Recasting yourself and the art of storytelling
October 5, 2011 § 4 Comments
Autumn for me is synonymous with new beginnings and opportunities. Perhaps it is the legacy of the academic calendar and routine. Even in my late thirties, September and October conjure up images of lecture halls, walls painted in institution green and bags of new textbooks – free from the dog ears and annotations that will evidence their use in the months to come. This year is no different.
As students across Europe get ready to set off for university and college, I too have registered for more education. And I am in good company! A recent report on BBC Radio 4 suggested that by the time graduates in Britain turn 30 the majority of them will be on their second or third career. With society needing skilled and innovative individuals to respond to changing social, economic and environmental circumstances, second or third careers are on the increase. But how do you convince an employer that you are not a job hopper and that your mix of skills and experience is as useful as, if not more so than, those of somebody who has worked in the same job or sector all their life?
Let me tell you a story…
At 15 few of us really know what we want to be, and if we are “lucky” enough to be one of those few, we may well have achieved and outgrown that goal by the time we are 35. Many of us just make it up as we go along.
We absorb experiences, develop interests, undertake a course of study and then maybe another one. We start a job and through luck and circumstance happen upon a path that works for us for a while. After some years we hit a fork in the road. We are torn: the intriguing lights flickering in the distance are alluring but often we stick to the main path, out of fear, habit or responsibility… – it does not really matter which. Sometimes, however, we cannot shake off the sense that we belong on the side path or in the clearing in the woods and then we have to make the case for what may seem like a “drastic” change, first to ourselves and then to a new employer.
When we look back at the twists and turns of our career and the treasure trove of experiences, skills, acquaintances and knowledge amassed along the way our professional life may look like a Jackson Pollock or the wall paintings on an Egyptian tomb with all their symbols, pictograms and cartouches. Things of beauty but not necessarily digestible in one sitting!
The art of personal storytelling
Meandering our way through a career is nothing unusual but if we actively want to recast ourselves (or even just project ourselves in a new light) we need to make the picture digestible enough to encourage a future employer to come back for more. We need to help a new employer see the benefit of our unique offering in the gaily painted landscape or the meandering epic that is our tale. Like an artist we need to draw the gaze in, light up the key lines and angles, illuminate selectively the pertinent facts and resonant experiences… And as people remember tales rather than dry facts, the easiest way to do this is to tell our story – engagingly, persuasively and memorably.
As foreshadowed in From the sublime to the ridiculous updated, I am embarking on a new venture that allows me to use my innate love for words and stories to I help others project the skills and expertise that make them sparkle, whether in a new job or in a new career. So on the anniversary of this blog, as I start to write a new chapter in my own career, I am launching my new CV coaching venture Recast Retold – Communicating You.
CV coaching is actually a bit of a misnomer. Whereas many CV/resumé consultancies write CVs/resumés and cover letters, my personal communications coaching is based on two simple premises. First, candidates know their story better than anybody else. Secondly, candidates need to own their story so by telling it in their own voice it comes alive and lives on in the memory. My role, like that of any storytelling tutor, is to help an individual find engaging storylines as well as their voice and style and to coach them to use these to maximum effect. In doing so, they will not only produce stellar personal pitch documents, candidates will also rediscover the wonderful old art of storytelling that will help them turn themselves into the hero of their own tale, both on paper and in interviews.