During my first semester teaching the Communication 101 class at Loyola Marymount University, I had a student with a tendency not to attend classes. Let’s call him John.
Usually, this would not be a big deal, but John also had not turned in his mid term paper. This IS a big deal.
So, I set up the usual “Come to my office and explain” meeting with John.
Now, I’m not sure what had been happening to John, but when he came to my office, he came bearing the gift of a lengthy, disjointed, almost unreadable paper about the trite topic “The Importance of Good Communication.” I was reading the paper (inwardly groaning) when I found on page 3 a nugget of pure genius. John had written, “The narrative is inherently persuasive.” That was not in the textbook, and it certainly had not been in my lectures – so John had picked this up somewhere else (not footnoted to be sure). So, I asked, in my most scholarly tone, “What does this mean, John?”
John looked at me incredulously and said, “When I tell a story people believe me – and that makes them like me.”
John got a pass on the paper – and (as he finally roused himself to attend a sprinkling of class sessions) — he passed the class. He had found the secret to compelling, engaging communication. The secret is to tell a story.
John’s insight is an important nugget for all people on a career search. As John said, when you tell a story – openly, honestly, clearly, with a character that overcomes all obstacles to reach a conclusion – you are generally perceived as being “real” and likeable.
All that you write about yourself, all the “branding,” the “flyers,” the resume, your interview – everything should be told written as a story (or a collection of stories), because a story brings the audience (or interviewer/potential boss) into the unfolding events and gets them to see you as the central player in meeting a challenge based in the business world.
Just stating accomplishments is pretty good, but telling the story of how you achieved your accomplishments is darn well compelling.
Your personal narrative – if told with your eyes on your audience – will be inherently persuasive. And, with some luck, your interviewer will see the your strength and competence, and give you the job you deserve.