Everyone loves a good story. We always want to hear an exciting tale, whether it’s told through mind-numbing 3D graphics or shared over a refreshing bottle of beer. I figured people could actually use certain story-making concepts for better career development. A successful interview is a successful storytelling. There is an interesting story behind every person’s career and every employer is interested to know this story before hiring. Create a cohesive narrative of your career along various positions in your work history and practice how to tell it effectively.
The characteristics of a good career are parallel to some of the characteristics of a good story (Greene, 1996).
A single theme clearly defined. Just like a good story, your career starts with putting together the basic elements by trying as many hats on as possible and just learning, learning, and learning. The acquisition of skills and developing competencies is like drumming up interest to engage the audience. Like a story where the plot develops from the beginning, one hopes to make the right early career choices to set the tone for the remainder. Having a single theme makes the moves logical, justifiable, and creates a story that is easy to tell.
A well-developed plot. The logical progression of a career is comparative to a plot that is well laid out and that has a “causal sequence of events”. A good plot makes an interesting story to tell when describing a work history. Career goal becomes a coherent and plausible denouement to the career story. Work history becomes an engaging chronicle of events. The listener becomes fully engaged, identifies with the story, and resonance is more likely achieved.
Style. This can be gleaned from the way the career progresses, reflecting the personality of the individual by the way he or she selects work, moves from one position to the next, and the impression he or she creates in every one of them.
Characterization. Characterizing oneself as a hero requires a strong villain. Challenges that one successfully overcomes and tells anecdotes about must be significant. The vividness of the story depends on how remarkable the feats are. Success stories around work are riveting when the achievements are daring and noteworthy. It is easy to minimize accomplishments so making a journal of events will help.
Here are some tips you can use to help you tell a story toward a “happily ever after” career.
Engage your audience. General career choices are about as diverse as the different novel genres. You have to know your target audience. Your “story” – perhaps a resume or a portfolio – must be crafted to appeal to your target employer or prospective clients. Doing your research makes this process much easier, as you can tweak your image to reflect the core values that your potential employer or client is looking for.
Work on your cover. As important as the content of your story is the cover. I admit when it comes to books, I sometimes suffer from the same tendency to prejudge based on what’s on the title. Sitting in the interviewee’s chair, the big challenge is making a good first impression and sustaining that to the end. The smallest details could ruin your chances at your dream gig so make sure you do your best to make employers or clients actually want to learn more about you.
Ramp up the suspense factor. Now that you’ve got their attention, it’s time to reel them further in with the promise of an exciting climax. Notice that I said “promise” because what you want people to think is that you have yet to reach your full potential. You want people to know you’re already excellent but can still achieve so much more given the opportunity to work with them. Nobody likes spoilers on any story’s ending, and if you make it seem like you’ve run your course and achieved your best then there’s really no more reason to hire you. Keep them at the edge of their seats.
An exquisite story is in the hands of a master storyteller. A thriving career is in the hands of a master career builder. Getting the job or closing the deal does not mark the end of the story. Back up a bit to see the bigger picture and see a comfortable retirement as your happy ever after.