Storytelling can get you a job, a new client or a raise. Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., writes in her book, Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling to Get Jobs and Propel Your Career, that by telling stories about what you have accomplished (instead of just reciting dry facts), "you can engage the employer, make an emotional connection, show results and become instantly memorable."
Whether you are seeking a new job, a promotion, or new business contracts, it is probable that you are competing with others who have qualifications that are similar to yours. But will they be using stories to describe their qualifications? Most likely not. If you, therefore, use vivid examples to showcase your skills and experience, you will stand out favorably from the competition.
How to Tell a Good Story
Your resume, cover letters, interviews, performance evaluations and client proposals will come alive when you include stories of what you have done in past work and volunteer experiences. You know that you have valuable skills and experience, but how do you effectively communicate that to others? Here are some tips for transforming facts into compelling stories:
1. Identify what types of stories your audience most wants to hear. What makes a story relevant and engaging? When it connects with the interests of the listener! If you are applying or interviewing for a job, do your homework. Find out what current challenges and problems the employer is facing.
2. Make a list of your activities and accomplishments that relate to the employer's issues of concern. Spend time thinking about past jobs and volunteer positions you have held, and what you have done in each of them that could be of interest to the employer. Make a list of potential "story ideas."
3. Develop your stories.
a. Explain the situation you encountered. Perhaps you faced slumping sales, an apathetic class of students or the opportunity to put on a high-visibility event. Provide a few details so that your listener has a clear picture of the challenge you faced.
b. Tell what you did. Describe how you met the challenge by devising an action plan, using particular skills and abilities and utilizing your knowledge and experience. Use the story to illustrate for the employer how you could solve similar problems in his or her company.
c. Describe the results. What happened as a result of your efforts? As specifically as possible, tell how much sales increased, student achievement rose or the event positively impacted people. The more you can help the employer visualize how you achieved bottom-line results that are relevant to his or her company, the greater your chances of being hired.
4. Practice telling your stories to others. Good storytelling takes practice! If you are telling a story in writing in a resume or cover letter, get some feedback (and perhaps editing suggestions) from people you know to be good writers. If you are preparing for an interview, performance evaluation or client presentation, do a mock session to practice telling your stories out loud. Ask for feedback: How relevant is the story to the prospective employer/client? Are there too many details? Too few? What is the "wow factor" of the story? How can it be increased?
The Power of Storytelling
Stories make an impression on employers. In his book, Interview Power,Tom Washington says that "in less than three minutes, you can tell a powerful story that will make interviewers remember you favorably for days, weeks, or even months after an interview." Clearly, storytelling is an effective job search tool for helping you distinguish yourself from the competition.
Storytelling also builds your confidence, which is an important asset when job hunting or marketing your business. By creating and telling a collection of stories about what you are able to do and the positive results you have achieved, you refine your understanding of your unique set of abilities and the value you can bring to an employer or client.
In working with our career coaching clients, we have found that many people undervalue the very skills and abilities that are their most marketable assets. Why? It is because we often take for granted the things that come most naturally to us, reasoning that if something is relatively easy for us, everyone must be able to do it. When you tell your stories and see others' reactions to what you have done, you will gain a deeper appreciation for the uniqueness and significance of who you are and what you are capable of doing. You have been created for a purpose, and your stories will help you better understand that purpose and communicate it to others.
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