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Compelling Career Stories

cropped-Loud.jpgDid you know that my career narrative always starts with my headmaster telling me “and don’t come back on Monday”! Have I got your attention, do you want to know why he said that? Of course, you do – I would. I am sure most of us will agree that stories are great, they can make us laugh, they can make us cry, uplift us, perhaps inspire, move, or even motivate and educate.

More importantly, a narrative or story enables you to have a far better chance of being remembered and or remembering important aspects of meeting people or information from a presentation. Or more to the point the main message a speaker may be trying to make.

So, why is it then that so many leaders. managers and presenters in business and promoting their visions and careers stories back away from using a storytelling narrative? Is it because in business or during an interview, we are so often discouraged from using techniques and methods that might stir the emotions or perhaps create drama? Anyone approaching an interview, giving an important presentation, providing information on a subject, a vision or even sell a concept or product – a story helps cement the information into a memorable, engaging and emotive structure.

Great communicators tell stories

Chances are the most memorable leaders and speakers are not people standing on a platform and spouting out reams of facts and figures, or simply showing yet another mind-numbing sequence of “death by PowerPoint” slides. No; the best leaders, career developers and speakers told you a story or a narrative to make and illustrate the main points. The very best speakers in business realise that this art form not only engages human interest and our innate curiosity but has been used since time immemorial to create connections between people. Moreover, it is a wonderful way in which to wrap-up your message up for audiences to engage in and enjoy. So those career “brand” developers/changers, executives & sales people hoping to motivate or emotionally engage customers, or perhaps supervisors and managers looking to help teams focus; or even leaders wanting to project a more authentic impression then read on.

Thinking and stories

So how and why does storytelling in business & career transition/”career branding” work and how can it be achieved? Well, the phrase “narrative thinking” is a way we tend to psychologically tell ourselves stories to connect thoughts and create meaning from our experiences. Indeed stories can help prevent “confirmation bias” where we can favour information that satisfies our prejudices or preconceptions, regardless of whether or not the information has truth or not. As a result, we tend to gather evidence and recall information from memory highly selectively, thus interpreting it in a biased way.

So if someone is trying to change our minds on something using facts and figures, we often dig in our heels and resist. Confirmation bias crops up regularly in change management and sales initiatives, financial decision making, politics and our own values and beliefs. Narratives, therefore, guide the listener without a proposition of opposing facts thus allowing us toward our own conclusions of the information.

Here are a few points to consider when starting the storytelling process

  • If possible, tell a personal story about your career or business challenges, an organisational tale or a colleagues experience –  it’s unlikely that anyone else will have heard it before and will, therefore, tell a very compelling story without the need for notes.

  • Try to have plenty of obstacles or problems that needed to be overcome – all stories need to show a journey or a twist, to map out the problem to how it was overcome

  • Focus upon simple and compelling storytelling with a start, middle and end. Look at the information you want to impart – is it strategic, a vision, business values, a brand or perhaps encouraging innovation or creativity

  • Engage your audience by using effective body language/nonverbal communication and gestures. Use varied pitch of voice, focus upon pacing, pausing, pitch, tone and volume.

  • Preparation, preparation and more preparation – rehearse intensively so that when you tell your tale it flows effortlessly

Lastly.…….

Practice the skills of telling effective narratives at work, for interviews, career brands or helping people understand new concepts or perhaps a call to action. Clearly, those people thinking about career transitions or career brand will be better served to have their values, beliefs, purpose and passions in an easily remembered and packaged narrative to tell people whenever necessary. Moreover, with career brands the narrative is a constantly developing strategy to help focus upon the clarity, consistency and constancy of the value you bring to an organisation and the messages you want to project. It also motivates and engages the person telling the story with their career identity and their true value for the existing or a prospective organisation.

Telling your compelling story will no doubt help the listener remember your value, vision and message longer. Most people are unlikely to remember more than three points made in an interview or presentation for example and they will probably be forgotten in a short time too. So creating this compelling story will help construct the impression of who you are, what you represent, the message and will help them remember you better.  Be prepared to constantly refine your stories to adapt to different audiences, therefore keeping the information relevant and helping them engage with your message. Think about those inspirational communicators, how they made you feel and what you remember……you can do that too. So are you sitting comfortably – yes………. well let us begin!