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. Most of us will agree that stories are great, we all love a good yarn. Stories make us laugh, they can make us cry, uplift us, inspire, move, motivate and educate.
More importantly, a good story or narrative enables you to have a far better chance of being remembered. Mainly for how you tell it, how the listener felt and how you engaged the listener. In terms of your career your story is an important way of wrapping up your message up in a compelling tale. Not only is it easier for you to remember your successes and perhaps failures along the way, but it helps people you meet put your talents, skills, strengths abilities etc into context.
Why is it then that so many leaders, managers and presenters in business 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.
We know that people are remembered for how they made us feel at the time. We buy products, brands and services through being emotionally connected with the story being told. Our career narrative will connect the listener with the highs and lows of our work life and how we overcame adversity. The story can showcase our value, sense of humour, ability to communicate and help people see our vision and purpose.
All 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 tell you a story or a narrative to illustrate what they are trying to communicate. The very best speakers in business realise that this art form not only engages human interest but our innate curiosity. Telling a good story has been used since time immemorial to create and maintain connections between people. Passing down an aural history of who we are and events of our lives to others. How true they are is a moot point of course. That is a whole other story.
Clearly then a narrative or story is a wonderful way in which to wrap-up your message up for audiences to engage in and enjoy. Its a technique that career “brand” developers/changers can utilise to create a call to action or help construct a compelling CV statement. Executives & sales people who are hoping to motivate or emotionally engage customers can give them a landscape that clients can see themselves engaging with. 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 or “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 helping us toward our own conclusions from the information to hand.
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 help you tell a very compelling story without the need for notes or prompts.
Try to have plenty of obstacles or problems that needed to be and have been surmounted. 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/non-verbal 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
Practice the skills of telling effective narratives at work, for interviews, your career brand, 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, drive and passions in an easily remembered and tightly packaged narrative. 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, message and more to the point how you made them feel. Most people are unlikely to remember more than three points made in an interview or presentation, 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. Keep the information relevant and help 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!