Are You a Compelling Case Study?

If you’ve lost your job during this economic spasm, join the club.  You are now bobbing in a sea of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of other talented high achievers.

This new brotherhood  of the jobless makes for supportive online chatter, but on the other hand, you will drown in this ever-growing talent glut if your job search looks the same as it did even 18 months ago.

So you have a resume, a LinkedIn profile, and that Monster.com account from years ago. Perhaps you’ve even gotten a little fancy with Visual CV.  Great — but how do these things set you apart from the throngs of people who use the same adjectives to describes themselves?

The Personal Case Study

A personal case study highlights the most transferable of all skills: problem-solving and leadership.

Set yourself apart with a personal case study.  Unlike a cover letter or resume, a case study tells a story — a story that illustrates your unique problem-solving skills. Written around a specific situation, a case study also shows that you can succinctly summarize a problem, its resolution, and the value you added.

5 Essential Parts of Your Case Study

  1. The Problem or Situation
  2. Background Info
  3. Options & Implications
  4. Your Solution
  5. Outcomes and Results

case-study-mockup3

Getting Started

  • Identify 3-4 traits, skills or experiences that distinguish you.
  • Limit each case study to one scenario or situation.
  • Brainstorm the relevant details that will give the reader context:
    • Goals and strategies
    • Dilemmas, issues, conflicts or  roadblocks
    • Resources or research you marshaled
    • Peers, colleagues, vendors, customers who were involved
  • Envision your audience first; write to that person.
  • Write in 3rd person.
  • Aim for 300-500 words (well laid out, that’s 2 pages).

Optional Supporting Contents

  • Sidebar with a summary of the industry
  • Thumbnails of collateral, if relevant
  • Simple graphs or charts
  • Bullets of the skills you demonstrated
  • Quotes endorsing your contribution

Tips for Writing Your Case Study

  • Be straightforward in presenting the  situation.
  • Keep jargon to a minimum.
  • Don’t go overboard with numbers. Without context or comparison, numbers lose their meaning.
  • Enlist someone to read your early draft, and ask for her perception of what you’ve conveyed in the document.

Avoid These Cardinal Sins

  • Don’t disclose proprietary information.
  • Don’t name names (without permission). Instead, refer to people by title.
  • Don’t embellish or take poetic license.
  • Don’t paint yourself as a superhero. Unless you literally operated in total isolation, steer clear of suggesting you did it by yourself.

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