Story telling is a talent.
There are some natural raconteurs who have the gift of the gab. Most of us with less ability have to work on developing those skills. Many will wonder why that matters at all – but the reality is that it does.
Don’t people just want to know where we’ve worked and what we’ve done? Yes and no. They also want to hear what we’ve achieved, but delivered in such a way that we don’t sound arrogant and pompous, or make them nod off into their coffees in utter boredom.
Being able to synthesise and take an overview of our own lives and deliver it in digestible soundbites, that promotes engagement and creates dialogue takes a lot of work, especially to do it well. Our story line, whether this takes place in a networking event, in a social situation, in a formal interview or even on a date, is going to be very different each time.
I like to use the metaphors of hats. We wouldn’t wear a fascinator to the office or ski helmet to a cocktail party (at least not unless we were a little weird). There are times when we need to take one hat off and put another one on. The type of information we highlight will also vary according to the context.
Just as if we were being introduced to someone at a dinner party we wouldn’t deliver our life story in historical order, but pull out nuggets of interest, because to do otherwise would be really dull. We have all been cornered by the sports bore who will give detailed, blow by blow accounts of their last match or game. Or the doting parent who discusses their children ad nauseam. Or the divorcee who rants interminably about their ex.
Anyone involved in the hiring process will tell you that the casual ” Tell me about yourself ” is a trick question! Most responses will cover a chronological account of professional lives backed up by the detail of the tasks carried out “….in 1996 I joined Better Company as a Sales Executive servicing accounts in x region.. and then in 1998 I moved to ” and so on.
Almost immediately eyes will glaze over as the hapless candidate delivers a 5 minute monologue, giving a task focused chronology of their career, rather than extracting key elements of interest. I’ve also seen good story tellers be unable to transfer their verbal energy into the written word. This is why many are disappointed about disappearing into a cyber black hole and not getting that vital call to an interview.
But even when that does happen, an interview can seem to be give us permission to deliver a soliloquy. But this is a false impression. What is being looked for is an indication of what we are good at and whether we can bring that success into a new business environment.
How compelling is your job search story ?