It’s The Story, Stupid

4 Oct

This weekend, I attended TEDxMiddlebury, the offshoot of the popular TED conference for the Middlebury community. One of the speakers, Sunny Bates spoke about networking and one of the coolest ideas she breezed over in one sentence is something I think many miss in the job hunt is simple: everyone likes a good story.

If you want to get a job, get a story that others can tell quickly as interesting conversational material. Sunny told her story about the magazine she worked at going belly up and that her network of people really spread this story of her being unemployed after just six months of work because of this tragic business failure. Her story was that she was the victim of a magazine company. You might say that that is too simple, but imagine how easy it is to bring this story up in conversation: “Can you believe that a friend of mine just found herself unemployed one day because the magazine she worked at for like 6 months just went out of business? That’s crazy.”

In that one story, you know nothing of Sunny’s qualifications or resume or contacts but you pick up the key details: 1) she’s unemployed and wants to employed and 2) she’s in the magazine/media business. But it’s a simple story that can travel far in a network of people because the people with job openings will want to know more and help her. No one wants to hear what I would normally say: “I’m employed by my alma mater but sorta leaving soon because my contract is up and I want to find meaningful work here or abroad.” Blah blah blah.

Instead, I need a story to tell. And liberal artists, being people with lots of varied experiences, tend to want to describe all of the incredible stuff they’ve done, much of which has been meaningful and great. No, treat your experience like gossip — what’s the juiciest morsel that people will want to pass on to friends?


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