Sunday, 13 January 2008

Storytelling and jobseeking

I recently posted to the WorkingStories group about the link between storytelling and recruitment.

After helping someone with their resume, I wondered if there wasn't a more powerful, even mythical way to sell talent.

Here are a few thoughts I've had since then. This is lifted from an email to someone else who asked me about storytelling and selling yourself:

hard to tell your own story. Roy H Williams, the Wizard of Ads, says
it's because it's hard (if not impossible) to read the label on a
bottle... from inside the bottle!

So it always helps to get some help, whether from a professional
career counsellor or wordsmith, or just a close friend, family member
or your spouse. Someone who can give you honest, relatively objective

It's also helpful to keep in mind the structures of the greatest
stories ever told - from ancient legends to blockbuster movies. They
generally follow what's called the Hero's Journey, and you can read
more about that in a book of the same name by Joseph Campbell. I haven't read the book myself, but have come across these principles in many workshops and seminars on storytelling.

They are:

1. The call to adventure - eg Luke Skywalker has an opportunity to get
off Tatooine and make a real difference, but...

2. Reluctance prevents him answering that call. The status quo is too
comfortable, the call is too risky. But then..

3. The inciting incident happens. Something happens that just propels
our hero into the action, almost inevitably.

4. Trials and troubles. Drama is all about conflict, and these trials
and troubles show what our hero is made of.

5. Returning with the elixir. Many mythologies have a solitary hero
returning to the status quo situation in the beginning, with something
that will make a lasting difference. For example, the holy grail,
excalibur, the fountain of youth, etc.

I've really cut these down to bare basics, but that's the kind of
formula top Hollywood screenwriters use to tell their whole story.

What on earth does this have to do with career and resumes? That's the
connection I'm trying to find. Obviously the hero's journey takes a
bit of a long time, but here's the formula I'm picking will work:

1. Problem meets passion. Who are you, where do you come from, and
what do you see about the world differently from everyone else? What
do you want to see changed in your world?

(For me, it's communication. I see so many people misunderstanding
each other, and I can see both points of view. So that's led to my
passion to communicate clearly and in a way that breaks through
stereotypes and assumptions)

2. What was your inciting incident? When did things kind of "click"
for you? Particularly in a career change time, what can you take from
your old career that will enhance your new career?

(For me, I began writing in the fields of advertising, marketing and
journalism. A few years ago I decided to focus on entertainment and
the arts instead, only to realise that the lessons learned in the arts
were incredibly powerful for marketing and communications. It's like
finding a familiar landmark through another path.)

3. What's your vision for the future? The Hero's journey shows the
hero bringing home the holy grail (etc) in the past tense, but you're
right in the middle of your journey/story. What are you going to do?
When you do it, what will be the result?


Gavin Heaton said...

Great explanation of the need to tell a good personal story, Simon. You are right about it being difficult to tell your story from the inside looking out ... but that think of it as helping people make the decision to work with you. If a prospective employer cant find out about you or understand your story, how will they make that decision?

Simon said...

I completely agree with you, Gavin, and thanks for commenting.

Sometimes the awareness of just how important it is to get your message across actually makes it harder to get that story together in your own mind.