I am John Self. Welcome to SelfPerspective, a weekly podcast with information and insight on career management.
Today’s big idea is about stories and the people who tell them.
Storytelling is not the exclusive purview of novelists or writers of children’s books.
Preachers tell stories from the Bible to exhort their followers to lead a better life.
Teachers tell stories to engage their students in important subjects like history and civics.
Even corporations and their advertising agencies rely on stories to sell ideas or products.
And there is a reason storytelling is such an important and powerful tool. Research tells us that a good story connects the storyteller and the listener in a dramatic way. The listeners are more likely to remember the message when it is wrapped in a story well told. In some cases, these stories are turned into TV shows/ films with the use of film companies in London, New York, California, etc. helping them get adapted onto the screen.
Think for a minute about your middle and high school days and the study of history. Most students hate history – the study – OK, the memorization – of names, dates, events, and outcomes until they encounter a teacher who teaches history as a compelling story. When that day comes, most students fall in love with the subject.
Stories make things relevant. They connect us with the facts.
Ok, now hold that thought.
Searching for a job is not an easy task. In fact, for most people, it is a painful experience filled with setbacks, dashed hopes and some degree of depression.
Most candidates will be turned down – the most common word that is used by job seekers is rejected – four to eight times before they finally get to “Yes”. At that point, “congratulations” is the most exquisite word in the English language for the haggard applicant. Former outplacement consultant Craig Honaman, a longtime career coach to many in the Southeast US, liked to say that it only takes one “yes,” and he is right, but the road to that moment can be painful.
Any job applicant, at least those in their right mind, would do almost anything to speed up the process and ease the pain from the phrase, “I’m sorry you were not selected.”
Some invest heavily in hiring a coach. Others invest incredible amounts of time building a network. Still others spend mightily for a resume they hope will reflect the perfect message to dazzle the prospective employer.
For the most part, those are all wise investments. But here is the interesting part that continues to amaze me even after 22 years of executive search and career coaching: most candidates invest precious little time that it takes to become a good storyteller. They believe their skills as an executive are on par with their knowledge and ability to be a good candidate. Unfortunately for most, the evidence overwhelmingly is to the contrary.
As I have said and written before, recruiters say their biggest problem is not with the availability of candidates. No, there are plenty of people looking for work, especially in industries where there are major market disruptions, like healthcare and publishing, for example. The problem, and this covers all industrial sectors, the research says, the problem is that candidates are poorly prepared for their interviews.
Having a big network and a good resume are important, but those two elements will NOT get you the job.
The secret to success in job search falls on the candidate’s ability to be an effective communicator and to convey information in a way that they connect with the recruiter or employer. In other words, to be memorable.
Writers and movie directors, corporations and their advertising agents, will attest to the validity of the mountain of research on this specific subject. A story well-told produces better results. If you do not believe me then check out Shane Snow, an author, writer and consultant who produced a wonderful short course on story telling for LinkedIn in 2o16. Check it out. It takes about 90 minutes to go through the course and it is free.
In the coming weeks on this podcast, in my blogs, and on our Saturday morning video series, I will be sharing ideas and concepts on how to become a better story teller and how that talent can help you accelerate your job search and, once hired, will make you a more effective leader.
Before we go, here are two other career management tips to help you manage your brand.
First, good leaders are visible. They do not sit in their office, or summon their direct reports for meetings. They are out and about, asking questions and communicating important values. And, when they are confronted with a complaint from an irate employee or customer, they treat the moment as a gift.
Second, and this is NOT the first time you have heard this before, but keep a career journal. I cannot tell you how many executives in C-suite interviews struggle because they cannot remember important successes or relevant information that might help them close the deal. Most candidates struggle to remember the crucial information that could help them get to “yes.” So I have one question: what are you waiting for? Why, in an increasingly crowded job market, do you want to be like everyone else? Differentiation is a key to success, and through good storytelling backed by the facts, it is a winning combination.
Thanks for listening.
If you are planning to attend the American College of Healthcare Executives Congress in Chicago later this month, I hope you will sign up to attend a course on interviewing skills that I am teaching along with my colleague Dianne Dismukes, a former PWC partner and an in-demand executive coach. How to become a better storyteller is on the agenda.
See you next week.