Everyone loves a good story – so what’s yours? What can you tell people to strike up a conversation and connect with others in a memorable way?
Stories matter. They are the best way for people to get to know who you are in a relatively short time. Your likes and dislikes, your interests and aspirations, your skills and attributes. The experiences you have had. Like postcards, the stories or glimpses you give people of your life can provide you something to say that is both interesting and genuine.
The value of your unique story
Your story is the most authentic thing about you. It is also an easy subject to focus on – I mean who else could know your story as well as you do?
A story helps you build connections with people, by providing a way to carry on a conversation. Through sharing your story with others and learning other people’s stories in return, we find things in common. This enables us to continue the conversation and get to know what other experiences, interests or views we share.
A conversation creates an impression with a person. If something about your story and the way you tell it resonates, it may make a favourable impression, which can help build a positive relationship with that person.
As mentioned in an earlier article on The Social Job Search, building positive relationships is key to growing your network. Someone you have met and connected with during a conversation and made a favourable impression with is now part of your extended network of people. They are another person you know who, through their own extended network, can potentially lead you to a job.
Why is knowing your story an important part of your career pathway?
When you enter the job market, knowing your story and how to tell it gives you a meaningful and memorable way to answer questions from potential employers.
When at an interview the first question is often; ‘tell me about yourself’. They don’t want your entire life story – they want to hear how you can fit into their workplace, what you can bring that will make you a good fit in their team. The trick is to come up with some examples or experiences from your story that resonate with them. These are the things that tell them why you belong with them far better than the items listed in your CV.
With stories you can show real-life examples, in an interesting way, of what you are bringing to the role, how you have demonstrated a particular skill or attribute and why you are a good fit for their team. With stories, your interviews won’t be checklists; they will be genuine conversations.
What makes a good story?
A good story is partly in the content and partly in the telling.
Both require you to be genuine – if what you say and how you say it isn’t you, then it is not your story and will never truly take you where you need to go. Your story needs to be:
- Authentic – be honest, be yourself, sound natural
- Passionate – enthusiasm and passion are magnets, drawing people in
- Engaging – sparking people’s interest naturally leads to a desire to learn more
- Inspiring – people may start thinking about who they know who might want to hear about you
Whatever you choose to put in your story, from experiences and interests to goals and aspirations, is up to you. Just remember to include the ‘Why’ in your story – this can be the most interesting part!
It’s also the way we tell stories about ourselves and others that helps indicate whether we might be a good fit in a particular working environment.
Building better stories
Investing time in your personal development is sometimes referred to as building your Identity Capital. This is a term used to describe taking steps as a young person to enrich your life in the future, through actively pursuing outside interests and experiences beyond your everyday activity.
Doing something different, where you are challenged to learn or discover new things will widen your extended network of people you know – as discussed in the article on Social Job Search – and increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time for opportunities, which you can read more about here in another previous article on Intentional Serendipity.
Widening your experiences and challenging yourself more outside of study and work will not only give you a better story, it creates more opportunities for finding common ground and build more meaningful relationships with interesting people. Not only that, having great adventures is what makes life enjoyable.
The only way to build better stories about yourself is to live them. The more meaningful your experiences and the more fun you have, the more interesting you become and the better your story.
Sue Graham is a professional career counsellor and career advice specialist based in Dunedin, Otago. If you would like to know more about the Social Job Search or some help with finding your next role, Contact Sue here