From the time we are just babies, we are told stories. These stories might be a fantasy, with fantastical creatures and romantic concepts or they might be historical facts or memories from our family, living on by the passing down of each story. Storytelling is a part of all of us – it is human nature as we are emotional creatures that use stories to connects - to link us to the past and provide a glimpse into our future. It shapes our existence. By telling stories about things that have happened to us, we are able to connect to that emotion which helps us digest the information.
Each of us has a story to tell. Your story consists of your childhood, memories, college years, romances, heartbreak and, you probably guessed it, your career. Your career story will play a critical part in your job search, it will come up in interviews, networking, in your resume and brand, and most importantly in what you decide to do with your life. Because of this, you not only have to have the courage to tell your true story, but share it in a way that engages others and helps you create the life you want.
"Love your whole story even if it hasn't been the perfect fairy tale." Melanie Moushigian Koulouris
How to use your story to impact…
What you do
When you are asked, ‘What do you do?’ do you grimace at having to tell the truth of what you actually do? Is there something else that you wish you were doing that you could tell them? This should be your first clue! If your story isn’t leading you to where you are happy, then change it! Think about what you want to say when someone asks you that question – Is it singing on stage? Running your own business? Working for a nonprofit that aligns with your values? Whatever it may be, share it! Start talking about it because that is the first step towards getting it.
In the world where your resume might only get a 5-15 second glance from a hiring manager, how do you build something that stands out while remaining professional? Storytelling! While you are not going to be able to give your full career story, you can weave it into your brand. Start with your summary and key skills section. Incorporate more of you in this section. Continue to build your story through your work history and accomplishments. This is your narrative, use it!
You also have your supporting documents to your brand. While your resume is more formal and has less wiggle room, use your cover letter and LinkedIn profile to really craft your story. Think about why you are doing what you do. What is that thing that is lighting the fire in your belly that gets you excited to work? Did you take a unique turn in your career? Whatever it may be, tell a story about it! When you tell these stories, you are going to evoke emotion and that can lead to connection and connections lead to interviews.
Interviews are one of the best places to use storytelling. You were brought in because of the facts on your resume. You met their requirements, passed their scans, and now they are bringing you in because they want to know you. Don’t bore them by regurgitating your resume. They have it in front of them. Tell them a story.
Let’s use, in my opinion, the most important questions during an interview, Tell me about yourself. When I was a hiring manager, interviewing candidate after candidate, this question would often make or break the interview. Ones that simple quoted their resume, ‘I graduate from here, then started working here…. Blah, blah, blah, made me tune them out. I wanted to get to know them. The human behind the resume! Now the ones that told me a story, engaged me, really made me excited to continue to talk to them.
Here is how I craft a story to this question: Start with a little piece of personal information to break the ice and try to make a connection. Then I tell the story of why I love what I do and how I’ve incorporated it into my career. Then I end it with why the position I am interviewing for fits into that. For example, here is mine:
I am proud to say that I am a Denver native. When I was in college, I wanted to be a physical therapist, but when I had to face the dreaded cadaver in my Autonomy and Physiology class… panic arose, and I know that this was not the career for me! I switched my major and was taking general business classes when I applied for a job at a local bank. The HR rep that helped me through this process was so kind and helpful that it really sparked my passion for helping people find their professional way. I’ve been able to incorporate that in each of my jobs and fine tune my skills and am so excited to continue match up talented people with your organization.
Whatever question you are asked, just remember that there is a story behind it. Crafting these answers in this format will engage your interviewing and really show off your personality and show them that you are exactly what they are looking for!
Most people hate networking. I get it. Awkward conversations with strangers when you rather be at home binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix. But networking is that secret ingredient to finding that dream job. Learning how to apply storytelling to the networking process will completely change your networking game. It will help you relax and see that how powerful storytelling will lead to better connections.
Most people struggle with networking because they never know what to say when asked, what do they do. You don’t want to just boring and simply say what you do, so describe your work as a story. Who are you, what do you do (or would like to be doing), and what you are looking for (or who do you serve if you are not looking). Think about this who, what, what combo and consider the words that you are using. Are you using a bunch of industry jargon or are you sounding like a friend? Do your words alienate the listener, or are you drawing them in? Be sure to adjust the words in your story that you can be engaging and interesting.
So often humans shy away from their stories. You only tell others what you think they want to hear. But that’s not being authentic. If you take pride in your stories and learn how to tell them in a way that we feel comfortable, you can use the stories to conquer anything you put your mind to!