Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Storytelling: A Great Tool for Getting Hired and Getting Ahead

Many employers wonder how much BS is contained in resumes and cover letters.

Yours will be more credible if they embed stories of your successes and failures.

Senior career counselor at the Oakland Private Industry Council, Maureen Nelson, gave me a heads-up on a forthcoming book: Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling to Get a Job and Propel Your Career.

Here are types of stories you can embed in a cover letter and resume :
- Stories of early interest in your career path and determination to reach your career goal.
- Stories that depict your motivation, enthusiasm, and passion for the job you seek.
- Stories describing specific projects you've led or collaborated on, including results.
- Stories detailing problems you've solved for your employers.
- Stories describing other accomplishments and successes.
- Stories that reveal your personality.
- Stories describing long-term interest in, knowledge of, and admiration for the organization you're targeting.
- Stories that describe how well you fit in with the organization's culture, values, and mission.
- Stories -- for new graduates -- of how your education has prepared you for the targeted job.
- Stories that touch the heartstrings.
- Stories to back up your claims about yourself.
- Stories that tell how you are uniquely qualified for the targeted job.
- Stories that capitalize on networking contacts.
- Stories to explain unusual or potentially negative situations.
- Stories to explain a career change.
- Future stories that address employer needs and challenges and tell how you would address those issues.

See how to deploy all these types of stories at: www.quintcareers.com/cover_letters/

4 comments:

Glenn said...

"Storytelling" happens to be the name of one of my favorite CD's by jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Because his music is as capitivating as memorable stories, I get very perked when others recommend storytelling as a viable marketing technique.

Like many things today, however, I've also seen recipients of a story have to be ready for it. Some people work way too fast, especially in the Silicon Valley where I live. They don't want to sit and digest a story. Also, in the technical world, some believe that storytellers use such techniques because they're technically incompetent.

Yet I really do like telling stories when it comes to technology. How was something accomplished with technology, what markets were we after, what were people's reactions before and after? I found the audiences for that live in the consumer space and in the marketing/promotions departments. I found it tends to irritate engineers and IT, so I either trim my stories there or don't tell them at all.

I really wish we encouraged more storytelling in both professional and personal life. They can have impact. They can also help people practice patience, which we really need today.

Maureen Nelson said...

Using stories well is so important! Yesterday I went to a conference that had 3 keynotes. I missed all but the last 5-10 minutes of the first one, yet he almost moved me to tears in that time. I was equally impressed with the second one who told numerous stories that had enough detail to make me feel like I was there in his story, but were spare enough not to bore. He was a comedian as well as motivational speaker, so he had a leg up on the other two. He got a standing ovation.

The third person was terrible. Almost no stories, just death by PPT. (Ironically, she said at the outset that our right brain needs to be engaged with images and then she proceeded to show us slide after slide of text! It was so small it was unreadable -- and I was in the front! There were over a 1,000 people there! How is it that people don't see themselves when they're preaching this stuff?) The only keynoter I've seen successfully use PPT is Gary Karp. Anyway, the third person told a "story" about a person in her weekly coaching group who was negative, then she became positive and got a job -- with no more detail than that! Even though it was a success story, I didn't care because it was so damned dull. Then she started reading her mission statement to us. It was so self-congratulatory I almost died.

My evals say I'm a dynamite presenter (even called "charismatic" once), and when I'm in the zone, I can riff off the audience and the stories seem to come quickly and easily, but I'm unable to move from trainer to motivational speaker. I ask myself, "What's my message?" but I don't seem to have one. As long as I'm teaching content, I have something to hang onto, but what do I do when I don't? Stories I have. Being in the people-centric field of counseling, I hear one amazing thing after another, plus there are my own stories. (I couldn't make up some of the stuff I've experienced.) But the world doesn't need another sermon on the power of creating your own reality or reinventing yourself. That's the only thing I could possibly speak on and I can't bear to add to the noise.

You're a great storyteller and motivational speaker, Marty. Any suggestions for learning the craft? As you can see, I'm already going to events with an eye toward evaluating technique. In fact, the only reason I went to yesterday's event was to observe the speakers.

Marty Nemko said...

Excellent post, again, Maureen.

Re you, practice telling your personal stories,utilizing all the truths you state in your post: the right amount of detail, emotion-centric, non self-congratulatory. Also, focus on the stories that make you feel good to tell. They'll not only help your audience, they'll be good for you.

Marty Nemko said...

Excellent post, again, Maureen.

Re you, practice telling your personal stories,utilizing all the truths you state in your post: the right amount of detail, emotion-centric, non self-congratulatory. Also, focus on the stories that make you feel good to tell. They'll not only help your audience, they'll be good for you.

 

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