Storytelling is Part of Who You Are

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We’ve all been there…the dreaded job interview. You’re sitting across one or 10 people (no joke, this happened to me once) trying not to sweat too much in your very new clothes. Those people are there to determine your qualifications and “fit”. The opening question is usually the most deceptively simple one of them all: “So…tell us a little bit about yourself.”

After you pick your heart up out of your stomach, you proceed to tell a protracted, off-topic account of your life story. I’m here to tell you that this is NOT what the interviewer wanted to hear, but you probably figured that out when they cut you off as you described your high school graduation party. You missed the point of the question. They want you to tell them a story. Not a story about your past, but one that places you in the company, describes how this job will add to your future, and by extension how you will add to the future story of the company.

Storytelling…it is an art. Fortunately it is an art that is an inherent part of the human condition. By this I mean that it is something we all can do. We tell stories all the time. The best storytellers have practiced this skill. Like any practice, storytelling has a structure you can follow: beginning, middle, and end.

Similar to writing an essay, the beginning includes some basic background information (where you’re from), but quickly moves on to the thesis statement (why you are the best candidate for the position). In the middle, you provide an example of a challenge that directly relates to the sort of work you will be doing AND how you overcame it. Be specific but brief. The end is the outcomes, both objective (“Our team got the account!”) and subjective (“I learned that I’m good under pressure.”). You follow up with a quick summary and give them time to ask any other questions. After this opener question, the rest will most likely be questions that elaborate on your resume or ask you to answer prepared questions.

Everything you say must be connected to the job in broad terms. If, for example you share that you are multi-lingual, be sure that you connect that to how it will be an asset to the position. You have to figure out why you are telling this particular story, in other words: purpose. Storytelling serves a purpose, so be sure you use it that way.

Collegiate Gigsters have skills and abilities that are informed by life experiences within and outside of work and school. Learn to tell stories about those experiences. Put in the work to understand the meaning and life lessons of your experiences. Doing this will help you stand out from the crowd.

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This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.