Develop SOAR Stories that Help You Soar

Children’s stories or romance novels generally have happy endings. The kid’s story basically begins with either a chicken, a rabbit, or a kitten in a sticky predicament. In the romance novel, a lonely man or woman seeks true love. In the end the chicken, rabbit or kitten learns a moral lesson and gets a proud hug from mother. In the romance novel, the lonely man or woman actually finds true love and, in many cases, lives happily ever after. These are stories that make people smile.

When you develop your resume, you want to tell good stories with happy endings that make hiring managers smile!

Last week, I had the opportunity to work with some amazing women who are part of Dress for Success (DFS) in Atlanta, which promotes economic independence for women by providing, among other things, a support network and career development tools to help them thrive in work and in life. At the workshops, we talked about cover letters and resumes and, basically, how to write happy endings.

Most resumes I review show long lists of bullets that reflect what the job seekers “do” vs. what they’ve achieved. This is a pattern that I see time and time again. I know I’ve written about this topic before, but it continues to frustrate me how hard it is to get people to realize that what should show on their resumes are achievements—not “do’s.”

Each bullet in your resume should tell a story with a happy ending. Using the SOAR* approach, the story starts with a problem or challenge (Situation/Obstacle or Opportunity). Next comes an appropriate Action that brings about a positive outcome (Result). There are the things that make hiring managers smile—and even better, they make them call you in for an interview to find out more.

At the DFS workshops, I learned that each of the women had accomplished so much more in her career than she stated on her resume. It took some time, but once the conversations got rolling, the stories started pouring out—and so did the achievements. We used the SOAR approach to flesh out the stories and, ultimately, the happy endings.

In my conversation with Jane**, she spoke with great pride about how she thoroughly enjoyed working at the CPA firm where she was last employed. At first she told me that she was a tax preparer. I later learned that she prepared taxes and helped manage the office and the impact she made on the firm, especially during tax season, was extraordinary!

Jane gave me permission to show her original resume and what developed after we talked. Here are the bullets from her most recent position on her former resume:

- Prepared and electronically submitted individual tax returns
- Audited/monitored
- Assisted the supervisor

As Jane told her stories, she revealed the true extent of her responsibilities and what really occurred while she worked at the firm. Now look at the difference:

- Interviewed and coached low-income client without apparent deductions; discovered client made several non profit and church contributions, which resulted in finding $1500 in tax deductions.
- Improved and reduced original tax preparer training program from 3 weeks to 1 week, which allowed new employees to work with additional clients more quickly, thus increasing revenue.
- Developed flexible scheduling for seasonal part-time staff with more than one job and maintained 100% retention throughout tax season.

For me, what was even more exciting was the look on her face when she realized just how truly accomplished she is.

We took the original bullets and developed them into a short paragraph that showed the scope of the work she did. Then we showed her stories with happy endings in the bullets. Notice that there are only three bullets—but they are juicy ones!

An important point to remember here is that, by placing stories with happy endings in your resume, you essentially direct the course of the interview. Imagine having 10-15 bullets talking about things that you “do” or “did” and having the interviewer focus on the one or two things that weren’t so exciting or that maybe didn’t go so well.

People generally love to talk about things that excite or fulfill them, and that excitement and fulfillment is infectious. You get to tell the things that reflect where you made a difference. What hiring manager wouldn’t want to hire someone who can change his/her company for the better?

Tell your stories and talk about the happen endings in your resumes and make hiring managers smile! Does your resume tell stories with happy endings, Chicken Little? Well, it can—and it should!

*The SOAR acronym is easy to remember and helps to organize material on resumes and in interviews. S = Situation, O = Obstacle/Opportunity, A = Action, and R = Results.

**Not her real name

Author's Bio: 

Peg Titus-Hall is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach with a varied background in guiding corporate personnel in career development and planning. She works closely with individuals making career and life transitions and helps them to develop their job search tools and skills, including strategic resume updates. She creates a safe place for her clients to explore and play and learn to speak to their value in the world through effective bragging.

Peg received her coaching training and coaching certification through The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) in 2005 and is accredited through the International Coach Federation (ICF) as a Professional Certified Coach. She has spoken to audiences large and small on such topics as coaching, effective communications, career development, personal growth, and listening skills.