Things every job seeker and professional should know: how to tell a story
Career and networking experts talk a lot about the value of listening. The ability to listen well is an imperative for career success. At the other end of the spectrum, though, is another important skill: the ability to tell a story.
Every job seeker and successful career person needs to know how to tell a good story.
You need storytelling skills for networking, meetings, watercooler talk, and presentations. And you must have storytelling skills for the job interview.
At some point during your interview, the hiring manager is going to say “Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle” or “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond” or “Tell me about a time you solved a problem.” And you’re going to have to tell a story.
How you tell that story can have a big impact on the outcome of the hiring process. You want to tell it well, to be brief but engaging, and most important, you want to paint yourself in the best possible light at every turn.
Here are a few tips on how to do that:
1. Prepare your story. Particularly if you tend to get tongue-tied or nervous in social or interview settings. Pick the story you’re going to tell beforehand for the interview, or, if it’s just for a general social setting, have a few on hand to serve in a pinch. Take note of the highlights, either mentally or by actually writing them down, and practice telling it, with yourself or trying it out on some unsuspecting good friends.
2. Don’t get lost on the way to the point. Leave out unnecessary details and don’t go off on unrelated tangents. We probably don’t need to know the background story of every character. You have a short time before people lose interest and start thinking about something else. Use it wisely.
3. Have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Create a narrative arc: set the scene, introduce the conflict, build to the climax, wind it down, the end. This doesn’t have to take long. You can do it in five sentences.
Here are some more tips from The Moth, “a non-profit group in New York City dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling.” The Moth holds storytelling events in the U.S. and other countries.
“Stakes are essential in live storytelling. What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? If you can’t answer this, then think of a different story.”
“Start in the action. Have a great first line that sets up the stakes or grabs attention.”
“Steer clear of meandering endings. They kill a story! Your last line should be clear in your head before you start. Yes, bring the audience along with you as you contemplate what transpires in your story, but remember, you are driving the story, and must know the final destination.”
So, what’s your story?
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