|Effective communication is crucial for career and job search success. The use of story is a powerful tool to engage others. We can all recognize a good story when we hear one. But telling your own story is not always so easy. Read this issue for tools that you can use to apply story structure to enhance your career communication.
The Career Communication Challenge: How to Be Engaging, Effective, and Succinct
The ability to engage others is central to your job search and career management. How do you communicate effectively, often in limited time and space? Unless you are starting out, you already have a lot of experience to share. How do you organize your information and decide what to include and what to leave out?
Use a Story
According to research psychologist, James Pennebaker, stories are told in all cultures because they are an effective way to “convey complex ideas and emotions to others in organized and simple ways”.
Are you already using story in your communication? If you are a natural storyteller, this may feel like an easy process. If not, read on to find out how to use story structure in your communication.
The Building Blocks of Any Story
The first step is to understand the basic building blocks.
James Pennebaker lists the 5 basic elements of a story as:
|1. Setting||The setting provides the context, and answers questions such as when, where, and what.|
|2. Character/s||The characters add the information about the people involved, who they were and what they were doing thinking and feeling.|
|3. Event or upheaval||What happened?|
|4. Consequences||What was the impact of the event, either immediate or longer term.|
|5. Meaning||What changed as a result? What learning occurred? This element personalizes the story by making explicit why it is important.|
Adapting this Structure for Careers
The next step is to adapt the story structure to the information you want to communicate so that it is appropriate for a work context. You can use the structure above or
adapt one of the models that are common in the career field.
Below are 3 examples from Kathy Hansen’s book on storytelling
for careers, Tell me about Yourself.
Begin by keeping a list of things you have accomplished or problem you have solved. Choose 1 and describe it in some details. Apply one of the models above and test it out.
Does the structure fit?
If you get stuck, it may help to create some distance. Here are some ideas to use to
- Shift your viewpoint by writing your story in the 3rd person. To do this, replace “I” with “he/she”.
- Get another view by asking for feedback.
- Review sample stories for inspiration.
The stories you tell are unique to you. Nobody has exactly your experience. As long as the stories you choose are relevant to your audience, this is a powerful tool to help you to stand out.
Whether or not you are actively seeking a new position, begin to keep notes on your accomplishments and significant learning experiences. This log will be invaluable in helping you to communicate more effectively and more confidently in the future.
Questions & Comments?
What helps or hinders you in using story to enhance your communication?
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