Whether you are searching for a job, or just looking to beef up your networking skills, learning the art of storytelling is a worthwhile endeavor.
There have been a slew of books and articles written about storytelling recently, including this piece in the New York Times and a book by Hollywood legend Peter Guber’s called Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story.
What is storytelling and why is it such an effective form of communication? One answer is that we tend to connect more to stories (the plot) than we do the cold, hard facts. Stories help us connect as human beings, and can be more effective at communicating our strengths than words on a resume. We become much more memorable to an interviewer as Jane—the person who helped her frantic boss put together a PDF file of design work she needed for a pitch, and who after seeing how chaotic the search was, realized that she could create a more efficient system to digitally organize their work. Thanks to your story, your interviewers will remember that Jane’s new system saved the creative department valuable time before each pitch and allowed them easy access to the photos. This will leave a more lasting impression than if Jane said “I organized the company photographs,” when asked about her accomplishments in an interview.
Stories can help add meaning to your accomplishments, career transitions, or important decisions you’ve made. They can also help explain your passion. For example, if a potential client was interviewing me to decide whether or not to hire me as Career Coach, I could simply say, “I wrote a book called City Baby and now I am a Career Coach.” But it would be more meaningful to say, “ I wrote a book called City Baby, which was a resource guide to being a New York City parent and led me to become an advocate and frequent speaker for women ‘s groups. Through my work with women I learned that one of the biggest challenges they faced was finding balance between their careers and their families. On a mission to alleviate this problem, I became certified as a career coach. Today, I work with women one-on-one and in groups to help address career-related issues.” The before and after elements of my story, tied together by a compelling problem—how to balance career and family—gives a richness to my background that only stories can fully capture.
TIPS FOR TELLING YOUR STORY
As you work to fine-tune the stories relevant to your life and career, here are a few techniques you can use to improve your storytelling abilities:
- Make your stories to the point, but be sure that they include a beginning, middle and an end. You should be able to tell your stories in no more than a minute, but thirty seconds is even better.
- Your stories should be personal and should include details that make them specific to you, your experience and your accomplishments.
- Practice telling your stories to hone them. Don’t memorize them line-by-line, but make sure that you have key points committed to memory.
- Make an emotional connection with your listener. People connect with other people, not facts. Just be sure your story is authentic.
- Know your audience. Check in to make sure they are connecting.
Having a compelling narrative is worth working on because it will help people care about you. Whether you are networking and building relationships, or actively looking for a job, telling “your story” is one of the most important things you can do.
Let us know how stories have helped you in your career in the comments!
You can learn more about Pamela by visiting her website.