Many years ago I read a book called Presentation Zen and I fell in love with the concept, the idea that people remembered stories much more than facts and figures. Unfortunately at the time I was doing technology training and felt that the concept couldn’t be applied to training so I really didn’t apply the idea to any aspects of my life, although I’ve always wanted to.
Recently I was writing a cover letter for a job application and thought about my wife’s recent job change and how she was able to tell a story in her cover letters, I thought I should do the same. Unfortunately I didn’t know where to start, what kind of story should I tell that would showcase my experience? Her response to my question was to:
- Tailor the story to the job, in this case I was applying to be the technology director at a small private school so I need to talk about an experience in my life which made me appreciate teachers and how much impact they have on people’s lives.
- The cover letter should not necessarily showcase my experience, all of which is on my resume, but to show a potential employer that I’m a nice, hard working person; the type of person they would want to work with.
As I thought about it more, I was wondering where I could include storytelling in my life.
- I thought about a friend of mine who is an artist, he makes some beautiful artwork, but for his art to move people (and sell) it needs to tell a story. I always thought of myself as not being very artistic, but maybe I just need to think of art as a visual medium for telling a story.
- Then I thought about the project one-pagers I make for my job, although I hadn’t thought about it like this, each one of those should tell as story about the current situation, how it can be improved and what it’s going to cost in time/resources to make that improvement.
- These blog posts… up until now many of these recordings of my thoughts and ideas, but to really make an impact with readers, each one needs to tell as story; why did that article I read make such an impact on my life? What is that idea that I had and why is it so inspirational, why did I choose to document a concept vs. just learning it and keeping it in my head? (new series idea)
Then I thought about how practice makes perfect and that I need to practice the skill of storytelling. If I give myself a goal of telling/writing one story per week hopefully I will get more comfortable doing it. Each week I will pretend I’m writing a cover letter for a different type of organization. First I need to define the organization, then think of the goal of the story which should be told and finally actually sit down and write it, even if it isn’t very long or I send it to anyone. I’m realizing this process is really going to force me to open my heart and soul. I could make up a fictional story, but for it to be truly authentic it needs to be based on a truth from my life and the audience needs to connect with it.
Unfortunately, by the time I asked my wife the question about how to start writing a story I had already sent off my cover letter and resume, but I really wish I had a second chance at that submission. Look for my new series of stories about myself.