How can you help people start to know, like, and trust you, and want to hire you for that next position? You need to learn to tell stories about yourself that illustrate your traits you want to be known for. For example, you could be lazy, but also smart. You could be impatient, but also good at organizing events. You want to highlight your strengths when you meet people, to help them get to know you, and match you with opportunities, whether you’re a nonprofit consultant, or you’re looking for that next job.

So ask yourself:

What are ten traits that I am proud of? What is my vision? What is my purpose? What are my values?

Are you funny, resourceful, smart, good at editing, good at cold-calling, good at convincing people to do things, even-tempered, patient, compassionate, action-oriented, always learning, etc? If you need some ideas, think of a time when you did something well, and other people complimented you. What were you doing? How did it feel? Did you stretch your skills in new directions?

Ask yourself, what are ten stories that illustrate those traits? These can be stories from your personal life, they don’t have to be stories from your professional life. Maybe you organized a big rent party on a shoestring budget, and tons of people came, and had a fabulous time and donated so you could make rent! Maybe you taught yourself how to do a handstand on your surfboard!

Hang Ten or handstand on surfboard

Your stories need to communicate What, How, and WOW. I recommend writing down your stories with paper and pen so you don’t get distracted by the internet.

For example, here is a skills story I did a few years ago:

Skills I want to illustrate: Resourceful, research, intelligence, execution, and follow-through

What I did: Created new jobs and opportunities for The Gentle Muses (harpists in Boston area) by connecting with social daycare organizations for the elderly

How I did it:
I generated ideas for leads based on a chance conversation
I listened to what harpists at the Gentle Muses wanted to do, and where they wanted to work.
I proposed to call 10 centers for each harpist, and help harpists reach their outreach goals
I researched names, addresses and phone numbers of social daycare centers in their geographic foci
I created a brochure for the harpist’s services
I cold-called, mailed, and followed-up with over 100 social daycare centers

Gentle Muse harpists got 20 new recurring jobs as a result of my resourceful research, execution, and follow-up!

Once you have your What-How-Wow stories, you have created the seed of your reason for being involved with your business. Your passion and talent will shine through, now that you have your stories. Do you see a theme running through your stories? This might give you a clue as to what sorts of jobs you’d be best at doing. It can help you make the case for you getting the next job, or the next consulting gig.


Write skills stories about your strengths. These don’t have to be about fundraising. Make your resume highlight these strengths. Learn how to tell these stories to other people.

The concept of the What-How-Wow Story is taken from Peter Paskill’s excellent book, “Want a New, Better, Fantastic Job?” If you are looking for a new job in the Portland, Oregon area, I highly recommend his firm, CareerMakers.