Seven Storytelling Tips For Career and Life Success
by Carol Barash, PhD, on Dec 3, 2013 11:18:00 PM
In the previous posts this month, we’ve focused on how parents can encourage and support their students as they prepare for college and their admissions essays. What about their applications elsewhere—for jobs, internships, programs, fellowships, and camps? How can your student rise above the thousands of young people applying for the same positions?
Stories. As Shane Snow, the Chief Creative Officer of Contently, points out on LinkedIn, “Those who tell the stories rule the world.” Increasingly, we need stories to create a personal brand, stand out from the crowd, and advance in today’s markets.
Here are seven tips from the storyteller’s tool kit to help write cover letters and ace interviews. Share them with your student (or review them for yourself!):
1. Clear the decks. Before you start searching or writing a cover letter or sending out your resume, take a few minutes to clear your mind of doubts and criticisms. These few seconds to “refresh” unleash your creativity and make the process a lot more fun.
2. Build a bridge. Make a case for your future by showing what you have done in the past. If what you have done is not exactly the same as the experiences listed for the summer program or job, make valid connections between what you have done and what the new situation requires. For instance: “My financial experience includes managing my sorority’s $500,000 budget and running 15 profitable social events.”
3. Know your audience. Use the Internet to get to know the company you are applying to and the person you are talking to before you send them anything. What is important to them, and how will you help the company and your supervisor to achieve their goals? Be sure to make a clear connection explaining how your specific characteristics will benefit the company in ways they value.
4. Be honest and authentic. It is much better to state what you are honestly good at (and maybe even your shortcomings) than to pretend you are something that you are not. My favorite example is Jack Scotti, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Story2. We advertised for a strategy position, and while he did not feel that was his strength, he wrote a cover letter that showcased his teaching and leadership experience and got himself an interview. It worked out for us.
5. Show your experience through moments. Bring your cover letter and interviews to life with stories of how you have made a difference in areas that are critical to success on the job. Leadership? “I trained and led 25 trainers each year in Princeton’s Outdoor Action Program.” How was that leadership tested in that experience? What is one moment you can summarize to prove you take the lead when it comes down to brass tacks?
6. Include SMART details. SMART = Specific Measurable Actions with Results over Time (and other related acronyms!) The person who hires you will be responsible for results, so every line of your resume should show what you did and the outcome. Note the difference between, “I did a lot of computer support for my department” and “I catalogued an entire medieval manuscript and critical apparatus and created a website in XML to make it accessible to others.”
7. Write out loud! Whether you are writing an email or cover letter—or prepping for an important interview—imagine each conversation as a unique performance. In fact, imagine sitting down with the person, and that you immediately hit it off. What stories do you tell them to connect further with them? Complete your research, speak to a specific person, and use your personal experience to connect in ways that are powerful, enduring, and uniquely your own.
This post was originally published on College Prowler. To access the original text, click here.
You might also be interested in “Story to Job: Storytelling Beyond College Essays,” a post by Yue Ren, who was a Harvard freshman at the time of publication. She used her experience advocating for herself in college essays to land a job at Argopoint LLC, a Boston-based management consulting firm.