already solid foundation. Brainstorm the skills you would like to continue to develop or improve upon and the ways in which you could do this. If you are unsure, consider talking to a trusted adviser, mentor, or career counselor.

  • Which skills do you need to improve?
  • How could you begin to acquire the skills you do not have?

Classroom Learning

  • What are the skills (e.g., critical thinking, teamwork) you have acquired in the classroom?
  • What is necessary for success in your major?

Campus & Community Involvement

  • What are the ways you have been involved on campus or in the community while a student?
  • Did you have a leadership role in any of your activities?
  • What did you learn about yourself, and what skills did you acquire from these experiences?

Practiced Learning

  • What work or project experiences have you had?
  • Have you done community/service learning, a co-op, or an internship?
  • What did you learn about yourself, and what skills did you acquire from these experiences?

Your Top Skills

  • Based on your experiences in and out of the classroom, what do you believe are some of the most important skills or qualities you could bring into a job, co-op or internship, whether they are listed as NACE skills or not?

Telling Your Story - Articulating Your Skills (The Elevator Pitch)

IMAGINE you are on a elevator with someone and that person asks you what you want to do after college. You quickly learn that person has a network aligned with your post-college plans. The person asks you exactly what it is that makes you uniquely qualified for the position and you have the remainder of the 30-second ride to explain. You quickly consider the unique skills, knowledge and experiences you just highlighted in the previous pages and craft your “elevator pitch.” Elevator pitches are an important way to help employers, family, friends, and anyone in your career community know who you are and what you bring to the table as an employee. This can help them help you find the right opportunity. Start to craft your elevator pitch — remember, you don’t have to highlight every single thing about your skills and talents and how they align with your career goals.

An elevator pitch is composed of three distinct parts and a follow-up question:

  1. Your education and credentials (what you’ve studied)
  2. Your experience in the field (employment, internship/co-op, volunteer positions)
  3. Your strengths (what you do best), and finally
  • Follow-up: An open-ended, thoughtful question about a prospective employer’s needs, problems, and challenges

Here’s an example

“Good afternoon, I’m John Smith. I am a junior Integrative Studies major at Miami University, with a concentration in Environmental Studies. I’m looking for a position that will allow me to strengthen my research and analytical skills. During my time in college, I’ve been building these skills through my involvement with a local environmental council on conservation strategies for water quality and local sustainability efforts. I read that your organization is involved in sustainability projects. Can you tell me how someone with my experiences might fit into your organization?”

Telling Your Story - Interview Preparation

The “telling your story” elevator pitch also translates into the commonly asked question by interviewers, “tell me about yourself.” Now, convey your experiences and qualifications to an employer in an interview. Imagine you are in an interview for a job or internship and the employer begins to ask you questions about how you have behaved in certain situations. This interview technique is called Behavioral-Based Interviewing. This type of interview focuses on discovering how an applicant acted in specific work-related situations. Employers ask these questions because your previous performance in a work-type setting will predict your future performance. The interviewer wants to know how you handled a certain situation, rather than what you might do in a hypothetical situation. The objective of this exercise is to build responses to common behavioral-based interviewing questions highlighting the NACE skills you gained during your classroom and other experiences. Though they do not need to be memorized, familiarity with the key elements of the stories you share as examples of how you handle various scenarios, is helpful when you find yourself in an actual interview situation.

To Frame Your Response in a Concise Manner, Use the C.A.R. Method

  • Context – background of a specific situation
  • Action – the actions you took
  • Results – the results you achieved

Here is an example of a Behavioral-based question and response using the C.A.R. Method

Question: Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation.

C: In my psychology research course, my teacher assigned our class a semester-long group project. When stressed to meet the deadlines for our project, one of my group members used very harsh language when communicating to the other group members and myself, both in person and via email. This created a very negative atmosphere with the one group member constantly putting down the other members of our team.

A: After getting upset the first few weeks of the semester, I decided to speak with this group member about the way he communicated under pressure. I understood the stress he was under and suggested that we together create a clear timeline to set deadlines for portions of the project. We also delegated responsibilities for these portions of the project to the group members.

R: Speaking with this group member in person and early on in the semester helped diffuse my classmate’s inappropriate communication to the other members of our team and promote a more positive, supportive, and open working environment. We were able to sort out issues immediately, anticipate any likely problems, and plan a clear timeline for the remainder of the semester.

For help in using the Telling Your Story guide to aid you in preparing your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn summary, please contact a member of the Career Services & Professional Development staff to set-up an appointment.